A Tramp in the (Organic) Garden

Seeds, Smack Talk and Assorted Gardening Madness in South Pasadena, Los Angeles

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Fig Massacre in Los Angeles!

A fig massacre has occurred in Los Angeles! I don't want to be sensationalistic, but this weekend a hungry squirrel was caught brazenly ravaging the luscious figs I had been growing in a pot on the front porch. Flaunting it's behavior in front of our eyes! This is the same squirrel that taunts the neighbor's cats by throwing things at them through the screen door in the morning. It's getting pretty vicious...

PS- Quickie Tomato Update: Last night I had to harvest ANANAS NOIRE/BLACK PINEAPPLE tomatoes a little unripe because the raccoons or possums or squirrels had already started in on the ripe ones...it's either you or me, baby...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Crazy wonderful-ish Beans

Oh, beans. You haven't let me down this summer with your showy display of pods. This is the first year I've officially grown beans- I planted three tepees worth in the beds where I grew tomatoes last year to add nitrogen to the soil and rotate out the beds a little. It was a such a big adventure at the beginning. I was so innocent then...

CHEROKEE TRAIL OF TEARS (at left) and CHINESE RED NOODLE BEAN- the CHEROKEE'S coming to me as a gift, the CHINESE RED NOODLE BEAN from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, just because they sounded so fascinating and looked gorgeous and growing anything that's 2 feet long sounds exciting. How thrilled I was when the first little lavender blossoms appeared on the CHEROKEES. A sweet little vine scrambling all over my CECILE BRUNNER ROSE (that needs to be relocated to a place where it can climb freely, not all over the vegetable beds where real estate is high). When the pods were tiny, I picked them eagerly, bit into one, anticipating the salade niçoise I could make or some exquisite Thai dish. They tasted like paint. They were awful.... I always knew that there were many types of beans- pole beans, snap beans, wax beans, wax pole beans, bush beans, horticultural/shell beans, dry beans, broad beans, butter beans, runner beans, tepary beans. Many types of beans for many types of people. You want a bean? There is a Phaseolus out there just right for you. I just never bothered to investigate all of them, but with a little more light sleuthing, I found out that CHEROKEE TRAIL OF TEARS are snap pole beans, and can be eaten as young beans or shelled when dry to use in soups and such. They still tasted like paint to me...

The CHINESE RED NOODLE BEANS (above) however are pretty outstanding and I would surely grow them again next year. Long little twin flowers that yield little twin strands of these burgundy, whiplike beans that you could turn put in a nice Thai curry. I'm pretty damn mesmerized by the little display they put on. Pretty dramatic and good for your next dominatrix themed garden. Tonight, we just steamed them and put them in a salad and they were great. And they turned purplish black when cooked! MMMMMMM...delicious Goth salad...

PS-By the way, the CHEROKEE TRAIL OF TEARS BEAN was the one that sustained the Cherokee Indians as they were forcibly relocated west. The Indian Relocation Act was passed in 1830, the same year the US government found gold on Cherokee lands....I pour out compost for my Native american peeps who perished during this time.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Goodbye Los Angeles Palm Trees?

Are we losing Los Angeles Palm Trees to age and disease? And do we care? Some excerpts from this Los Angeles City Beat Article on Los Angeles' diminishing iconic palm trees: Native Plant displacement...biological xenophobia...Department of Parks and Recreation...Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Million Trees Los Angeles Initiative...like the palm, few Angelenos are native...distinctive identity of Los Angeles...manmade oasis....

I have to say, back in the day I used to really dislike LA's palm trees, thinking them overated somehow and really cliché. Years later I appreciate their silhouette across the LA skyline. There's something so soothing about their iconic qualities, and the long swaying skinny Washingtonia and the shorter little fattie feather palms whose botanical name I never remember. My backyard overlooks a little valley dotted with Italian cypress and little tufts of palm tree heads. It's really true California.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Extreme Tomato Catfacing

Lord I hope nobody has a cat with a face like this! Catfacing is a catch all term for any malformation of a tomato. So many things are supposed to cause catfacing: cool and cloudy weather during flower formation, too much nitrogen in the soil, exposure to pesticides (who uses pesticides??), irregular soil moisture levels. It's most common on older varieties, and you'll see this most often with heirlooms. No biggie, just adds personality.

A friend took this photo of a insanely catfaced tomato from the Hollywood Farmer's Market for $1.00. Sweet deal! I like how he added the wine cork to show proportion. Clearly he knew he was the target market demographic he was dealing with- winos.

PS- The other day I actually harvested some tomatoes, a little unripe, to keep them from the raccoons or devilish squirrels. Common red BIG BEEF hybrids, these babies were- I'm used to growing heirlooms with all their catfacing, stitching, all their lovely idiosyncracies. Ripening on my stove counter they struck me as so odd...they were so...perfectly round, and so....red. So...bizarre...yet so...normal. The normalcy of it all was so...almost Fellini-esque?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Amorphophallus titanum Video

MMMMM. The smell of rotting meat- yummy! What better to attract hordes of carrion eating beetles and flesh flies! If you haven't already seen this, check out the titan arum flower in full video splendor . It generally only grows in Indonesia, but Brooklynites have recently been privy to it's full pungent glory.

PS- So sorry if someone else has posted this vid- I don't remember where this came from!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Karl Lagerfeld, Raccoons, Tomatoes...

Um, when did this become Bizarro Tomato Landia Summer 2006? My ripest tomatoes, just on the verge of delicious succulent caprese goodness have been plundered by the ravenous appetites of a fuzzball raccoon (or so I suspect). I feel, well...I don't know what to feel anymore...next season I vow to not emotionally invest in growing tomatoes anymore. It's just too heartbreaking. Please be witness to the destruction of some BIG BEEF tomatoes (my mom got these plants for me from large orange home improvement centre in protest to last years heirlooms):

Exhibit A: A snall nibble pocks the flesh of a ripe tomato. Luckily this tomato was saved.

Exhibit B: Half of the fruit is devoured- raccoon...or chupacabra?

Exhibit C: Tomato from Ex. B was left on the ground near tomato plants, partly in disgust, partly as offering. The next night this is what was found. Muuuuuuurdaah. Bloody muuuuuurdah.

Exhibit D: Last night I found another tomato slightly nibbled on.

Exhibit E: This is the same tomato this morning! Doh.

We've also discovered that sweet peppers have gone missing ("Did you pick that red pepper outside?" "No, I thought you did."), and yellow, red and orange bell peppers from our neighbor's yard. We really need a couple meowing cats to claim this territory again and protect the veggies. In the meantime I guess I'll concoct some sort of garlic and pepper spray...

PS-But thank goodness I have Karl Lagerfeld and the gang at Chanel to keep it real and remind me of what's really important in life! I bet you Andre Leon Talley doesn't have these problems....

Friday, August 18, 2006

Public Fruit Jam- Jam On It!

This Sunday August 20th from 12pm to 3pm at Machine Project in Echo Park- be there or be square:

"The Fallen Fruit collective will conduct a Public Jam, in which they collaborate with the citizens of Los Angeles in a communal jam-making session. We ask that you bring along any of your home-grown or public fruit (see fallenfruit.org) and any clean, empty glass jars you have. At the end everyone will leave with a jar of communal jam. If enough people bring surplus, even the empty handed will leave with jam. Vats of fun for all!

The kinds of jam we make will improvise on the fruit that people provide. The fruit can be fresh or frozen. Fallen fruit will bring public fruit. We are looking for radical and experimental jams as well, like basil gauva or lemon pepper jelly. We’ll discuss the basics of jam and jelly making, pectin and bindings, as well as the communal power of shared fruit and the liberation of public fruit.

Our friend Michael O’ Malley will be baking some bread for toast.

Jam with us and share the fruit of our labor!"

(Hopefully okay with Fallen Fruit to use this photo)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Huntington Library Gardens Experience

A week or so ago I attended a very proper tea (tea....quila!) at The Huntington Library and Gardens. It was all very proper. Afterwards the very very proper ladies walked about the grounds and we observed some very interesting things. I won't bore you with too many sweeping shots- you can find that on the website or in books. Instead I will give you the perspective from the street, the raw nitty gritty underground view. Actually I was just starting to get a cold from my week of partying like a rock star and felt quite weak and woozy so my perspective may be a little bit...underwhelming. Alas, there was no handmaiden or houseboy around to revive me with smelling salts or mist me with Italian rosewater. What a pity.

Glaucous Agave on glaucous Agave. Love blue foliage.

And I love it when Monstera climbs trees in the tropics. It's so exotic. I love the tropics.

Dendrocalamus asper bamboo was backlit by the summer sun.

This African Gardenia was quite simply stunning. I remember this same shrub knocked me off my feet years ago with it's delectable fragrance. Powerful, mesmerizing, graceful. Unforgiveable....

Love the Crinum in Hot Pink- a hot throwback to the 60's in California. You'll find this makes a presence in old gardens.

The masses flock to the Japanese Garden. It is serene.

The Herb Garden was simply abuzz with bees.

Birds like to eat cactus fruit in the Cactus Garden. Feast on, little birdling!

Violet Opuntia becomes more violet with heat, drought and cold stress. Would look so good massed with a blue vertical accent in the background.

Very friendly ducks! Demanding little critters.

And friendly koi- he actually let me pet him and he was enormous. Soundbyte!

Water lilies are always pretty. And edible, too, if you get locked inside the gates at the Huntington after hours.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Crickets are God's Form of Payback

In case you are wondering, crickets in the bedroom, cheerping in the middle of the night are God's way of punishing your for forgetting to pay an eBay vendor with any sort of timeliness. For the past 2 night there has been a lovesick cricket in our bedroom- criiii, criiiiiii- that only starts chirping when you are asleep. Criiiiii, criiiiiiii. The wings grate together even more up close. Criiiiiii. I've been too sleepy, and kind of too creeped out to get up and look for him. But yet, I've also been scared-criiiiiiiiiiiii- that he will jump on my feet and eat me or find his way into the covers and turn me into some sort of cricket snack. Criiii, criii. I think this specific form of punitive torture must be sent from God, who is clearly punishing me somehow for forgetting to pay for those 2 antique seed packs I bid for and won on eBay 3 weeks ago. Clearly, it is so.

I'm just saying. I'm no conspiracy theorist-- but I didn't just fall off the turnip truck either. Mama knows what's going on. Criiiiiiiiiiii.

Update: The good news is, later this evening I escorted a very tired, hungry, horny, thirsty cricket outside into the night. No crickets were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Je Deteste Les Aphides

Je deteste toi, aphide, je te deteste. Ton suckage de mes leaves de mon concombres...c'est tres mal. Quel horreur.
Pourquoi? Je suis une femme tres honorable, tres sympathique. Une jardiniere pour le monde avec mes methodes organiques, mon amour pour le terre.... Je respecte tout le terroir. Pourquoi, je demande?!

Et maintenant mes haricots chinois. Tout les branches sont couvertes avec ton army de destruction. Oh...mon dieu...le tristesse en ma coeur. La douleur...

Vous etes l'antichriste de mon jardin!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Earthworms and LA Sub-Vermiculture

Please don't tell me you are afraid of wormies. These blessed creatures aerate the soil, improve water absorption and permeability. Their castings are nutrient rich. They improve soil fertility by moving minerals up from deep in the earth. Bacteria in their stomachs help break down chemicals and other organic wastes. I could go on and on, but I'm know there are much better sources of this info, and you don't need to hear it from my sleepy self. You just can't party like a rock star for 7 nights in a row, go to work during the day and expect to come up with something coherent to say when you are 35. So I'm just going to yadda yadda the rest of that paragraph.

But how 'bout this-did you ever think you could ever be able to say that you were the proud owner of a box of hermaphrodites? LA County Department of Public Works offers free workshops in worm composting, and also offers worm bins plus some Red Wiggler worms and compost bins at discounted prices.

Nighty night!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Whatchu Think About Tomatoes?

Here's your chance to tell people what you always been dying to about your fave tomaters if you are growing them in southern cali. Reply to Yvonne Savio's blog by August 20. Yeah, hmmm, yeah, I'd love to write something and give a taste critique of say, oh, any one of my tomatoes, except that....um, hmmmm, oh, I HAVEN'T HARVESTED ONE FREAKING TOMATO! I could say something about the tomatoes from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods or the farmer's market, perhaps. Or perhaps the tomatoes from the little store on the corner. All I can say right now is, those tomatoes in my backyard better ripen up soon-my whole reputation is at stake!

Also going on next Sunday August 13th is an heirloom tomato taste testing at the LA County Aboretum in Arcadia. Of course, I can't make it to that because I'll be going out of town that weekend. It appears that the Tomato Faeries are not looking out for me this summer.