Our Disastrous Summer Garden

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I’m struggling this morning for metaphors to describe our summer vegetable and fruit garden: Napoleon at Waterloo, the Hindenburg disaster, being locked in a cell with a recording of “Achy Breaky Heart” in a continuous loop. In short, growing edibles this year was an unmitigated disaster. Here’s a few of the things that happened:

  • We planted a bed of basil seeds and got lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) instead. Yes, I know lambsquarters are edible, but I was looking forward to the basil.
  • Our Swiss Chard, usually a good performer, was stunted and anemic. It seemed incapable of growing past 8 inches.
  • Our tomatoes grew well, produced a fair amount of fruit and then abruptly dried up and croaked.
  • We planted zucchini too late and it got a bad case of powdery mildew.
  • The raccoons figured out how to bust through the bird netting that was supposed to keep them out of the vegetable beds. They completely obliterated two out of four vegetable beds.
  • With the exception of our pomegranate tree, every last peach, apple, persimmon and most of our figs were harvested by squirrels and raccoons.
  • The Nectaplum, Santa Rosa plum and nectarine trees did not produce a single fruit due, I think, to a lack of chill hours caused by climate change.
  • Drought, of course, made everything worse. We had to water our already alkaline soil with alkaline water. Only the native plants and what we call the Biblical plants seem happy (e.g. the fig and the pomegranate).
  • The drought and an extreme heat wave pushed everything in the garden to the edge–and a few over the edge: in the last month we abruptly lost some garden stalwarts, including a rosemary bush and a culinary sage.

Despite all these disasters, I came back from the Heirloom Expo with some ideas:

  • Spend a little less time on Facebook and a little more time in the garden.
  • Come up with better raccoon fortifications.
  • Take out stone fruit that isn’t performing (Kelly has wanted to do this for a long time but I’ve dragged my heels).
  • Take better notes.
  • Improve soil and restart a composting project.
  • Come up with small metal cages to enclose fruit (I have a notion that involves 3D printing–more on this later).

How did your garden do this summer?

Heirloom Expo in Photos

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I highly recommend making the trip next year to Santa Rosa to see the National Heirloom Exposition put on by the folks at Baker Creek Seeds.  The centerpiece of the expo is the massive display of hundreds of different varieties of squash, melons, tomatoes and other edibles. It’s inspiring and frustrating all at once since, unless you have your own garden, you’ll never see such diversity at the supermarket. I came back with the will to improve our dismal vegetable gardening efforts and with a bunch of interviews you’ll hear on our podcast this week. For those of you who didn’t make it this year, here’s some of what you missed:

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056 Winnetka Farms Part 1

Photo: Lexicon of Sustainability.

Photo: Lexicon of Sustainability.

Our guest this week is Craig Ruggless who, along with his husband Gary Jackemuk, runs Winnetka Farms in Los Angeles’ San Fernando valley. Craig and Gary grow heirloom Italian vegetables, breed standard double-laced Barnevelder chickens, bake bread, preserve food and much more. In the first part of our conversation we’ll talk about Craig’s Italian heritage and heirloom Italian vegetables. In the second part, on next week’s podcast, we’ll discuss urban livestock. During part 1 Craig mentions:

If you’d like to stay in touch with Craig you can find him at The Kitchen at Winnetka Farms.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

043 Growing Vegetables with Yvonne Savio

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Yvonne Savio is the Master Gardener Coordinator for UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County. In this episode of the podcast we pick her brain about:

  • Why you should grow your own food.
  • Favorite vegetables.
  • How to harvest vegetables.
  • How to prepare a vegetable garden.
  • Making compost.
  • The problems with municipal compost.
  • Raised beds vs. growing in the ground.
  • Where to buy soil.
  • Testing soil.
  • How to irrigate vegetables in a drought.
  • Buried buckets for watering vegetables.
  • Seeds vs. seedlings.
  • Succession planting.
  • How to plant seedlings.
  • The website and calendar that Yvonne is putting together.
  • Grow LA Victory Garden Program

You can reach Yvonne at [email protected]

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.