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Posts from the ‘Organic’ Category

the state of the garden

July 9, 2010

zora naki

what do you want first – the good news or the bad news? I’m usually a bad news kind of person – get it out of the way, and then you know you have something good to look forward to.

So here it is.

The garden this year? Not up to snuff. Between the cold wet spring and poor plant selection/soil issues, some of my plants are positively runty. I have a tomato plant that (bless its little heart) is only about 6 inches tall and is still manfully putting out two cherry tomatoes. Five pepper plants (home depot – boo!) are still the same size as when i planted them about three months ago.

Tried some new veggies out this year – the fava beans grew like stink and then got infested with little black bugs, and the cabbages grew big and also got infested (for some reason i keep writing invested) with green worms and greyish crap. My solution is to repeatedly blast them with water, but i’m thinking there’s room for improvement.

My strawberry bed was decimated by the reno – only 5 strawberries have made it to fruition 😦  Also, the plum tree that put out forty-odd plums last year has one single solitary fruit growing. Is it on sabbatical? Am i doing something wrong?

Now for the good news. The potatoes in the front yard are coming along nicely.

the newly planted apple trees are putting out fruit.

bumper crops of raspberries.

Finally, (and unrelated to gardening), we headed off to granville island last saturday to gorge on seafood and admire the houseboats. very chic, no?

stupendous flower baskets.

happy 11th anniversary!

how many plants does it take to fill a front yard?

April 25, 2010

zora naki

Now that the giant pile of dirt is leveled, I have started to plant. Or at least, obsess about planting. I did have a landscape plan drawn up (hard to believe that was more than two years ago), but now I think that it isn’t what I want.

I want edible landscaping, along with some evergreen permanent plantings to help things along during the winter. I want it to look modern, but not rigid. I like chartreuse and lime green leaves, and red and white flowers and grasses. I also love palm trees and banana plants, but I have given up on them, because they require more babying to get through a winter than i am willing to dole out (I have kids – my TLC is being used up already).

The big question is how many plants and how (where) do you plant them? In straight lines? In groups? In patterns? I have no freaking idea, so I’m buying things and trying to figure it out as I go (lots of polls of passers-by, google searches, landscaping books from the library).

The basic rules:

  • buy multiples (odd numbers are best)
  • buy edibles where possible
  • arrange from lowest to highest
  • plan for the future (allow for growth)
  • buy plants that will survive with minimal care and attention

I hit up a liquidation sale at a grower and made some spur-of-the-moment decisions (60% off was a highly motivating factor, although plants were mostly unlabeled). I also bought some specific things I knew I wanted.

Here’s my plant list (with my guesses at final size in brackets):

5 euonymous – unlabeled but gold and green variegation, shrubby (size? but I’ve seen them grown into hedges)
4 rhododendron -vulcan red (5′ x 5′)
5 azalea -white (unlabeled – guessing 4′ x 4′)
1 magnolia grandiflora (unlabeled, but can grow quite large over time)
1 dwarf braeburn apple (on M27 dwarf stock, 6′-8′ adult height)
1 dwarf jonagold apple (on M27 dwarf stock, 6′-8′ adult height)
1 dwarf spartan apple (on M27 dwarf stock, 6′-8′ adult height) – the three apples can cross-pollinate each other.
8 euphorbia (various types)
12 carex (no idea, but they’re variegated and about 12″ high, i’ve seen them growing in sun and shade around here)
3 skimmia (existing – 4′ x 4′)
3 peony – white
6 choisya – 3 Sundance, 3 standard (can be as big as 8’x8′ but more like 3′ – 5′ height in our climate)
some miscellaneous grasses
a flat of creeping thyme to plant between the front path pavers

Still looking for a bunch of pachysandra to plant by the skimmia on the shady side garden (picture above) and some lavender to plant along the sides of the path.

the garden, she is planted

April 23, 2010

zora naki

Busy busy! I gave myself special dispensation to buy some bedding plants because I feel like I just don’t have TIME to grow things from seed, what with all the weeding and the shoveling and the reclaiming of land from the things that Ran Wild last year. Also, I am into instant gratification (a sad commentary on our times, but I am a product of society, so there you have it).

Dug out the beds, weeded, and topped up with about 4 inches of fresh soil.

I’ve planted 16 tomato plants and 5 peppers. There are raspberries, onions, garlic and potatoes from last year that are coming on strong. Oh, and I did plant SOME seeds (I’m not totally lame) – fava beans, yellow wax beans, purple beans (two varieties), beets (chioggia), carrots (purple haze), peas, and spring onions. Apparently I like colourful vegetables.

Squash, zucchini, and swiss chard (bright lights, natch). Still have some white cauliflower plants waiting to be tucked in somewhere. Still looking for purple cauliflower (graffiti) to add to the crop. Debating broccoli.

And the herb garden is zooming along. The perennial crop is going gangbusters: fennel, chives (regular and garlic), oregano (regular and greek), thyme (regular and lemon), sage, parsley, lemon balm, chamomile (roman and german), and the mints (peppermint, spearmint, orange mint).

I’ve added two small rosemary bushes to replace what died a few years back, and also potted a wee bay leaf tree in the terracotta pot you can see tucked in there. My nemesis – basil – is destined for some pots – maybe I can baby it to fruition this year with some vigilant gardening. This will be my new superhero name: The Vigilant Gardener. And I will wear green and carry a trowel and slay weeds and slugs with a single deadly blast from my unblinking eyeballs of organic wrath, powered solely by spring fever.

i grew apples

September 14, 2009

zora naki

i grew apples

i’m pretty excited about the first apple harvest (of my whole entire life) – i picked three today off of my espalier apple – a braeburn, a golden delicious and a red delicious. two of them were consumed on the spot, hence the lonely apple in the photo above.

also – peppers!

i grew apples (and peppers too)

much better than last year’s failed crop. of course, without anything in the photo to give them scale, the pictures are deceiving – these are decidedly smaller than what you would get at the store. there were a few spiders lurking in the crevices. but i grew everything without sprays or chemicals or anything other than the fresh compost added to the soil back in the spring. i think the raised beds are helping with the pest containment. or maybe it’s the vigorous undergrowth of clover and dandelions around the plants…

relocating from our house to a rental during the reno saga has been seriously detrimental to my urban homesteading efforts. the freezer is unplugged, the canning jars are packed away in storage, and the garden went without water during one of the hotter summers I’ve experienced out here. in our absence, the blackberry canes invaded. it’s a jungle back there. the cauliflower and broccoli heads came in small and very quickly (overnight it seemed) and had already gone to seed by the time i fought my way to the backyard garden (past the old furnace, around the tarp covering the tool cabinet, through the knee-high dandelions).  the strawberries performed admirably in the early summer but have taken a real beating from the work done – stucco raining down, roofing tile dropped, building paper left in a pile in the middle of the bed (obviously these people are NOT gardeners).

i still can’t seem to keep a male kiwi vine alive. i may need to relocate them – i now have two suspicious deaths on my hands. my thumbs are turning black. i planted potatoes in random patches around the beds and now (of course) with the plants done, i have no idea where most of them are.

don’t mind me. i’m just moping. i’ve been thinking about the amount of garden work in the back yard that i need to do to catch up for next year – ACCKK!

being even partially self-sufficient is so MUCH WORK.

i love being out in my garden and puttering – a little bit here and there. but apparently, for me at least, proximity is key. i don’t know how all of those allotment gardeners do it.

anyhoo, enough of the pity party. i think i’m feeling discouraged because the reno is being held up (again) – we’re on hold for another few days before they can finish papering the building, so we can stucco/insulate/drywall. the gutter/flashing guy made a brief appearance and hasn’t been seen since. i can’t find a window sill that i like. the budget is having issues. everything is great, but i want it to be DONE.

front yard gardens

September 5, 2009

zora naki

we were on our way to the PNE yesterday afternoon and I ended up taking more pictures of the front yard gardens that we passed than i did of the kids on rides. Some gorgeous, mouth-watering displays of gardening ingenuity, in all its forms. First up, a lovely Craftsman with a picket fence. From the street, it looks pretty.

front yard gardens

When you peer over the fence (as i am wont to do), you spy a functional and attractive garden.

front yard gardenfront yard garden

so pretty. in the same neighbourhood, squash and melon vines sprawl vigorously.

front yard gardenfront yard garden

some are combined with raised beds holding other veggies.

front yard gardenfront yard garden

the scariest version was an entirely enclosed chain link cage.

front yard garden

ugly as heck, but effective – check out the crop (i’m guessing bitter melon, but i don’t really know)

front yard garden

when we finally made it to the fair, i did manage to get a shot of the smallest kid on a ride.
front yard garden

the rest was just a blur of lines and rides and animals and junk food galore. i really wanted to eat a deep-fried mars bar (just to say that i had) but we didn’t get to it this time around. maybe next year…

Grow Your Own #29

June 17, 2009

zora naki

Wow! Prepare to be awed by the fabulous entries for this edition of GYO.

Cannellini Bean Salad

Cannellini Bean Salad

Andrea Meyers (Virginia, United States) of Andrea’s Recipes came up with her usual yumminess in her recipe for Cannellini Bean Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette.


Artichoke Salad with Sage

Graziana of Erbe in Cucina used sage from her Italian garden to make Artichoke Salad with Sage.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs

I never thought that a chicken recipe would appear on my blog, but this one from Núria of Spanish Recipes (which makes sense since she is from Barcelona) sounds good – Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs with Rosemary, Honey and Orange.

Braised Rhubarb with Herbs and Saffron

Braised Rhubarb with Herbs and Saffron

Jessamyn Tuttle from Mount Vernon, WA used up some of her rhubarb harvest in Braised Rhubarb with Herbs and Saffron which you can read all about in her blog Food on the Brain.

Lemony Rosemary Polenta Cake

Lemony Rosemary Polenta Cake

Bee and Jai from Jugalbandi created a Lemony Rosemary Polenta Cake using some home-grown rosemary from their garden in the North-Western U.S.

Quinoa Flake Crisp

Quinoa Flake Crisp

Linda Simon (WI, USA) from Kitchen Therapy created a lovely Q-is-for-Quinoa Flake Fruit Crisp using the last of her rhubarb.


Lemon Thyme Shortbread Hearts

Elissa from the blog 17 and Baking lives in Seattle, WA (USA), and made Lemon-Thyme Shortbread Hearts using lemon-thyme grown in her herb garden. Sounds yummy. I wonder if she’ll have to change the name of her blog when she turns 18?

Potato Salad with Peas and Peppers

Potato Salad with Peas and Peppers

Kim Lewandowski (Portsmouth, VA) of Live, Love, Laugh, Eat came up with a delicious Potato Salad with Peas and Peppers, featuring her spring peas.

Raspberry Tiramisu

Raspberry Tiramisu

And finally, this fabulous-looking Raspberry Tiramisu comes from Dhanggit’s Kitchen in Aix en Provence, France and uses home-grown raspberries.

Bon appetit! If I’ve missed anyone, please fire me an angry email. I hope to have the cojones to contribute to the next round of GYO – #30, hosted by Graziana of Erbe in Cucina.

Grow Your Own 2009

this is not what it looks like…

June 4, 2009

zora naki

male hardy kiwi

Now,from this picture, you might think, ‘hey, look at that thriving male kiwi vine!’ and, if you’d been following the blog, you would know of my trials and tribulations with the kiwi vines, and you might jump to the obvious conclusion that my vine was doing great.

sadly no.

it grew some brave leaves earlier in the spring and then withered and died. the picture above is his replacement, a kiwi gigolo named Pavel.

female kiwi

one of my female vines is happy about Pavel’s arrival.

herb garden june 1, 2009

the herb garden continues to put the rest of my plants to shame. i’ve even managed to keep basil alive for a month. It’s the tiny little plant on the left. All the big stuff is perennial (oregano, thyme, lemon balm, fennel, chives, etc.) The snow killed the rosemary, so there is a replacement buried back in there.

baby plums

plums are growing on the grafted plum tree.

baby apples

did you know that baby apples are fuzzy?

green blueberries

they look green, but these are blueberries underway…

grow your own – and eat it too!

June 1, 2009

zora naki

GYO-2GR-200I’m super-excited to be hosting the June 15th edition of Grow Your Own (GYO). Do you grow/raise/forage edibles? Well, I would love to hear you blog about it. Extensive rules below, but basically, send me the link to your blog post before June 15th, and I’ll post a summary post shortly thereafter. And props to andrea’s recipes for metahosting the event – i’ve bookmarked so many of her recipes, they have their own folder .

Grow Your Own is a twice-a-month blogging event that celebrates the foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products. Anyone with a blog can participate! Do you write a food blog? A gardening blog? A farm blog? A hunting or foraging blog? An eco blog? A frugal blog? Anything whatsoever related to home and garden or fun activities to do with children? You can write a post about some of the edibles you have raised, grown, or found and cooked with. Having a food blog is not a requirement for participation.

The rules are simple:

* Make a dish that uses at least one item from your very own garden or farm and post about it. Your garden doesn’t have to be big. Container gardens are welcome! If you hunted or foraged, those items are also eligible. You can also use something that was given to you, but the giver must have personally grown or raised the item. If you paid for it, then it doesn’t count.

* Anything edible that you have grown or raised qualifies, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, sprouts, edible flowers, nuts, grains, legumes, dairy products, eggs, livestock, etc.

* Please make sure your dish is posted during the month of the event because we like to celebrate seasonal items. One post per blog, please.

* As a courtesy, please include a link to this announcement in your blog post, and then update later with a link to the round-up.

* If you want to include one of the Grow Your Own badges in your post, feel free to grab one from here. (Please upload to your own server/image repository.) Logos professionally designed by Jeff Meyers.

To include your post in the round-up, send an email to zoranaki(at)gmail (dot)com by the 15th of June 2009 with the following information:

* Subject line: Grow Your Own #29
* Your name and location (country, state if applicable)
* Your blog URL
* Permalink to your post
* 300×300 pixel photo of your dish (As long as the photo is no larger than 300 pixels in either direction, it will work.)

It’s hard to keep track of entries if we don’t receive an email, so please remember to email your information.

I will post a round-up of all our dishes within a few days after the deadline (of course subject to any other events in life, acts of God, etc). Questions? Please ask in the comments or email.

tomato time

March 29, 2009

zora naki

tomato sprouts

ergo sprouts. second time for starting tomatoes from seed (my first efforts last spring were fruitless). killed off half of the early emergers with a preemptive exposure to the great outdoors on a sunny/windy day last week. i seem to operate on the ‘survival of the fittest’ principle of gardening. why bother babying them along with cushy heating mats and fans to prevent spindliness when i can just throw them out on the picnic table and leave them to the elements? only the best will live to be eaten. the cruel fate of a tomato.

it was still sad though – pulling out the ones that curled up and died. i actually find it harder to thin out perfectly good seedlings (after sowing the requisite 3 seeds per pot) that are just a wee bit smaller than their companions. we don’t get rid of short people, now do we? i’ve tried transplanting these runts to other locations in an effort to extend their lives to usefulness, but they usually don’t survive my clumsiness. perhaps should wait longer, until their little stalks are thicker than the width of a hair. too impatient. bad trait in a gardener.

this year, i’m trying to grow the following tomatoes (based on careful consideration and what was available on the West Coast Seeds rack):

  • sweet million cherry
  • big beef
  • red cherry
  • aunt molly’s ground cherry (little yellow fruit in a papery husk fall off the bush when they are ripe)
  • black krim – heirloom
  • amish paste – heirloom
  • super italian paste – heirloom
  • golden rave – baby yellow Roma
  • prudens purple – heirloom (supposed to be very early and BIG – up to 1 lb)
  • green zebra – i liked these in the taste taste i did last summer

haven’t seen seeds for sungold, but i will definitely snap up a bunch of these from the gardening store once they come in – they were my favourites last year.

edible estates: descanso gardens

December 14, 2008

zora naki

i wrote about fritz haeg and his plans to turn front lawns into gardens before, but the latest project in Southern California’s Descanso Gardens is big step up in scale and design.

descanso gardens

The project planted two gardens earlier this year – one side is the typical grass lawn and the other is an edible garden replete with flowers, fruit, veggies and trees. The landscaping is a big improvement over some of the earlier projects, and uses more square-foot-gardening and trellises to good effect.


I think the project is a great way to get people thinking about the possibilities of front-yard gardens. It’s set up around a house structure so that people can walk through the physical space and relate their physical experience to their own lawns.

My only issue is that the project claims to measure and compare the energy and resource inputs/outputs for both gardens. Their stats are ridiculous.

It’s like comparing apples to oranges. The typical criticisms of a grass lawn rest on the use of chemical fertilizer, weed killer, the power usage of a mower, and the environmental drawbacks of a single water-intensive crop that must be artificially maintained in hostile environments (grass in the desert). This project negates a lot of these negatives by eliminating the chemicals and not using gas to mow the lawn. The grass side uses less labor (845 minutes for the grass vs. 3176 minutes for the garden) and water (3516 gallons vs. 8142 gallons) than the garden.

This doesn’t tell us very much. The garden takes more effort and the yield is 690 plants harvested (what does this mean?). It would have been great to see a site plan, a list of the numbers of plants put in and the specific items harvested. Something more along the lines of those wacky Path To Freedomers.


As a demonstration garden, the project is great. As a pseudo-scientific experiment, not so much. There is always the economics of measuring utility or satisfaction – playing on a grassy lawn vs. puttering in the planting beds, and this aspect is neglected entirely.

I think that all of us avid but not-so-informed gardeners who are willing and able to put in front-yard gardens would love to see a book of gardening plans laying out planting blueprints by zone, structured for full-season interest. Can someone please write one? Oh, and if you could establish a side business of renting out chickens for pest control (so that i don’t need to set up a coop in my backyard), I would greatly appreciate it.  Thanks!

pest control

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