Not all garlic grows in SoCal

It’s the end of July and my garlic plants still haven’t sent up scapes. Another oddity that I noticed is many of the leaves are still green. I dug a few bulbs out to see if they were ready and found them to be disappointingly small.

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For comparison, here’s my garlic harvest in 2014 when I was in Richland, Washington…

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…and my garlic harvest this year in San Diego:

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The ones this year are less developed and don’t have that long neck characteristic of hardneck garlic varieties. After some research, I learned that hardneck garlics aren’t suited for warm climates and need really cold winters to develop their bulbs. It turns out that I should be growing softneck varieties as I’m in zone 10. This kinda makes me sad since hardneck varieties are more diverse and interesting. Here are a couple articles I read: How to Grow Garlic in Warm Winter Areas and Hood River Garlic FAQs

Guess I’m buying a new set of garlic seed bulbs again. Savers Exchange carries mainly hardneck varieties, but Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply has several softneck and California varieties. Because I really like growing varieties I can’t find in the store, I’m purchasing Inchelium Red, a softneck variety that’s won taste tests.

Lesson learned. Let’s see how this one does in the next season.

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Summer 2017 garden update

The plants have been getting a good dose of home-brewed worm compost tea every couple weeks. Weeding has been easy, since only a few pop up every now then, making them easy to nip in the bud.

IMG_20170716_132220Watermelons are butternut squash are climbing up the PVC arch trellis and the corn plants are thriving. However, it seems the squirrels were still able to nibble on the squash leaves closest to the perimeter….grrr!!! I guess the fencing and netting aren’t completely squirrel proof. In the far future, the plan is to build a garden enclosure to house all the future raised beds.

One of the cucumber plants that got attacked by squirrels is starting to come back and put up a little fight. The seedlings in this bed (sweet peppers and eggplants) are slow to grow. My tomato plants are still small…they’re growing well, but I haven’t transplanted them yet for fear of losing them to seedling-eating bugs and what not. I think I really pushed the limit in starting peppers, eggplants and tomatoes late this year. Live and learn.

I’ve also had to cage my container-grown plants. On the left is borage + marigolds. On the right is the herb garden (cages were taken off for the photo). I split my mint plant into two larger pots (the brown pots in the background and foreground) to increase my mint yield. We use a considerable amount of mint in our dishes.

Lastly, I doubled the size of my outdoor compost bin. I opened the side that served as the door to make it one of the new walls, closed up the rectangle with two more 3 ft x 3 ft welded wire panels and zip-tied the corners to U-post stakes.

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The left side contains the remaining old compost that needs to be harvested. The uncomposted/unsifted pieces were transferred to the right side and I’ve been layering new yard waste on top, making a compost parfait. I covered the top with burlap cloth so that less moisture will escape. I weighed the new compost side with a large planter to help it compact.

“Squirrel!”

Just when I thought I could sit back and let the garden do its thing, I found some unwelcome surprises.

The garden beds had several small holes in different spots and seedlings that I had just transplanted were munched down to their stems. After shaking my fists in the air shouting, “Whyyyyyyyyy?!?!” I decided to get to the bottom of this/these mysterious critters.

I gathered the following clues over the last three to four weeks: these critters only came out during the day; they left shallow holes dug from above ground, not tunnels or burrows from below; they only ate certain seedlings; and they could somewhat be kept out with fencing that mice could fit through.

Based on these clues and my location, it seemed reasonable that my garden was being attacked by squirrels. I was never able to catch them in the act myself. But this past weekend, my parents did me a favor by monitoring my yard and confirmed that, yes, my mystery invaders were indeed SQUIRRELS…lots of them, coming out in the afternoon through the rotting wood fence between my yard and the neighbor’s.

I couldn’t let the squirrels win this fight. I originally was going to just wrap hardware cloth around the perimeter of each raised bed, but my husband came up with a more aesthetically pleasing idea to build some legit pest fences.

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The fences were constructed as four separate frames that could be individually removed from the border. The fence frames were built out of 2×2’s cut to fit right on top of the raised bed frames. Hardware cloth (1/4 in mesh) was cut and stapled to the frames. Near the ends of each frame, we installed 1/2 in 2 hole straps — these slip right over 3/8 in rebar stakes that hold the frames upright and in place.

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The finishing touch was covering the top with bird netting (secured with clothespins) to block squirrels from climbing over the fence. The cost of homegrown produce sure keeps adding up!

Outdoor compost harvest

It’s been a year and a half since I started my outdoor compost bin and I wanted to see what I could collect.

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So I made a compost sifter out of materials I had on hand: a Rubbermaid lid and 1/4 in hardware cloth.

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I cut out a rectangular opening in the Rubbermaid lid, drilled a hole in each corner and secured hardware cloth (cut to size) with zip ties. Fasten this onto a Rubbermaid bin, shovel some compost and sift.

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Happy to have this new supply of homemade compost!