Sunday, May 22, 2011

[HOLD] the onions

I have only moderately tried to grow onions in the past.  And when I say “onions”, I mean BULB onions not green onions (those aren’t too tricky).  I tried red onions once because I had heard how onions were the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie of the vegetable world (i.e. Set It and Forget It).  But much like any Ronco product, I was ultimately disappointed with lack of performance.

So back in February I wrote how my wife’s friend gave us 5 Texas Supersweet Onion sets for my garden, which I promptly planted because I was desperate to get started gardening as we came out of our Southern California winter.  110_4788

Well, they actually grew very well!  The tops were getting long and were healthy, thus I was encouraged that this would be my year to succeed with onions.  This was not to be (at least not yet).


All looked fine and I watched them each send up a flower stalk, which I /thought/ was good.  FYI, this is not good.  It turns out onions go to seed every OTHER year.  So this year they would have just produced a nice bulb for me to eat BUT…..  And here is where the BUT comes in.  Because I planted them in the garden so early (late January) they went through the typical schizoid weather patterns that typify the transition from winter to spring in southern California: cold-warm-cold-hot-cold hot…  Well, do that to them in a way “tricked” them into thinking they had gone through two years’ worth of time (winter-summer-winter-summer) and they went to seed like they are supposed to.  Now, going to seed isn’t a huge deal, you can still use the onions, they just aren’t as big as the typical onion for whatever variety you are growing and once they bolt everyone recommends just going ahead and pulling them.  So I did.  I went out there with my towel and loosened up the soil around each plant and pulled them out.  I must say I was pleasantly surprised as each one had grown a decent-sized bulb.


So now the rules say to let them dry and cure in the garage for two weeks, letting the tops dry up and such.  This is what they are doing currently and I suspect, come the close of the Memorial Day weekend, there will be fewer onions than that with which I started.  So now I know.  I picked up some yellow onion sets at the Fullerton College plant sale in early March and set those out in mid to late-March and they are bolt-free and doing very well.  I hope they will grow well and break my bad onion misfortune streak.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Potatoes [an update]

About 2 months ago I start my Potato Bucket Project.  I used six 5-gallon buckets from Lowes and this tutorial


I followed the directions like a good little gardener but I wasn’t seeing what I was s’pposed to be seein’.  Disconcerting to say the least.

Well, I had a bit of a hiccup with the whole potatoes thing.  [APPARENTLY] I did not allow the seed potatoes to sufficiently sprout before planting.  So, while I’m spending my days carefully watering and being sure the buckets got lots of sun, the potatoes were just…..s l o w l y…..rotting away.  I discovered this as dug down through the mulch to figure out why it I hadn’t seen the “promised” sprouts coming through the soil and it had been like 3 weeks.  Side note: rotting seed potatoes are nasty.  So I had some extra seed potatoes (which I had ordered from Seed Savers Exchange) and went and put them in a brown paper sack and stuck them in the closet for about a week and that seemed to do the trick!  I ended up with some real good sprouts and put them in the buckets (slightly shallower than the 4” I did for the first round).  So in a week or two I finally saw this:


I piled up some more mulch on top of the plants today.  That way the buried parts of the stems form roots and I gets me more po-ta-toes!  That’s the whole point, right?  I may do the next round of mulch piling using the FREE STRAW I got a couple months ago.  Will update later…

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Free Bale of [STRAW]

We went to a birthday party for our friend’s daughter a few weekends ago; a cowgirl-themed party.  At the end of the party my friend asked me if I wanted to have the straw bale they had purchased for decoration.  SCORE!!!  How often does a question like that get asked and result in pure joy to other person?!  Luckily, my wife let me load it in ‘her’ van to take home, which of course resulted in a mess of straw all over the back area that I, of course, promised to clean up that day but took me two weeks to get to.

The straw has come in really handy!  I am getting ready to grow some fingerling potatoes in 5-gallon buckets (using this tutorial).  I didn’t have any gravel to put in the bottom of the buckets to help with drainage so I used a couple inches of straw.  110_5206

I also used the straw as a nice mulch for the pathways in between the beds in my garden, which looks WAY better than before.  Also, it will keep the weeds down and make it easier to walk around after it rains (which, of course, we won’t get anymore of because I put the straw down).


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

[Tomato] SALE!

I’ve been (computer) lazy recently but I’m kickin’ in my blogging second wind now.

Thanks to former Governor Schwarzenegger and current Governor Jerry “Don’t Call me Eddie” Brown, I have get to take three furlough days a month off work so on Friday March 4, I headed down to the Fullerton College Tomato Sale.  It is the initiation of the spring gardening season for me here in southern California.  If you live in somewhere currently white with snow, I apologize.  110_5081

110_5068110_5072The amount of people who show up BEFORE the sale even opens always astounds me.   Tomatoes have become so important to these people, they rearrange their day, show up early at the sale with their boxes and wagons,  and surge in once the gates are open.  Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to get my tomatoes and did make an effort to get there slightly early but I was glaringly lacking a towing device for my seedlings.

BUT it turns out I had something most of the 60+ year olds didn’t have.  I had Polly, a friend of my wife’s who volunteers with the horticulture department who had already set aside the seedlings I wanted so there was no danger of reaching the appropriate tomato table and standing there slack-jawed at an empty tray of Roma tomatoes with only a wilted leaf or two to mock me as to what could have been.  Turns out I really didn’t /need/ Polly to set aside my plants as there was enough since I got there as the sale opened.

Anyhow, my tomatoes for this year include:


San Marzano Redorta


Costoluto Genovese

I tend to mainly use my ‘maters to make sauce for use throughout the rest of the year and we also use a handful of fresh tomatoes for a few batches of salsa every summer, so I picked up 2 seedlings of each.  Last year I did 3 tomato plants (2 – San Marzanos and 1 – San Marzano Redorta) and found myself wishing I had more.  So I went with the Redortas since they are bigger than the usual San Marzanos and the Costolutos just looked too cool to pass up, especially for a paste tomato.  I waited a week or so before putting them in the ground since we were having lows in the 40s that week and wanted to be sure the ground warmed up a bit before I planted.  Does it really matter? Nope!

My wife also wanted me to get some grape tomatoes (Juliet and Jelly Bean) just to have for salads and such.  I have no idea where I’m going to put the grape tomatoes in the garden.  I kinda maxed everything else out before she put in that command request.  Oh well… it will be all fine (as my son says).