Great Britain trip pics

In London

At Le Cordon Blue cafe where culinary students sell their wares, near Truckles at the Pied Bull where we ate lunch before visiting the British Museum.  I found a lovely little basement garden in the square.

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Photos by Amy French (because we have tech issues and I cannot load any of mine)!

 

 

 

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Garden and Greenhouse

From Denver with Love

Today’s post is coming to you from Denver, with love:  love for those of you who have been kind enough to follow this blog, love for gardens in general, and love for this city which is dedicated to beautification through plants.  I have written a new article for Real Media about edible landscaping.  Included in the article are some pictures of edibles mixed with ornamentals taken in the Cherry Creek area of Denver.  I’ve linked the article for you here:  http://thisisrealmedia.com/2014/06/24/garden-in-the-city-by-jeanie-french.

I wish I had time to take more pictures, but we are busy getting our daughter’s apartment packed up and ready to move west, and we’re finishing up the details for THE BIG TRIP to the U.K. and Ireland (departing Sunday, June 29th!).  I’ll be posting pictures of English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish gardens to this blog, and pictures of other sights from the trip on my other website at www.jeanlfrench.com  so you can follow along with Amy and me if you’d like.  This will be my last post from the States for a month!

For now, here are some additional pictures that illustrate the way edibles can be mixed with ornamentals to form a beautiful landscape.

 

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Garden and Greenhouse

Goodbye to the Garden, For Now

In a couple of days, Dennis and I will be on our way to Denver for our daughter’s graduation from her periodontal program. Then Dr. Amy and I will be flying from Denver to London to start our three-week sojourn through the UK and Ireland. For days, I’ve been getting the garden ready to go on auto-pilot again while I’m gone, while Dennis has been working on the drip system. Timers will turn the drip system and sprinklers on and off.

Today I finished up a few last tasks, picking the strawberries, netting the blueberries, peaches, and apricots, transplanting Amy’s cloned tomato cuttings, pulling the last of the spinach and lettuce (except for a seed-producer of each kind), staking some tomatoes and eggplant, and yanking a few weeds. I had things to do in the house, but I couldn’t make myself leave the garden; instead, I wandered around taking bad pictures.  All day, I felt as if I were saying goodbye to a beloved friend. And that’s a pretty accurate description of my relationship with my garden.

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What makes this leave-taking particularly difficult for me is that the garden is really taking off right now. I have lovely, lovely lettuces—romaine, red romaine, oak leaf, buttercrunch, and black-seeded Simpson—all ready to pick, and some going to seed already. It’ll all be bolted by the time I get home, and normally, I’d pull all but one of each type of lettuce after it blooms, leaving just one to make seeds for next year. (I let my lettuces bolt and bloom to make more blossoms for bees.) I’m relying on my son, Joel, and neighbor, Yolanda, and Dennis when he comes home after helping our son-in-law move house to Reno, to cut the lettuce. I’m hoping it doesn’t all go to waste. It is so good right now. But I won’t be here to pull the lettuce when it bolts, so I know I’ll be coming home to a jungle of spent lettuce in the tomato beds.

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My raspberries are just beginning to ripen as the strawberry harvest winds down. I have boysenberries starting to redden also. They’ll be deep purple when they are ripe. I’ve been babying these vines along, rescuing them from invading raspberry canes, and it’s killing me that I won’t be here for the first good harvest of those beautiful berries. I’ll have to depend on Joel and the grandkids to pick the berries that ripen while we’re gone. My granddaughter’s favorite pancake syrup is boysenberry, and I’m planning to make some for her if I get enough berries in the freezer.

All the tomatoes are in the ground now, or in pots, waiting for Amy to take them to her new home when we return in July. Already the Sun Golds are turning orange, and I picked the first ripe one two days ago. They should be putting on lots of fruit while I’m gone. All the tomatoes are caged, but I’ll probably have to do some staking when I get home. They’ll have outgrown their cages in a couple of weeks, most likely. Staking and tieing is a chore I can’t entrust to anyone else, so hopefully, the tomatoes won’t get too big before I get back.

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Another chore that needed doing before I left was harvesting the herbs. Most herbs should be cut before they start blooming, and I left the thyme a little late but cut it anyway. I’d rather cut it when the blossoms are fresh than cut it later when the blossoms have gotten crispy. I use a lot of sage, so I cut two big bunches of it. The herbs will dry while I’m gone, and then I’ll put them away in glass half-gallon jars. I’ll use fresh herbs in most of my cooking until winter. From left to right, here are lavender, oregano, sage, lemon balm, hyssop, sage, oregano, and thyme.  If I’d had time, I’d have chopped dill and chives and frozen them in water in ice cube trays, but that’s probably not going to happen.  Just not enough time.

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The beets are thinned, the beans are up sparsely, which means I don’t have to worry about thinning them (the birds did it for me), and the corn my grandson asked for and helped me plant is growing fast. The potatoes have been mulched with compost, although I sure do miss having good straw to cover them with. I hope I don’t come home to a bunch of sun-burned potatoes. I’ve planted all the squash and pumpkins, and put the mini-cantaloupes into their plastic-covered bed which keeps them warm during our cool nights. There’s nothing left to do, really, but go.

This is my last post from home for a while, but I’ll be posting pictures of gardens as I encounter them in Great Britain and Ireland, and for some short travel blog posts, please follow me at www.JeanLFrench.com. I’m looking forward to the trip and to seeing English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish gardens, even as I lament leaving my own garden to the tender mercies of friends and family.

 

 

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Garden and Greenhouse

Salvaging a Broken Tomato

A terrible thing happened when I returned from Denver a couple of weeks ago. After I pulled all the bolted spinach and lettuce (except for one or two of each left to go to seed) out of the greenhouse and uncovered the eggplants and peppers I’d planted just before I left, I started setting out tomato plants in the raised box beds in the garden. (See my article in Real Media about raised beds at http://thisisrealmedia.com/2014/06/02/why-raised-beds-by-jeanie-french.) It was slow going, because I had over 30 tomatoes to put out. I knew I had too many for the beds and would have to put some in the ground. I also had to figure out what was going where. Accidentally dumping all the seedlings on the greenhouse floor into an unmarked jumble early this spring put a kink in my organization. It’s hard to decide what to plant where when you don’t know which variety you’re planting. All of this to explain why I placed six pots of tomatoes on the surface of a raised bed and then went to bed myself without planting them.

The next morning, when I went out to the garden to start putting the tomatoes in the soil, I found the terrible thing. Some animal (visiting cat or dog? raccoon? although we haven’t seen one of those in years, so probably a cat or dog) had tipped over all the pots. My guess is that it was a cat, rubbing up against them or playing. At any rate, they were all tipped over, and the tomato plant in the heavy clay pot was broken at soil level. For a gardener, this is a truly terrible thing.

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I considered grafting it. I’ve done this before with fresh breaks. You just take some grafting or florist’s tape, or failing that, masking tape works just fine, and wind it in a bandage around the broken stem. But this works best when the wound is fresh, and this one wasn’t. Both ends of the break were already drying out.

This was an Early Girl, that old standard which always does well for me in our short growing season. I had six, and had put one aside to pot up for my daughter. I decided to plant the one I’d set aside for Amy, and root the broken one for her.  Some people refer to this method of plant propagation as cloning.  This salvage method works well if you can wait a bit longer for fruit. Amy’s tomatoes (the Early Girl, a large cherry tomato, a grape tomato, and a Brandywine) will be sitting in pots in my garden until we return from our trip to Great Britain this summer, in late July.

I cut the tomato stem at the break and trimmed another quarter-inch off it to get to fresh tissue. Then I put it in a vase of water and put it in the house. It’s cooler in the house than in the greenhouse, which decreases the stress on the plant while it is growing new roots from the stem. I also pulled off a small green tomato which had set in the greenhouse, and cut off the flowering spur. When you want a plant to root, you don’t want it distracted by having to bear fruit at the same time. Some people cut off the main branches too, leaving a mostly bare stem, but I can’t bring myself to mutilate a plant this way. And I do want fruit just as soon as the roots are capable of supporting the plant.

And that’s all there is to cloning a tomato. Just plop your cutting into water and wait a few weeks for it to develop roots from the stem before planting it in soil. Keep the water in your container topped up. Tomatoes tend to root at or above the water line, so you should trim away any foliage below the spot you want roots to develop, if possible. You can root tomatoes in soil, and I have done this when I had a lot of cuttings, but for one plant, it’s easier to use a vase and do it in water.

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You can take cuttings from a fruiting branch of the tomato plant, or you can “top” it. I find this method useful if my tomatoes get a little too leggy in the greenhouse before I get them planted outside in the spring. If you are growing a tomato with an indeterminate habit, you can cut the top out, root it, and increase your stock as well as encourage more bearing branches on the plant you pruned. It’s also an economical way to get more tomato plants for less money, if you buy a few early and clone them before it’s time to set them out. Don’t do this with determinate-habit tomatoes (some examples are Roma, Celebrity, Marglobe, and Rutgers). They bear fruit on the terminal buds and then are done, unlike tomatoes with indeterminate habits, which will continue to branch, sucker, and bear and grow until frost.

I used to use this cloning method when I lived part of the time in Las Vegas and part of the time at home in northeastern California. I cloned 3 or 4 plants from my garden at home in July, rooting them in soil in large pots, then I’d move them down to Las Vegas in late August when school started. They lived on apartment terraces and on the back patio when I bought a house there. Most years, they would bear in the fall, live all winter and start bearing again early in spring. Then I’d bring them back home to the garden in May and set them out. Sometimes, I’d clone a few more before I left Las Vegas, so I’d have plenty of plants for the garden at home.

My broken tomato is already putting out tiny roots.

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It should be ready for potting up before we leave again for Denver and Amy’s graduation from her periodontal program, and then for Great Britain. This Early Girl plant should be carrying green tomatoes by late July, when it will find a home on my daughter’s patio. Disaster averted.

 

 

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Garden and Greenhouse

Save the Pumpkins

Today, I’m harking back to last fall, when I posted my method for keeping winter squash and pumpkins for months after harvest.  If you missed that post, you can access it here.  The proof that my storage method works?  Just look at this picture I took today, June 2, 2014, of my leftover squash and pumpkins from the fall of 2013.  Only one acorn squash and one pumpkin have any bad spots on them.

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It has been about 9 months since I picked and washed these babies. I had twice this much squash to begin with, so obviously I grew too much and didn’t give enough away.  Now I’ll have to roast, puree, and freeze the remainder.  That’s okay.  You never know when a crop will fail the next year, and if that happens, I won’t have to worry about having enough pureed pumpkin and squash for pies and soup next winter.

If you didn’t try my method last year of saving your squash and pumpkins over the winter and spring months, I urge you to do so this year.  It really works.  The proof is in the picture.

 

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