Monday, December 14, 2009

Seed Gathering

Yesterday, I pulled out the nasturtiums, two big trailing plants worth of slimy mess, and threw them on the compost pile. The bare spot where they used to be was littered with their seeds. I couldn't help marveling at the layered poetry of earthy debris, seemingly dead but really a petrie dish of teeming life, mixed with newly sprouting life of forget-me-nots and stored life of nasturtiums. There were lots of locust tree pods mixed in and a few bits of redwood and eucalyptus, not to mention a couple of gooey remnants of nasturtium leaves. What a montage! (Click on the photo above to enlarge it and see the details.)

Today I gathered up the nasturtium seeds and brought them inside.

It's a simple matter to strew them on a plate and let them sit on the dining room table to dry. The fat green newly gathered ones are mixed with some dried up specimens from an earlier seed gathering foray.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Bounty at the Table

Mmmmmmm, frost-kissed greens for dinner: mostly chard chopped up fine, with a little chopped kale for added character, sauted in olive oil with garlic and some canned tomato. I could eat this every night.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter Bounty

We had only three nights of temperatures in the twenties. By Thursday we were back to cloudy skies and predictions of rain, finally fulfilled today. All the winter-hardy plants are looking really perky now, coming into their own as their summer compatriots are reduced to limp brown rags, or, in the case of the nasturtiums, green goo.

This afternoon I went out in the rain -- accompanied by a wild-eyed, stir-crazed canine companion -- to do a little picking.

Pictured above, top row, left to right: Redbor kale, Blue Curly kale, a few leaves of dinosaur kale, right below the dinosaur kale some Red Lollo Antago lettuce, Rainbow chard, with some Bloomsdale spinach right below.

Bottom row, left to right: cilantro, Bronze Arrow lettuce, Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, arugula (a self-seeding volunteer coming up all over the garden), Forellenschluss lettuce.

A festival of vitamins and minerals!

The lemon tree seems fine. Some of its leaves have more of a yellow tinge than they did before the freeze, but that's all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Everything's Frozen!

This morning, a little before eight, the backyard was a California version of a sparkling winter wonderland. All the greenery was still green but with a new and silvery aspect, stiffened by rhinestones of frost. The water in the birdbath was frozen solid with golden locust leaves suspended in the ice.

A dramatic seasons end for the pepper plants, also finally for the cherry tomatoes. Nasturtiums and basil were already on the way out.

The lemon tree, however, looked fine under its boxy blanket. I took the box off during the day and for tonight have covered the plant with frost protection cloth. We'll see how that works. Tonight will be just as cold.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Frost Protection

We are having a cold spell, with night temperatures falling below freezing. Tonight is predicted to hit 27 degrees. Following advice in the San Francisco Chronicle garden section, I put a cardboard box over the little potted lemon tree. There are lots of big lemon trees in our neighborhood that seem to be thriving -- they are glossy-leaved and covered with lemons -- but our little plant is still young and vulnerable.

We acquired it last Valentine's Day by mail order from a nursery in southern California. It now has five very nice lemons just starting to ripen. Two are visible here, the others are tucked under leaves.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


There were plenty of intimations of frost before I went out to the garden this morning for the daily inspection. It was a genuinely cold night with chilly tendrils of air creeping in under the blankets. We leave the heat off at night and it was a relief to turn it on right away after getting up and to linger a bit by the heater. The first cup of coffee was a mini-spa, as the steam warmed my face.

In the garden only the nasturtiums and the basil showed noticeable effects. The basil was brown and blasted -- season definitely over without any quibbling about it. The nasturtiums were still green but completely wilted. The sungold tomatoes were still standing tall above the overhead trellis, but looking more bedraggled than yesterday.

Frost factoids: The water inside the plant cells turns to ice crystals and pierces the cell walls, killing them. Hardy plants must have some kind of defense against this.

In this area, average first frost is late November, so we are actually pretty much on schedule. For the record: In 2009, first noticeable effects of frost occurred on December 6.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

December Blossoms

We have had no heavy frost yet. I think there were some light frosts in the last few weeks because the basil has dark spots on it. But the nasturtiums and other plants that don't usually survive being frozen are thriving.

The morning glories have started blooming again and there is actually a red ripe cherry tomato on the still growing volunteer plant. I've seen big green and red tomatoes in neighbor's yards.

The sungolds are showing another spurt of growth. I can't remember when the heavy frosts hit last year, but this seems late to still have a garden full of summer-blooming plants.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Quiet Corner

Trudy's final resting place is a quiet corner next to Fluff Mama. H. helped dig the hole. We put plenty of heavy rocks on top to discourage scavengers like racoons and skunks. I planted a little rosemary seedling on top. Fluff Mama's salvia plant grew to more than twelve feet in height, like a lush tree with countless tiny red tubular flowers beloved by hummingbirds. It finally toppled over from sheer gargantuousness. It's nice to have another plant there. I hope this one lasts.