Maybe I am a tomato dunce.

I am not being dramatic.  Because I killed half the tomatoes I transplanted last weekend.

Both Cherokee Purples, dead. Half of my paste tomatoes, dead. And the list goes on. I also killed two peppers and I didn't even transplant those.

I have no idea what I did wrong. Half of the tomatoes survived and are doing well. It must be something with the way I handled them? Or did I not plant them deeply enough? Not give enough water? Oh, screw.

So today I decided to supplement my supply with a few purchased seedlings from the Contra Costa Master Gardeners. They always have a huge selection to choose from, and while I was there, I picked up a pepper that you grow specifically for drying. Our drying experiments never worked well last year, and apparently it's because you need a specific pepper - who knew???

So, now I've got four cherry tomatoes, five slicing tomatoes, and six paste tomatoes, all in half-gallon containers, out in the sunshine (76 today and heading towards the mid-80's later in the week), and man did I water them in well. 

Cherry: Mexico Midget, Yellow Pear, and two Black Cherries (all survivors of my killing spree).

Slicing: Nebraska Wedding, Black Krim, Brandywine (survivors), plus two I got today - Mortgage Lifter, and Cherokee Purple. 

Paste: Opalka, Federle, Amish Paste (thank goodness one of each of these survived, I knew there was a reason I planted two of everything), and three from the sale - La Roma III (the only determinate variety I have), Rocky, and Pompeii.

I heard a bit of a tomato talk while I was standing in line to pay; one of the Master Gardeners was talking about how they plant tomatoes in 'Our Garden' (their demonstration site). She said they water their tomatoes on drip (like us) four times a week for 40 minutes at a time. This is easily half again as much as we watered last summer. So we'll be adjusting our drip system to match what the MG's do.

She also said our soil is still too cold to put tomatoes in the ground - this is what I thought - so I'll be waiting several weeks. Not like last year!!!

I transplanted the peppers today too. I have the one I bought for drying from the sale - Picante Calabrese - and the ones that survived here- Jalepeno, Maule's Red Hot, Jimmy Nardello, Chocolate Bell, Bull Nose Bell, and Sheepnose Pimento. 

Because of this amount of tomatoes and peppers, and seeing how things are coming in the winter garden, I revised my whole plan for the summer garden. 


Speaking of the winter garden, both garlic and shallots are starting to look like they might be ready for harvest earlier than I expected. Last year we harvested garlic on April 24 and shallots on June 13. So I must be wrong and they must need more time. The fingerling potatoes are looking good but haven't bloomed yet, so I don't want to take those out anytime soon. The carrots and beets are being harvested now, and there are still turnips though we have eaten all the turnips we want to for a long, long time. Maybe we'll pickle some. Broccoli is going to seed, the cabbage never 'headed' and is being used to feed the chickens; we are harvesting peas daily along with spinach, kale, and chard. The braising greens have gone to seed and are providing flowers for the bees and food for the chickens as well.

Flowers are blooming everywhere. Here is a small sampling.

 a bumblebee on Coral Bells (Huechera)

 a bumblebee on Coral Bells (Huechera)

Douglas Iris

Douglas Iris

Hummingbird Sage

Hummingbird Sage

Scabiosa, or Pincushion flower

Scabiosa, or Pincushion flower

Chinese Houses

Chinese Houses

I can't remember - old-fashioned phlox? Not sure. Charming though.

I can't remember - old-fashioned phlox? Not sure. Charming though.

More Ceanothus

More Ceanothus

Brilliant Poppies

Brilliant Poppies

Galliardia, or Blanket Flower, about to bloom

Galliardia, or Blanket Flower, about to bloom

It's fun to walk around and see things popping up. Like this -



or this -



What's happening in your garden this weekend?



Nothing seems to be going right at Poppy Corners lately.

Our dishwasher crashed.

Our front doorknob stopped working.

The water feature suddenly spluttered its last.

My sourdough starter began to smell like gym socks.

The bee activity at the hive entrance is greatly reduced.

The dog had a weird thing where he yelped every time we touched his neck.

I had to step it up big time at work, with two very high-need children starting with us.

Kate got sick and missed three days of school.

All the neighbors already have their Christmas decorations up, and we still have pumpkins on our front stoop.

The weather is doing funny things - barometer up, barometer down - which causes me to have pretty nasty migraines.

And to top it all off, the garden is just not thriving. I can't figure out if it's a water problem, a soil problem, or if everything is taking its time germinating because it's so dang cold.

So I pretty much I felt like I wasn't doing anything well at all this week.

I felt like this old, cast-off boot I saw in the weeds next to a warehouse.

So today I took the day off. I took Adam to the Conservatory, then grabbed Kate and met a friend in Berkeley, where we spent several blissful hours touring open artist studios (Berkeley Artisans) and eating tacos at Picante. This friend and I are kindred spirits, so we laughed and trooped around and generally acted like goofballs. I found this cured my headache, put both Kate and I in an improved mood, and made facing the rest of the day bearable.

We came home to find the dishwasher and the doorknobs fixed (yay for Tom). The dog had been to the vet and found to have nothing more than a wrenched neck muscle (hooray for painkillers). We hung some wreaths outside, and hope to do lights tomorrow. I took the pumpkins to the compost. I washed and filled up the bird feeders. I decided to make a loaf of bread from the funky sourdough, and it wasn't horrible (we'll use it in a savory bread pudding tomorrow). And I juiced a dozen Meyer lemons for the freezer. It's hard to feel bad when you're juicing a slice of sunshine.

Tom was kind enough to hold this up for me.
As Anne Shirley of Green Gables says, "Tomorrow is another day without any mistakes in it yet."

The Buckwheat Problem

I've messed up in a big way with the buckwheat cover crop. What started out as a soil-improvement plan (it's worked in the past!) has become a major pain in my butt.

Here's the issue. I seeded a huge amount of buckwheat over the summer. Every time a crop was finished and cleared out, I sowed buckwheat, hoping to get some extra tilth before winter planting. But it was so dry here, and so hot, and I was watering (using the drip system) so little, that many of those seeds never germinated. I gave it up for lost and just readied my beds for winter, anyway - planting my scheduled winter crops.

Then, we finally got rain. Two big rains. And guess what happened?

All those little buckwheat seeds were just lying there, deep and warm in the good soil, waiting for moisture. And they've sprung in to action, big time.

I have buckwheat coming up in every bed. It's a complete nuisance.

The Pea/Kohlrabi bed
All that green you see there? Well, or 99% of it? That's buckwheat. Every bed looks exactly like this.

Keep in mind I just weeded this bed.  I've been weeding constantly, every chance I get. It seems like for every seedling I pull out, another five come up.

And I can't just get in there and hoe it, because I've already seeded my winter crops! So they are all coming up in the same place the buckwheat is coming up. And hand-weeding has to be especially careful because if I'm too impatient I pull out the good stuff along with the buckwheat! ARGH!!!

peas coming up in the buckwheat 

spinach coming up in the buckwheat 
I repeat: every bed. Can you tell what I'll be doing over my Thanksgiving break??? Double ARGH.

Lesson learned. Be more judicious with the buckwheat in future. I just assumed it wouldn't germinate if it wasn't super hot outside or in the soil. I was (clearly) wrong.

We've had some crisp nights, with light frost - another chore will be getting the rest of the row covers put up. (They also don't help with my weeding duties - hard to work around.) Meanwhile the leaves are definitely turning.

Crepe Myrtle


Chinese Pistache

Afternoons are still sunny and warm. I found this baby lizard on one of my walks with Joe today. He was hanging out on a trail marker.

Butterfly mix-up

I guess it's not a big deal in the scheme of things, but you know how much I like to identify what I'm seeing in the garden. And my good friend Barbara pointed out that I might be seeing Gulf Fritillary butterflies rather than Monarchs on my Tithonia. On further reflection and research, I think I've seen both - but many of the pictures I've put up are mislabeled. You can see why I was confused:

Gulf Fritillary

"What kind of butterfly is that?"
"Oh, an orange one."

Anyway, please forgive me, and I'll go back and change up my old posts. Meanwhile I found this cool  blog post about butterflies on Tithonia at the UC Master Gardeners website. I'm not the only one noticing lots of activity (rightly-or-wrongly-named) in these flowers. Put these on your to-buy list for next summer!

We've had some cooler weather and yesterday we even had a light mist - unheard of in September! - and we saw this, which I took as a sign that El Nino is on its way here. We'll see if that's true.