Tomatoes Gone Wild


I just don’t even know what to do.  The tomatoes are taking over not just the garden but that entire section of yard.  That sad little plant you see hanging out of the garden box on the bottom right?  Those are our (previously huge) basil plants.  The planter to the right has also been taken over by tomato vines.

And the crazy thing is, THERE ARE LIKE 2 TOMATOES IN THAT MESS.  How???

Marsha showed up last week and when I showed her the first thing she said was, “Oh yeah, it looks like there might be too much nitrogen in the soil so it’s not flowering.”


Turns out, I should never doubt what Marsha says when it comes to gardening.  Via SFgate gardening section:

Since tomatoes hate imbalances in soil nutrients, they are prime indicators in the garden when any deficiencies or excesses exist. Adding an overabundance of nitrogen fertilizer can cause abiotic disorders in your tomato crop.  …

Perhaps the best indication that a tomato bed contains too much nitrogen occurs when the plants produce lush foliage but little or no fruit. … Besides fostering heavy leaf coverage, extra nitrogen causes vines to grow to great lengths with few tomatoes to support.



Those white ropes you see in the picture?  A whole system Paul rigged to hold the plants up because the vines were so huge and heavy.  It didn’t work.

We could add bonemeal or colloidal phosphate to the soil to balance the nitrogen content…but let’s be real. That would mean I’d have to go out and find those things and figure out how much to put where and blah blah blah. We’ll probably just pull everything out and start from scratch.

So in addition to no tomatoes, we also managed to shade or push out any other plants in the garden.  All of our squashes have been eaten or rotted away before they were ripe.  We got about three tomatoes, a handful of peppers, and one cucumber.  Oh, but we did get a ton of basil.

Moral of the story: don’t over fertilize your tomatoes early on, and watch for these symptoms so you can nip them in the bud.  Literally.

…and thus concludes Garden Flop 2014.



Late October no longer means harvesting every last possible green thing before the frost hits.  Things here are growing and growing and growing, and they don’t seem to be slowing down.


Our tomato plants are approaching 6 feet.  We’ve got baby straightneck squashes making their way into the world, some huge anaheim peppers ready to be picked, our red bell peppers are finally turning red…



The basil, dill, tarragon, cilantro, and parsley can’t be stopped.  The rosemary hasn’t grown much but doesn’t seem to be hurting at all.


Some of the wildflower seeds that I threw into the barrels are sprouting.

And finally….wait for it…


straight eight in the houuuuuuuuse!

The lemon tree out front is about to topple over there are so many lemons on it.  Our green beans, early girl tomatoes, and zucchini plant didn’t quite make it.  But you can’t win em all.

Maybe it’s because the heat finally died down, maybe it’s the organic soil I used, maybe it’s our magic coffee grounds that get dumped on the garden weekly.  I don’t know.  But I honestly don’t feel like I’ve given the garden enough love to deserve this kind of output (not that I’m not complaining).  California gardening is awesome.

Bring on fall.



We’re back.  And I came home to…


peppers peppers everywhere!  Our garden is exploding with peppers.  I don’t know if you can tell, but this misshapen (?) “sweet bell pepper” is HUGE, like the size of my hand.  It was pulling the whole tiny little plant over.


…and our red bell pepper, which is green…


…and two huge Anaheim peppers.  And our tomato plants are (literally) 5 feet tall.


I have to go find a stake to hold them up, they are so big they’re pulling the cages out of the ground and taking over the entire garden box.  Out of control.

I also came home to some mild disarray.  The fridge was barren, the garden more or less ignored, things had been put in the wrong place.  (For the record, I’m not knocking Paul at all. He’s working 13 hour shifts and flipping back and forth between nights and days, I don’t expect him to come home and worry about which cupboard the blue bowls go in.  I’m impressed they made it into any cupboard at all.)

So this Sunday morning I woke up at 6 and got to work.  I fed the baby and cleaned the kitchen and tended the garden and did 3 loads of laundry and put the dishes back where they belong.  I unpacked, cleaned our bedroom, folded clothes, made some fresh hummingbird nectar and hung up the feeder so I can watch them out the front window while I do work.  All before 8:30am.  Humming the whole time I did it.  I like putting things where they belong, having a clean house and a neat, productive garden and a kitchen that smells like something delicious baking.  I don’t just endure making these things happen, I LIKE it.


Time out.  Hold on.  What is happening here.  Is…is this middle age?  Is this how it happens?  Gradually, your life becomes so mundane that you look forward to mopping the kitchen floor and begin using phrases like “tend the garden”?  Is this how it starts?  Oh my god, am I a boring mom?  Is this how it all goes down??

But I had plans!  I was going to lead a life of international intrigue!  Of adventure!  I was going to do big important things!  I was going to save the world!  I was going to–oh my, look how my squash plant has started to come back.


Do you see?  Do you see how that just happens?  Can you fight it?  Is there any going back?

It may be time for a dramatic re-evaluation of my life trajectory.  But until then (and because it’s time-sensitive), there are some overripe bananas that were neglected this week sitting in our kitchen that need to be made into banana bread.

How does your garden grow (Part II)


Like woah.

img_59345 weeks ago


I thought our garden in Kentucky went crazy one year, but it was nothing like this.  Plants loooooove LA weather or soil or something.  Whoever said don’t plant new plants in August should not be listened to.  Our garden is growing like a boss.

The basil, two tomato plants (Champion and Beef Eater), squashes, and peppers are all going bezerk.  The tomato plants are even pulling the cages–which I originally thought would be too big for the plants–over, they’re so huge. We have baby peppers and tomatoes, and we’ve already picked some beans. The onions are looking healthy, I just have figure out when to pick them (see: radishes).  It’s all very exciting.

One problem: the growth trajectory of the beans and cucumbers (that are in the left hand corner up against the back wall) were starting to flatten out.  I thought it might be because that ginorm, leafy, flourishing, flowering squash plant smack in the middle of the garden box was shading them from all their sun.

IMG_20140906_101502 copy

A little over 4 weeks ago my parents brought us another half wine barrel/planter.  I planted some rainbow chard, kale, and flower seeds in it.  After 4 weeks, it looked exactly like this:


Nothing.  Weeks of watering and loving, no sprouts or beginnings of sprouts or anything. (The dark stuff on the soil are recently dumped coffee grounds.)

It may have been a little premature, but since our garden box was getting pretty crowded and that was some prime real estate, we decided to move the squash into the barrel.

“Is it bad to move a plant that big into a new environment? With other seeds?” I asked Paul as he casually reached down and pulled the huge squash plant from the garden box.


We ignored the fact there are probably 50 other seeds in there, dug a hole, and stuck the squash in.

Went to check on it the next day:


Hm.  That’s not good.  Hoping it recovers soon.

How does your garden grow


So guess what you can do in LA?  Grow plants all year long.  Time to plant some plants! And this time around, no greenhouses.

img_3389kentucky gardening

So last week we got some scrap wood and planting soil and built a garden box in the back of the yard.


Ready to go!  Now, what to plant.

First stop: one of my go-to LA gardening blogs to see what they recommended planting in SoCal in late July:


Plant in the ground only out of necessity – extreme necessity
Plant in containers: continue napping

Oh.  Well then.

I am not sure what “extreme necessity” looks like when it comes to urban gardening…but after some thought I decided that this probably qualified.  So.

Next stop: advice from Alix.

plant any leafy or salad greens – kale, chard, lettuces, spinach, arugula. you can plant root veggies like beets and carrots. you can plant any brassica – broccoli, cauliflower, etc. 

OK, much better.  So I made a list (kale, chard, beets, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, and some herbs) and headed out to get some seedlings/seeds/whatever I could find with You-Know-Who in tow.


She is not a huge fan of the carseat.  Getting her in and out is no small task.

Stop #1: the big sign out front that said “HYDROPONICS” should have been the first sign that this probably wasn’t the right place for us…but I already had her out of the carseat, so there was no turning back.  We walked up to get buzzed into the store with mirrored windows (signs #2 & 3).

I entered the store, baby on hip.  The two tatted dudes behind the counter stopped what they were doing and stared at me.

“Hey, hi.  I think I already know the answer to this, but do you guys sell seeds or seedlings?”
(blank stares)
“…like, for a vegetable garden…”
“Oh!  Oh, noooo….no we don’t, sorry. But there’s a place around the corner that does!”

Back in the carseat.  Five block drive, pull into a corner shop with one beat up truck in the parking lot. Wrestle HH out of the carseat to find…Stop #2 only sells grass seed.  But the owner’s brother Francisco sells veggie plants!  10 blocks away.

Wrestling matches four and five of the morning.

Stop #3 speaks only Spanish, but they have veggie plants!  Exactly four types: white onions, green beans, and two types of peppers.  Plus some basil. None on my list, but whatever.  I was not going home empty handed. I took them all.


Set HH up at her post at the other end of the yard, and…


Hm.  Maybe not the best planned layout.

Saturday I gave in and headed to Home Depot to see what I could find to fill out the rest of the garden box, plus a planter my parents had donated to our yard.  And…here it is, our late summer/early fall crops for 2014:


Italian Basil
BBQ Rosemary (smells amazing)
Trailing Rosemary
…plus some blue salvia, because it’s nice looking, drought tolerant, and the hummingbirds in our yard like it


(Chosen solely based on their name…the same technique I use for my March Madness bracket, which has experienced moderate success over the years.)
Early Girl

Green Sweet Bell
Red Sweet Bell

Zucchini Squash
Straightneck Squash

Straight Eight

White Onions

I don’t know what a Straight Eight cucumber is, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to find out.



Our doors may not be closing completely because the wood is swollen, I may have almost killed myself sliding down the ramp in our yard because it is covered in moss, and Nerlens may have spent the last week making a racket on the back porch because he was confined to sitting under the overhang…but all this rain has been good for something:


Surprise!  Our heirloom tomatoes are orange this year.  At least they’re not all tiny deformed roma.  One of the perks of taking random plants from the in-laws.

I know that doesn’t look like a whole lot of bounty, because it’s not (though, to be fair, we accidentally pulled up like 6 pre-mature radish plants before we realized they were radishes and not weeds.  Who knew the tops of radishes grew to be like 2 feet tall with flowers?)  But things this year are looking much better than things did in the brutal heat of last year.

img_20120713_091438last year

And things been blooming kind of consistently, in a staggered way for some reason.  So we’re having a steady stream of veggies.

Next: learn how to cook turnips.  Because Paul planted like 30 of them.

…and the excitement continues…

Spring Garden


…or not.  This picture was taken on Thursday.

This is a battle we have every year: how to get the garden growing before the weather warms up enough to plant anything in the ground (here in Kentucky that magical date is Derby weekend, or the first weekend of May.)   Historically, we have tended to take the greenhouse route starting early March, and have experienced about 50% success rate (see: here and here.)

Generally in March/April the biggest hurdle to overcome is high winds.  This year, it’s straight up lack of sun.  Days have been cloudy and dark and cold, and those that are clear haven’t ventured much higher than 40 degrees.

Effing.  Miserable.

BUT!  I figured why not take advantage of the lag and put some real thought into what we plant this year?  Right?  Right!

Our yard has two garden boxes, one in the front by the garage where we plant tomatoes and peppers, and one in the back against the back fence.

gardensBoth face the same way, so we figured would get comparable sun.


Garden box #1 has been amazingly fruitful, giving us more tomatoes and peppers than we know what to do with.  Garden box #2, as you can probably see, ends up in the shade as the trees fill in and has continually failed to produce much of anything.  The only marginally successful crops we’ve planted back there have been beets two years ago:

fxcam_1310938365267 …and kale last year, which got eaten up by bugs.


 I am determined this year not to let that whole back box go to waste.   Also want to have a SUPER successful herb garden.  None of this.

Poor cilantro.

More of this:


Basil! (We had more than we knew what to do with and ended up drying it.  We’re still using it for sauces and stuff).


Last week a coworker gave me the UK seed catalog which, in addition to providing all sorts of instructions for how to grow things in Kentucky. also discusses local bugs.  Talk about excitement.  I’m in the early stages of review.  Update to come.

I can’t wait for spring.


Spike’s duvet is out.  We had our first frost this week.  You know what that means.

Harvest time!

This year wasn’t a spectacular one for the garden.  I blame the extreme summer heat and, largely, neglect on my part.  But it wasn’t a total bust.

Things that took off this year:

The basil.  Holy cow, the basil.  Granted, we did start out with quite a few basil plants.

All of those tiny squares along the left side are little basil plants.  Like the edamame of last year, Paul planted basil in pretty much any empty patch of dirt he could find around on our property.  Unlike the edamame, these plants did not get run over with a lawnmower.  And they EXPLODED.  Big beautiful leaves.  We put it on everything.

Anyway, enough about the basil.  Next up:

Compared to our other crops, tomatoes did relatively well.  We got a few batches of about 30 tomatoes, though they were all pint-sized, misshapen Roma.  Oh well, lesson learned.  Next year we need better variety.

Other herbs that survived include the rosemary:

The oregano:

And, comeback herb of the year goes to…

PARSLEY!  I know it doesn’t look like much, but you should see what he looked like in August.  Way to go, buddy.

Finally we have the beets.

Though these were ready to go last year in July, we haven’t given up hope yet.

Things that just couldn’t hang:

Kale fail.  Something is eating it.  Our cilantro, string beans, and like 3 kinds of peppers that we planted all met an early death as well.

And, of course, our lawn corn.

It grew taller but, much to Paul’s chagrin, stopped at that height and has yet to produce any corn.   Again.  Corn Fail #2.

The oregano and rosemary is relocating to inside the house for the winter, with the hopes that it’ll get enough sun and Nerlens won’t eat them (he’s already started eating the small tree we have growing by the front window.)

Supercat the Tree Eater

Next year we’ll give the veggies a little more love.