Monday, March 30, 2009

Le Jardin de Provence

This is a re-post from last March. We were in Provence this time last year and I thought it'd be fun to see what was blooming in the gardens then. We spoke to my in laws this weekend and they said the garden is "coming alive". Oh how I wish I was there. We are returning to France this fall. We are counting the days...


These are just a few of the photos I took in Provence of my Belle Mere's (Mother in Law's) garden. She is an amazing gardener and it was such fun having her give me a tour of it and listening to her pronounce all of the names in french. My Belle Mere does not speak English and my French is a work-in-progress but somehow we communicate beautifully. Be sure to look at the last picture if you are a bird lover.

My father in law puts these walnuts out for the birds to sweet is that?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Worms - Verre de Terre

I have horrible soil. It's full of clay so we have to amend and compost like crazy to make plants grow. Our veggie garden is organic so I have to be careful what goes into it.

I was thrilled when I dug into the raised bed to plant my first tomato and voila families of worms everywhere! I contribute this to composting.

I was so excited, I had to run and show Frenchie. Did you know the word for worm in french is "verre de terre"? Verre means worm and de terre means of the earth. Worm of the earth. Hmmm....where else would a worm be from?

When you have this many worms, you get worm castings which are highly rich in nutrients and minerals which is essential to healthy plants. The crumb-like texture of the worm casts helps to improve the soil, making it more free-draining and better aerated. Worm casts can also improve a poor, dry soil making it more able to retain essential moisture. These benefits mean good, healthy root production.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blooming Onions

Most folks want to grow onion bulbs NOT onion flowers! I have to admit, I let these youngins get way too big and should have picked them when they were little.

They look like leeks! I was in the garden when the Captain came home and he saw these on the ground and asked if we were having leek soup for dinner!

Ok, let's say you did not let them mature like I did. What causes bulb onions to send up flower stalks?
Flowering of onions can be caused by several things but usually the most prevalent is temperature fluctuation. An onion is classed as a biennial which means it normally takes 2 years to go from seed to seed. Temperature is the controlling or triggering factor in this process. If an onion plant is exposed to alternating cold and warm temperatures resulting in the onion plant going dormant, resuming growth, going dormant and then resuming growth again, the onion bulbs prematurely flower or bolt.

The onion is deceived into believing it has completed two growth cycles or years of growth in its biennial life cycle so it finalizes the cycle by blooming. Flowering can be controlled by planting the right variety at the right time. Use only transplants that are pencil-sized or smaller in diameter when planting in early spring or always plant seed, NEVER transplants, in early fall. I wonder if this is true for San Diego's climate. I'm learning so much!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Square Foot Gardening

Our grass has been removed and we are ready to put in our raised bed. I've been trying to determine what size is best. The bed we have now is only 3 ft across which works well with my reach as I don't have long arms and I want to be able to reach the middle of the bed.

Last night we were over at our friends, The Webers (who are very cool people by the way) , for dinner. They are using the square foot garden approach which I've considered. These pictures are from their lovely garden.

The Ten Basics of Square Foot Gardening:

Arrange you garden in squares, not rows. Lay it out in 4' by 4' areas.

Build boxes to hold a new soil mix above ground.

Space boxes 3’ apart to form walking aisles.

4 - SOIL
Fill boxes with Mel’s special soil mix: 1/3 compost. 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 coarse vermiculite.

5 - GRID
Make a square foot grid for the top of each box. A MUST!

6 - CARE
NEVER WALK ON YOUR GROWING SOIL. Tend your garden from the aisles.

Plant a different flower, vegetable, or herb crop in each square foot, using 1, 4, 9, or 16 plants per square foot.

Conserve seeds. Plant only a pinch (2 or 3 seeds) per hole. Place transplants in a slight saucer-shaped depression.

Water by hand from a bucket of sun-warmed water.

When you finish harvesting a square foot, add compost and replant it with a new and different crop.

Pick an area that gets 6-8 hours of sunshine daily.
Stay clear of trees and shrubs where roots and shade may interfere.
Have it close to the house for convenience and protection.
Existing soil is not really important. You won’t be using it.
Area must not puddle after a heavy rain.

For more on square foot gardening

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Desert Lily

Jean Louis and our friend BJ went to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park this past weekend to photograph the desert wild flowers. It was a great learning experience and we were really lucky to find the famous desert lily. BJ let me use his fancy camera with his macro lens to get this great shot. Thanks BJ!

The desert lily (Hesperocallis undulata) is one of the most beautiful of the desert wildflowers indigenous to the deserts of California, Arizona and Nevada.

Desert Lily Identification
To positively identify the desert lily, look for characteristic long, thin, narrow leaves that appear wavy or undulating (hence the scientific name undulata). While the leaves usually present as such, it is possible for an individual specimen to display thicker leaves with straight edges. The stem of the desert lily may be one to three feet in height, and as many as 20 buds may be present with only a few open at any one time. The flower itself looks a lot like an Easter lily. Look for six petals—three interior and three exterior.

The desert lily was used as a food source by the indigenous people. It was eaten raw or oven pit baked. The Spanish called it ajo, since the taste is said to be similar to garlic.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


In this month's issue of Organic Gardening, I found a most appropriate article on Arugula. We've enjoyed our bush all winter and I was bummed to see that it had gone to seed. When the plant bolts don't throw it in the compost pile. Cut the white flowers and immature seed pods and use them as a garnish. The leaves will be too spicy to eat raw, so instead try braising mature leaves from bolted plants with a bit of lemon juice, chicken broth and garlic.

In the article, written by Barbara Wilde of Paris, she offers a complete growing guide of arugula.

Arugula (Eruca sative) is native to the Mediterranean basin, where it grows wild in fields. It tolerates both extreme cold and heat, meaning you can grow it year round in Zones 7 and southward, and for all but the coldest months in the rest of the country.

Best varieties:
'Roquette' - 35 days. Extremely frost-tolerant, arrow-shaped leaves.
'Sputnik' - 35 days. A mild-flavored variety with a wide range of leaf shapes.

Plant one today - you wont' be sorry!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pretty in Pink

Spring has arrived! Maybe this time change will get me out of my funk and back doing what I love - gardening!

We've been busy this weekend digging up a portion of our back yard for raised beds. We are very excited about this project which will allow us to grow all our own vegies. I'm taking pictures and will have before and after photos later.

I hope you are all having a blessed Sunday. Better get back out in the garden!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fontaine Moussue

This is where Jean Louis grew up - Salon de Provence, France. We love having a coffee at le café while sitting and watching the passersby.

A popular attraction in Salon is the Fontaine Moussue, on the Place Crousillat. This 18th-century fountain is covered by a thick mound of moss. Some say the moss is dying due to global warming. The fountain is surrounded by plane trees planted over the centuries: one was planted in 1799 to mark the end of the Revolution and another was planted in 1919 to mark the end of the Great War.