A Tramp in the (Organic) Garden

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Show Must Go On: California Cool Weather Crops

I declare this summer's crops a complete and total wash. Deep sigh. Raccoons, squirrels, and possums feasting on my peppers (even some jalapeños), figs and tomatoes. Like 5 cucumbers, 3 eggplant, some tomatoes, figs, beans, and herbs were harvested but in far fewer quantities than I would have expected or that my gardening ego demands. Not one night spent inbibing mojitos in the garden. No giddy harvests shared with friends, and few just picked tomatoes added to salads or eaten with sea salt. But je ne regrette rien. Soon it will be fall and soon spring after that. The show must go on!

But, Southern Californians, did you think just because it's starting to be the end of the summer that you can just rip out your tomato plants and call it a day until spring? I don't think so, my friend! It's time to start planting your seeds for fall. This is tough love right here. In Southern California, our fall and winter is comparable to early spring for you East Coasters. While you are putting the garden to sleep, or getting in a quick fall crop. we are preparing for a whole other season- cool crops like LETTUCE, ENDIVE, ARUGULA, MUSTARD, KALE, CABBAGE, CAULIFLOWER, BRUSSEL SPROUTS, BROCOLLI, GARLIC, ONIONS, LEEKS, SHALLOTS, SWEET PEA FLOWERS, PEAS, POPPIES, PANSIES, SWISS CHARD, SPINACH, CARROTS, CILANTRO, PARSLEY, CHERVIL, CELERY AND RADISHES are all great to grow in this easy, rainy season. I refuse to let Southern Californians lay about during the winter, drinking red wine by the fire and listening to moody music. Put on a sweater and go plant some lettuce for the love of Mary! (It's so easy). I insist. Please. This will be the year that you grow your first head of lettuce and cry when you bite into that juicy leaf that you grew from seed yourself. You have been annointed by the earth, baby- why stop now? Plant like you mean it!

I started a few seeds this past weekend, but here's my Winter Seedplan:

OPIUM POPPIES- It just seems like a good place to start, you know? Start off the season with a bang- a flower that gets you on an FBI list. Too bad I lost the seeds I ordered, I'll have to find more. I envision double flowered, peony type flowers. Hot pink, of course.

ORIENTAL POPPIES- These are for the front of the house, a terraced yard that I'll be working on with my neighbor this fall. I've been making little lavender and succulent cuttings to plant there this fall. These poppies are perennials that favor cool weather. This is a multicolored seed pack, which I normally don't like, but whatever. I plan to start both types of poppy seeds in peat pots, because poppies don't like to have their roots disturbed.

'MISS WILLMOTT' SWEET PEAS- This flower is supposed to be an orangey pink. An heirloom from the early 1900's, and it was named after garden writer Ellen Willmott. The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens says "Miss Ellen Willmott, a great plantswoman of the same era, dwindled away a fortune largely owing to her gardening obsession. When she outgrew her 50 acres in Essex, she bought a French château and an Italian villa to plant up, at one point employing more than 80 gardeners. Imperious and autocratic, she would blow her stack over the presence of a single weed in the garden or the discovery that the bloom time of one of her plants had been imprecisely documented. Her descent into bankruptcy never interfered with her purchase of any rare plant she coveted." My kind of gal, hell yeah!

'FRENCH BREAKFAST' RADISHES- These are so easy and quick and have been grown since the 1700s. If you have a little space, grow some radishes. They are also incredibly beautiful. I saw these at Pavillions for 5 bucks a bunch! I was outraged.

'BOWLES BLACK' VIOLAS- I've had these seeds for a year. They'll add a nice dark gothic bass note to my plantings.

CIPOLLINI ONIONS- I've never grown onions. Let's see what happens.

FIVE COLOR SWISS CHARD- Similar to the BRIGHT LIGHTS SWISS CHARD mixture. I've always wanted to grow these. I can weed out the colors I don't want. They look really gorgeous backlit by the sun.

CROSBY EGYPTIAN BEETS- A friend gave these seeds to me. I love beets, they are so good for you. But be careful if you juice them- my husband got a strong juice of beets and apples that had him barfing in the parking lot of a gas station. Too much nutrition at once is No Bueno.

MCGREGOR's FAVORITE BEETS- These have gorgeous purple leaves, but a low germination rate. Let's check 'em out.

ROSSA DI CHIOGGIA RADICCHIO- This is a heading type radicchio, and you don't have to blanch them.

GREEN CURLED RUFFEC ENDIVE- I love frisée. This one you just tie up to blanch 'em.

BATAVIAN LETTUCE- I think this is really a type of endive/chicory, and I got the seeds in Switzerland, smuggling the seeds past customs. Phew! I make a fantastic international garden criminal! Yay, me!

ICEBERG LETTUCE- Who knew I'd one day grow iceberg lettuce? Got these seeds in Swizzera. Smuggled lots of seeds through customs, though I will deny it. I'm a sucker for a crisp iceberg lettuce with a creamy blue cheese dressing. It reminds me of going to Bob's Big Boy when I was a kid.

MASCARA LETTUCE- A frilly oak shaped leaf that holds it's color in warm weather. I love growing lettuce- so simple and pure.

FORELLENSCHLUSS LETTUCE- on old speckled Austrian heirloom romaine lettuce. Speaking of Austrian lettuceheads-isn't it crazy that Arnold Schwarzenegger is our governor? I mean, would you have ever imagined? Ggggrrrr. "California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger apologised on Friday for remarks saying Puerto Ricans and Cubans were hot headed because of their mix of black and Latino blood. The remarks were caught on tape and released to the Los Angeles Times which published them Friday. The controversial comments threatened to overshadow the former movie star's bid for reelection as a Republican governor in a heavily Democratic state. He said "I mean Cuban, Puerto-Rican, they are all very hot, they have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it" Dude, what the f**k?

Other than that, I'll also be growing the usual MESCLUN MIXES, PARSLEY, CHERVIL, CILANTRO, ARUGULA, MORE PANSIES AND LETTUCES I pick up from the nursery on a whim.

Ciao, babies!


At 14 September, 2006 01:24, Blogger Tiana said...

Yeah...I get to be the first to comment this time...you're starting to have quite the fan base missy! Thank you so much for this blog...it's so helpful to us newbies.
I know you think this season's crops were a complete wash but they really weren't...you ate tomatoes, made pesto, ate some eggplant that didn't make your tongue itch, and hey...you had enough figs on that bad boy to make fig pie until your face turned into, yep, you guessed it, a fig. Be PROUD...celebrate...think of all the tomatoes you started that were grown all over the city and across counties...now if that's not a tramp in the garden, I don't know what is!

Keep up the good work my friend! You're blog is the most entertaining and informative blog I've read.

I'm so excited...I just placed my order for a variety of carrots and brocolli.

Now it's time for me to say...G-O-O-D N-I-G-H-T!


At 14 September, 2006 16:13, Blogger Bomb Bay said...


At 15 September, 2006 14:24, Blogger Christa said...

Sounds like a fabulous list of crops... and it reminds me... I've got to plant my parsley seeds. I keep forgetting the parsley!

I have turnips, carrots, beets, arugula, kale, and a few other things that I have started for the cool season. I planted French breakfast radishes, too. They are always fun, because they grow so fast!

At 18 September, 2006 11:05, Blogger Bomb Bay said...

Slacker... where da new post at?

At 21 October, 2006 22:39, Blogger HerbLover said...

First of all, how many eggplants (as in what type) make your tongue itch?
Second, which beets have a middle to high germination rate, and what does chervil taste like?

At 08 February, 2007 08:35, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 15 November, 2007 20:16, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sure are funny! I laughed so much I had tears in my eyes! So, here I am in New York still awaiting some rain, the soil is like dust from the drought, global warming, hmm. Today I ordered potatoes, Purple Peruvian, Austrian Cresent,All Red and La Ratte, yup they connect with a single rat tail stem. They are so good, taste like chestnuts. Also Christmas Lima beans, grew them this past season and got twice as many for this coming year. For any bugs, I sprinkle (bomb) cayenne pepper on the plants, works like magic. Also keeps any critters away. I also get a stingy feeling in my mouth when I eat eggplant, is that an allergic reaction? Nightshade family. It scares me but it never stops me from eating them. The white eggplants don't do it though. I have 5 dump truck mounds of composted manure I was lucky enough to get from 2 farmers at $75 per load, sure beats the $325 I got from a landscape outfit for a skimpy load. I call them the "Shit-Kick Mountains". Can't wait to see how much it improves the soil, because of the adventure of growing everything I can/want is so exciting.


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