These lovely things are sunberries. They're relatively new to me. I don't think I'd ever heard of them before my friend Cassie started growing some in her garden last year. And, since lots of sunberry seeds went into her compost pile, she ended up with tons of sunberry seedlings this spring - which she then shared with me! I believe I planted about six sunberry plants in my garden this year. Sunberries are lovely with big green leafy plants and tiny white flowers. The berries themselves look sort of like blueberries, but they taste more like sweet tiny tomatoes.
To be honest, they're not my favorite things to eat - though strangely enough my children who usually avoid tomatoes (and blueberries, for the most part) loved the sunberries. Know what I love about sunberries?
That's right, I just love to squish them. They're full of all these tiny seeds, and smooshing them between my fingers is strangely satisfying.
And with all the seeds I've squished and then dropped into the garden, I'll probably have lots of sunberry seedlings in the Spring, next year myself!

I can't believe it's already August. The year is flying by. I was just looking over my old blog entries, at older photos of the garden. So much has changed! We've had many gardening successes. This photo to the left is a picture of one particularly lovely purple pole bean in my Three Sisters garden. I just love that photo. And I love those purple beans, even though I think we harvested a grand total of three of them so far. But the season isn't over yet! Hopefully we'll get some more. We have both purple and green pole beans, and some green bush beans as well. But I know we won't have enough for canning. What little we get, we end up eating right away. So I'll definitely plant more next year.

Here is a photo update of our Three Sisters garden where you can see the different leaves of the two types of beans, crawling up the corn stalks. We actually ate the corn shortly after this photo was taken. The ears were small, but there was no mistaking the difference between home grown and store bought corn.
We've also had gardening victories with our zucchini.This is a common sight in our kitchen. This year, I have learned several new ways to work zucchini into our diets! I wish my kids were more excited about it. My oldest son can't stand it. Even if it's something delicious like zucchini orzo, where the zucchini is shredded and mixed in with a bunch of pasta and cheese. Who could argue with that? But he won't touch it. Sigh!

Here is a photo of my cucumbers, taken about a month ago. They were growing up their little mesh trellis and seemed pretty happy. We had tons of adorable baby cukes growing all along the vine. New tendrils were sprouting every day. It was really thriving.
And then I'm not sure what happened exactly. The leaves started looking a bit spotty. Then they started looking sort of bleached out. And then, adorable baby cukes that looked like this:
Looked like this a week or so later (you can see the diseased leaf in the background):
So, no pickles for me this year. I'm so sad. We also had two Boothby's Blonde Cucumber vines. I got two cukes from them, before the same disease (fungus? mold? blight?) killed them off.

In addition to that disappointment, my watermelon vines are likewise shriveling. We had over 20 baby watermelons at one point. But only 3 actually grew. The rest shriveled and died, though we have another variety that is doing OK so far. I'm not giving up hope yet!

Check out this Seashell Cosmo. The tubular petals are so cool! The funny thing about these is that the seed packet said it came with a variety of colors. And we have had a few other colors (white and pale pink) come up - but this color is the only one with true tubular petals. I kind of wish I'd planted more of these. i had so many packets of cosmo seeds. Why didn't I use more of them? Oh well. There's always next season!

Here's an updated photo of our Three Sisters garden. The squashes along the bottom are really taking off. We even have several baby pumpkins (or are those Long Island Cheese Squash? Maybe Marina di Chioggia?) on some of the vines. I really wish I'd remembered to mark what squashes I planted where. I was so excited to get the seeds in the ground when it was planting time, and I really believed I'd remember what I put where. Oh well. It'll be fun to watch things mature so we can figure out what we actually have in this garden!

The corn has several ears now. And the beans continue to climb! They have flowers, so I'm hoping to see some bean pods developing soon. I have both green and purple pole beans planted here. When they were tiny, the only difference between the two was that the stem of the purple beans was a big darker and more purple (imagine that!) than the green beans. Now that they've climbed up the corn, the purple bean plants actually have purple leaves. The purple plants seem heartier than the green ones. Or maybe the purple ones just get more sun. Regardless, both types of beans are doing well. This seems to be a happy garden plot!

My friend Leslie has an apple tree in her yard that produces loads of fruit. Leslie isn't quite sure what to do with all of it, so she asked me if I'd like to take some off her hands. Look at this gorgeous basket of fresh apples! They're so pretty, and they smell divine. But now I have to decide what to do with them! I'm thinking some applesauce and apple butter. But in Ball's Complete Home Preserving I found a recipe for apple preserves that uses thin slices of lemon. I'm sure that probably looks really pretty in a jar - with thin slivers of lemon peel running through the apples. So I want to give that a try. I need to get to work soon, though! They might look pretty sitting on the counter in a basket, but they're not going to keep forever!

I adore this variety of sunflower! These are some heirloom seeds I purchased from
Seed Savers Exchange. They're just gorgeous. They're much smaller than other sunflowers I've grown. These end up being around 5 or 6 inches across. The petals are a very pale yellow, and there are several blooms on one stem. It makes them perfect for putting in a vase. Of course, I have never actually cut any for a vase. I just leave them growing in the garden. I'll definitely plant more of these next year. So pretty!

It's funny when I look back over the last few blog posts and see pictures of the garden. Whenever I take photos, I feel like the garden looks so good and the plants are getting so big - but then it changes so much in just another few days' time! I can't tell you how much joy this year's garden has brought me. It's so soothing to walk out in the yard, checking all the plants, watching things grow. Gardening is rewarding on so many levels. On a very literal level, we're experiencing the reward of fresh veggies! New zucchini are ready to harvest almost every day, along with small (but delicious!) yellow crookneck squash and lots of cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes are mostly from that volunteer plant that came up along the fence. I love all the vibrant colors! And I also love how excited the kids are about the garden, too. So far they're still a bit shy about actually eating the vegetables. But we're getting there.

After a nice heat wave at the beginning of the month, the days here in San Diego have softened into the gray haze known as June gloom. The mornings are misty. The temperatures are mild. I actually like it, since I'm somewhat sun-phobic. That's what happens when you come from a pale tribe like mine! Anyway, though the weather has seemed less than ideal, the garden is very happy! I am astonished at how big some of the plants have become.

Here is a photo of my cherry tomato plant. I have it in the largest tomato cage they sold at the nursery, which I then also secured with two bamboo stakes. But the plant is so large that the cage is starting to lean to one side and there are new shoots going in all directions! You almost can't see a cage in there at all, can you? (That is a 6 foot fence behind it, by the way, to give you an idea of the size).
Next up is my very happy zucchini plant. We're almost ready to harvest out first few zucchini! I don't know why, but I thought we wouldn't be harvesting much from the garden until much later in the season. The leaves are simply enormous on this plant. I love it! I'm a little nervous that it will obscure my Blue Lake green beans that are growing to the right. I hope they'll still get enough sun.
I was quite excited to discover baby watermelons on the vine! We have several now (about a dozen at my last count) but this was the first one I saw. I planted the watermelon in a raised bed, and the vines are all cascading down this rock wall I built to shore up some crumbling railroad ties. (We'll eventually built a new retaining wall, but for now I'm going with what we have). I love how it looks with the vines creeping down the rocks. So pretty.
My cucumbers are also coming in nicely. I'm trying to train them to grow up this mesh trellis. I've never really used a mesh trellis before, so I hope it will work and will be sturdy enough to hold up the vines.
In the Three Sisters garden, the beans finally sent up shoots saying they were ready to climb! So I helped them find the corn stalks. In this photo, it might be hard to see the beans climbing the stalks - it looks just like a sea of green. But I was so excited to see the plan for this garden actually working! How the beans have climbed almost to the top of the stalks, and they've grown lots of new leaves.
I was also thrilled yesterday when I found a bit of corn silk showing up on one of the stalks. I actually have an ear of corn! The stalks were growing tall and green and healthy, but I hadn't seen any actual corn show up yet. I'm so pleased. I can't wait to have fresh corn on the cob!

My next gardening endeavor, I think, will be with some roses. We had to take out one of the hedges we had in the front of our house when we redid some of our plumbing. It looks so bare out there now that I want to fill it in with something. I thought about trying a blackberry hedge, but I really like the idea of some roses. And the front of the house would be a great location for them. I'm especially in love with Mister Lincoln roses, which are really large red ones that smell fantastic. We'll see what happens!

This is a picture of my fennel. I only have one bulb. I've never grown fennel or eaten very much of it. My one experience with fennel was at a restaurant where they served salmon on a bed of mashed potatoes, topped with fennel slaw and a slice of red grapefruit. When I ordered it, the fennel slaw didn't sound appealing to me and I figured it would be something I'd put up with in order to enjoy the salmon and potatoes. But the fennel was my very favorite part. It was crunchy and delicious and wonderful. And it tasted great paired with the grapefruit, too. Anyway, that's what led me to plant fennel: happy memories of fennel slaw.

This photo really doesn't do the fennel justice, because I think it's one of the prettiest plants in my garden. It doesn't look that impressive in this picture. It's this lovely green color, and it's light and ferny looking. I honestly wish I would have planted a bunch more. I certainly plan to have more next year. When I think about actually eating this fennel I feel almost sad because I don't want to pull out the whole bulb and lose such a pretty plant. I know that's silly but...whatever.

Of course, since I've never grown or really cooked with fennel I don't know much about how to prepare it or what to do with it. So now I'm on a quest to learn. I want to put it to good use!

Viva la fennel!!

My little patch of earth is full of green, growing things and I couldn't be more delighted. I know I've said it before, but I really did doubt that I'd be able to manage a garden. Working full time and having three energetic kids to wrangle can demand so much of my time, attention and energy. But, truly, there is something so beautiful and satisfying about gardening. I'm caring for the plants which then provide sustenance for me and my family. Being part of that cycle is and edifying experience - pun intended!

So here are some recent photos of Our Patch. Look at that cherry tomato plant! It's going nuts! No tomatoes yet, but plenty of blossoms.
The watermelon is starting to flower!

Look! That's a baby crookneck squash! And it's the cutest little squash ever! Yes it is! There are actually a few little squashes starting on this plant. Quite exciting.
Here is a recent photo of my Three Sisters area. It's really coming along nicely. I'm so pleased with how healthy and strong the corn is! The beans are getting tall. The squashes are getting bigger all the time. The pumpkins I planted are just finally starting to sprout. I can't wait to see what this spot looks like when the squashes sprawl and full in the empty space. It'll be so pretty!
And here are my wee basil plants. They're in kind of a shady spot and aren't really growing as much as I'd like to see. But I'll give them time. They smell so nice. I can almost taste the pesto every time I walk by!

Wishing you all similar garden blessings!

Once again, it's been far too long since I last posted! But I blame it on being very, very busy outdoors. The weather has warmed up and the garden is coming to life. There's something so magical about this time of year. I love seeing all the trees in bloom, like this peach tree in my mom's yard:Lots of flowers this year, so I'm hoping that means we'll get lots of peaches this year as well. Last year, Japanese beetles ate ALL our peaches. It was a tragedy.

This year it seems like we have an abundance of California Golden Poppies. They pop up everywhere! They were my father's favorite flower, and my mom refuses to pull out any Golden Poppies that come up. So she has poppies all over the place. Here's one that sprouted in the middle of the lawn. She just mows around it. I love that sunny orange color!Back at my own little patch of earth, the garden is doing well. That volunteer tomato plant that had sprouted near our fence is going nuts now that the weather is warmer. It had flowers on it for the longest time, but no little tomatoes. I was beginning to wonder if it would ever have fruit on it. Obviously, I just needed to be patient. The plant is now COVERED with little tomatoes!In fact, this volunteer tomato plant now currently has more tomatoes on it than I harvested all last year from my three tomato plants. Isn't that crazy? Of course, the tomato plants I had last year were in pots and I don't think the soil was very good. I only got about a dozen cherry tomatoes, total. I easily have three times that on this one plant right now. I'm so pleased!

In addition to my volunteer, I have eight other tomato plants. Some are doing really well. A couple others are struggling thanks to hungry snails. But I'm still hoping to have a good crop so I'll be able to can a bunch. Homemade marinara sauce, here I come!

The "three sisters" area of my garden is doing great, and I think it's going to be simply gorgeous when the plants get a little bit bigger. I planted a ring of sweet corn, and then I planted green and purple pole beans around those. The beans will climb up the corn (in theory). Then I planted an assortment of squashes in a ring around the corn & beans. Here's what it looked like about a week ago:It's a little hard to see everything (I'm a crummy photographer), but I wanted to show how it looks with the squashes coming in. The larger squash plants in the back are yellow crookneck squash. Zucchini coming in toward the front. I'm not actually sure what all the squash are. I foolishly planted stuff, thinking I'd remember what went where. But of course I didn't. So it'll be a fun little surprise for later this year! Anyway, here's a little close up on the beans and corn:I can't wait to see how it all fills in!

This past weekend I worked on putting in more herbs. I now have cilantro, parsley, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, chives, basil and dill. So far they seem happy in their little garden plot, but I'm concerned there might not be enough sun. We'll see. Dill is supposed to be more of a cool weather herb, so I didn't think mine would make it. It looked a little sad and brown for a while, but it's perking up now and has lots of new green growth. Yay! We'll see how it handles a Southern California summer. I planted it in partial shade, so I hope it will be happy and thrive.

More pictures and garden updates to come!

My goodness, has it really been a month since I last posted? Time flies! Especially during Spring when there's so much to be done outside. I am delighted to report that my garden is all planted, and thus far doing well. I may or may not have nightmares about snails eating all my wee seedlings during the night. Grow, little plants! Thrive!

My local gardening expert and dear friend Cassie helped me plan out what to plant where - and then came over and worked with me: digging in the dirt, transplanting seedlings, planting seeds. I don't know what I would have done without her help. Hopefully, if I'm able to pull this gardening thing off, I can show my gratitude by sharing lots of delicious produce. I think I might have enough corn and beans to feed an army if everything comes up. Fun! I will post photos of the garden progress soon. But for now, let me babble about the sunflowers some more.

The sunflowers near the back fence have all bloomed, and they're simply gorgeous. There are a few different types of flowers. Some stems have multiple smallish flowers on them, others are the big mammoth sunflowers with just one big flower at the top. The big ones are my favorites, even though they're kind of sticky.
Look at that drop of stuff in the middle. Do you know how much self restraint it took not to touch that bead of...whatever it is? Nectar? Sap? Is it sad that I don't know?
I also love seeing how many bees these sunflowers attract. Can you see the bee in this photo?
Here's a close up. Look at all the pollen on her little head! I'm sure she was a happy little worker going home to the hive. Here's hoping she and her friends come back and help with lots of cross-pollinating when the garden comes in. I can use all the help I can get - especially with my 10 tomato plants.

Things are growing and blooming and coming alive after the long Winter's nap. Exciting stuff on the horizon!

It's Springtime at last! The weather is warming up and things are in bloom! In fact, I got some lovely photos of the peach blossoms on my mother's tree, but those will have to wait for another post. The main signs of Spring in our yard are the sunflowers, which have finally bloomed. I love to look out my kitchen window to see these bright spots of yellow slowly emerging.I asked my daughter to stand in front of the sunflowers to show how tall they've gotten. She decided to to the "bunny ears" thing to herself. That kid cracks me up.

I'm also pleased to report that the little marigold that sprouted from last year's seeds is also blooming. It has one small yellow flower at the top with the petals slowly unfolding, which makes it look a bit scraggly for right now. But I'm sure it will continue to grow and will impress us all within a couple months. Note how there are a bunch of assorted rocks and stones in the pot. Those are additions made by my oldest son. He's convinced the extra rocks will help the marigold grow. I figured it can't really hurt, so why not?

It's time to start planting things, and I really haven't come up with a definitive plan on where to put everything. I still have weeds (not that you're ever truly rid of them), and I still need to get some decent compost to help improve my soil. Hopefully that will be coming sometime this week since our dear friends The Smiths have generously offered to share a trailerful of compost they got from the local green waste site. (That sounds so much nicer than "landfill," doesn't it?) The compost is so dark and rich - like crumbled chocolate cake. I never thought I'd ever be so excited about a truckload of dirt. Anyway, with those plans underway I guess it's time to start plotting the garden. Here are the general ideas I have. First, there's this little patch of grass near our garbage cans:It gets full sun almost all day, so I'm thinking about making it our watermelon patch. After I pull out all that grass, of course. Figured this is a good area for watermelon since there's plenty of room for the plants to spread out. I also tossed around the idea of using this area of my three sisters garden. One or the other. Guess I should decide pretty quickly. Seeds need to go in the ground pronto! Then we have this area along the eastern fence line. You can see my tumbling composter in the background:This area has partial shade because of our two orange trees, and it's not the most accessible place for vegetables, either. I've planted some sunflowers along the fence, and I also plan to put some nasturtium here. In that enclosed stone thing in the foreground of the photo, I thought to plant some carrots. that spot gets more sun since it's not under the trees. Here's a photo of the rest of the fence line:This is where I grew my tomatoes last year, and had decent success. I think that the soil pH wasn't great because I got lots of lovely green plant, and not that many actual tomatoes. But I didn't feed/fertilize at all last year. So hopefully this year will be better. This area gets plenty of sun during the day, too.

Along the back (north) side of the fence, where the sunflowers are currently growing, I plan to put in cucumbers. I have a few plants started already, but want to direct sow more. I hear cucumbers that are directly sown often do better than ones that are transplanted seedlings. We shall see.I need to build some supports for the plants so I can maximize the space. I'm hoping the cucumbers and sunflowers will like each other. I think they're good companion plants. I need to check my reference materials on this.

Finally, in the far northwest corner is this little arbor thing. Eventually this will be the home of some grape plants. Figured I'd plant green grapes on one side and red grapes on the other. I don't plan to actually put the plants in the ground until later in the year, after the heat of the summer is dying down. At the base of the fence toward the right of the photo you can see this little volunteer tomato plant. Here's a closer shot:It's humorous to me that I had several tomato seedlings that have already withered in the sun, despite my gentle care, and here is a plant I have never watered, never cared for, that is thriving completely on its own among the weeds. Nature has a way of reminding you who is REALLY in charge.

Happy Spring, everyone!

This past weekend, my pal Cassie tried to teach me how to crochet. I've wanted to learn for quite some time. As a starter project, she had be try making this little leaf shaped thing. You crochet two halves of a leaf and then fasten them together. Here you can see Cassie's version and my version. Bet you can't guess which one is which!Mine looks more like half of a baby bootie or something. It's supposed to be a nice smooth curve. But I drop stitches a lot or something. Still, it was my first try, so I still felt okay about it. We all have to start somewhere, right? Cassie left the hook and yarn for me so I could practice. I've tried to do a few rows every day this week. Here's what I have so far:Note how it's getting smaller and smaller as I go. I must not understand what a stitch really looks like or something. Or maybe I just get confused when I get to the ends? I don't know, but I obviously am doing something wrong. Sigh! Hopefully with a little more work I'll figure it out.

Back in January I posted about these curious plants that had sprouted in my backyard. I thought they might be sunflowers, but I really wasn't sure. Back then, they looked like this:The tallest one was about 5 inches tall at that point. I did some weeding around them and figured I'd let them keep growing to see if they did, in fact, turn out to be sunflowers. So they did their thing through February, and now they look more like this:the tallest one is around 3 1/2 feet tall, and they are definitely sunflowers. In fact, a few of the stalks have a flower head on them already (though, obviously not open yet). I'm quite pleased! I have more sunflowers I'll be planting over the next few weeks. Some are pale yellow, some are deep orange. Some are small, meant for cutting and putting in a vase. Others that are enormous and sticky and meant to attract bees and birds to your garden. The kind where you harvest the seeds! Fun, no?