Last blog post of May, 2010

First thing I did today was pick a bunch of raspberries.

Good morning raspberries

(Note: It was 10 o'clock when I did the first thing that I did today. I fell asleep around 8:45 pm last night, woke up at 1 am, went back to sleep some time later, and got up around 10 to pick raspberries.)

Then I turned the compost pile which I haven't done in months. I pitchforked off the top third of material and put it in a large plastic pot that I keep for just this purpose. The goal is to move the top third of the pile to the bottom, use the bottom third in the vegetable garden, and put the middle third on top where it then becomes the top half.

I always need to break down the top third a little with my hand pruners. Most things soften up after sitting in the compost bin for several months, but have you noticed that some things seem to get much harder? Rootballs often become very dense. And branches cut from my neighbors Ligustrum lucidum turn into teak or something. Weird.

Anyway, after I break down the top third and put that stuff on the bottom, I like to top it off with a layer of shredded newspaper because I feel like the slimy top third still has a lot of nitrogen in it and I like to do that nitrogen-carbon layering thing to help the pile cook faster. It works! Then I put the middle third on top and it's the new top half because I removed the bottom third and used it.

Whenever I do this (once or twice a year, max), I find the whole thing breaks down really fast. In two weeks, the compost pile will be half as large as it is today, and I can use most of it in the garden without having to turn the pile. Whatever doesn't get used will become the bottom third the next time I turn the pile in 8-12 months. The best part is now I can start adding waste to the compost bin again. It had been overflowing.

Anyhoo, that's my compost ritual. Not that anyone asked.

Vegetable gardening is off to a late start this year with the late rains and cold air from the El Nino. I don't think it can rain anymore (Rain in June? Surely not), so it will have to warm up. It only rains in California when it's cold, whether there's an El Nino or not. I've got Magda squash ripening already. I'll start harvesting in a few days.


Tomatoes have been planted out--Stupice and Early Cherry, the only two I grow. Scarlet runner beans have sprouted and started to climb the braided twine rope I hang from the deck. I started cucumber seeds the other day and they've already germinated. In a week or two I'll have ripe blueberries. In the meantime I have raspberries.

My first two Gravenstein apples are still making good progress.


Gravenstein needs pollen from another apple tree to set fruit. I have fruit so that means my neighbor's apple tree two doors down, whatever kind it is, did the trick. I'm not sure if that plan will always work, but for now we're good. I'm watching these apples like a hawk to make sure some bug larva doesn't get ideas.

After all that, I puttered. Last year's Verbena bonariensis came back and sent up HUGE flower stems. Can you see the one in the back--the faint lavender smear? Way over 6' tall.


I'm sitting on the stairs for this picture, but still...that flower is *way* up there. See the bee?


The lemon bush is getting to the point where we have lemons all the time now.


Long time readers will know I've always had a lemon bush, but I don't know if I ever fully detailed all the trouble I had getting a lemon to be happy in my garden. This bush is my third or fourth try. First I had to learn that citrus don't like wind. They really don't like wind. Then I had to learn how they don't like to be in too large a pot when the plant is too small. (Honestly, I'm still confused about that.) Then I found that they like to be planted in the spring, not the fall. A lot of other things prefer a fall start, but not citrus apparently.

Wind knocked over my wacky tower of pots, smashing a couple of them. I'm doing it again with smaller pots this time. Seems more stable. Strawberries do really well if I remember to water them, but the birds and mice will eat them. A Flickr friend suggested that I try yellow strawberries which apparently the birds at least do not recognize.


I've got lots of fennel and dill for butterflies, but I haven't seen any eggs or caterpillars yet. I'm ready whenever they are.

Passiflora 'Ebay' has been keeping the hummingbirds busy.


Passionflower is also supposed to host butterfly larvae, but I've never seen that.

For bees, we've got poppies, Cerinthe, some perennials...



Birds and insects should not feel shy.


It's almost summer.


Let's do this thing.


Julie said...

My goodness, you have an awesome garden! I can hear all the birds and wildlife now...bees buzzing, etc. Lemons and apples look luscious!!! Oh and the raspberries too, even though I am not keen on eating them. Do you have any blackberries? I adore them. Am thinking of buying few thornless variety at Lowes. Take care, and happy Monday!

Anonymous said...

Very alive and lush, Chuck! The raspberries are mouth watering. I cannot resist eating ours the moment they are ripe enough, never getting a basketfull like that. Good deal on your apples too. Love the Verbena boney, the insects here adore it above all else. Your compost routine sounds like a good one, thanks for the tip about the newspaper, we need more carbon in ours.

Christopher C. NC said...

Nice bowl of raspberries. I could do a patch of those. Plenty room. There was also a request for an asparagus bed. The blackberries I kill, thorny bastards. I can pick them across the street. Have been eating a few strawberries as they ripen, but no big crop of them yet. Major yummy. Squash, still in the seedling stage. Yes let's do this.