Sunday, May 18, 2008

Warm Weather At Last - 2008 Garden Update #4

Healthy Tomato PlantIn late April when I posted my last Garden Update, I was excited to have vegetables planted so early in the season. Turns out I was overly optimistic about the weather, and I lost five of my tomatoes, plus a few cucumbers, squash, and peppers. About three-fourths of the plants did survive the freezing weather though, so I'll probably continue to be an early-season planter, especially since my garden has a fence on three sides and this is the first year I've ever had major frost damage. The healthy celebrity tomato plant above didn't seem bothered at all by the 26 degree temperatures, even though a plant right next to one this was completely dead.

I think there's no danger of more frost with the very hot temperatures we've been having, so most of the vegetables are looking pretty happy now. I haven't managed to get mulch around the raised beds yet so ignore the weeds that are starting to pop up! I'm probably going to invest in cocoa shell mulch, because I can't resist the idea of the garden smelling like chocolate. Anyone have experience with this? I've heard that it not only smells good and looks nice, but also deters snails, which have been a problem for me in the past. If you have any recommendations for different types of mulch, I'd love to hear them in the comments after you check out the rest of the garden.

The Roma tomatoes had lots of frost-damaged leaves, but they all seem to have survived and are recovering. After replanting to replace the frozen plants, the tomato varieties I now have are Romas (4), Celebrity (2), Marglobe, Moscow, Mr. Stripey (2) and Brandywine.

This was early morning, and it's kind of a fuzzy photo, but I hope you can tell the herbs are all happy, and I've already used rosemary, tarragon, parsley, and sage. In these two herb beds and along my fence I now have 2 types of sage, 3 types of oregano, 2 types of parsley, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, thyme, dill, fennel, summer savory, mint, and lots of basil. I also planted 2 rows of green onions in the herb beds, but there are only a couple of tiny sprouts showing so far.

Bed #1 has 2 Poblano peppers, 2 Tomatillos, and 4 burpless cucumbers (which I'm growing in tomato cages so they don't over-run the other plants.) These beds are 4 feet by 10 feet, so they're longer than they look in these photos.

Bed #2 has 2 bush cucumbers, 2 bell peppers, 2 white eggplant, and 2 black beauty eggplant. The cucumber on the left (front) isn't happy though. I have no idea why, but I find cucumbers to be one of the hardest plants to get going every spring.

I'm excited about growing some things from seed, although I've used way too much seed and they all need to be thinned (I can't quite bring myself to do it yet!) From the front, I have short rows of radishes, chard, rainbow chard, chard, red kale, radishes, red kale, arugula, spinach, watermelon radish, romaine lettuce, and spinach. Some of these are early season crops which will get pulled out to make room for the other plants to get bigger. I'm completely new at this so I may have made some mistakes in choosing how to arrange the plants!

The fourth bed has straightneck squash, zucchini, and 8-ball zucchini. Along my back fence I have 2 plants of the Really Big Squash I was so happy with last year, and along the east side of the beds I have 2 spaghetti squash plants. The west end has a huge compost pile, which I'm hoping to make better use of next year if I can manage to keep it turned well enough that it makes good compost.

Finally, I'm very excited to be growing fennel, a completely new plant for me, and also something I've never cooked. I've eaten it and have no idea why it's never managed to land in my grocery cart, but I'm looking forward to trying it.

To see all my garden updates from 2006 and 2007, plus 2008 garden updates to date, use the tab for  Gardening.  No gardening for me today, since there's been a lot of gardening but not much cooking going on around here, and I'm heading off to the kitchen!
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More to Chew On:


  1. As much as I love the idea of Cocoa Mulch, unfortunately it is VERY toxic to dogs -- as much as any other chocolate. It might not be an issue on veggie beds, but just something to think about.

  2. Kimberly, I did read about that, but I don't have a dog and my back yard has a fence all the way around so no dogs can get in, so that's not a big issue for me.

  3. I'm using cocoa shell mulch for the second year, and I'm loving it. Haven't had any snail invasions, so I can't really speak to that. Keeps the weeds down, keeps the water in the soil longer, and makes me want to garden more because it smells really fantastic.

  4. Kalyn,

    Garden is really looking good. You are really going to have a ton of stuff. First year I ever planted tomatoes, about 35 year ago. I planted 36 plants. I had no idea that we would harvest a million tomatoes!! Had to send the kids out to give and sell them to friends and neighbors. Needless to say I never did that again!

    We are still too cold up here in MI, but do have radishes, onions and 1 row of beans that are up and seem to be holding their own. Maybe next week can plant the rest. (Could you please send us some of your heat?) Have used the cocoa mulch, but only around flowers. As I remember it kind of turns white after a while. It was OK, but for the price I like the more regular type, if I mulch at all. I have a tiny garden compared to yours tho, so I don't mind weeding! Will be anxious to see how you like it.

  5. You are so far ahead of me with variety and number!! Very Impressive Kalyn! Fennel is really fascinating. Ours pretty much comes back on it's own every year now. It gets great caterpillars all over it. About the time they've eaten it just about every little twig, the caterpillars are gone and the Anise Swallow Tail Butterflies entertain us while the plant bushes right back out.

  6. Elkit, thanks for the info. I'm really looking forward to trying it.

    Grandma Poppi, will do my best to send some of the heat up north!

    Tanna, can't wait to grow fennel, and if it comes back that will be a plus. I think it's an annual, so it must drop the seeds in the same way dill does?

  7. Wow, wow.
    Double wow, triple wow.
    Good goin, K.
    Yow and wow.
    Eat your fennel raw: shaved thinly with some thin slices of raw onion, and thin celery if you have it. Salad, eh? Good. Oil, vinegar, salt.

  8. CookieCrumb, thanks! I am very excited about how the beds turned out. I'm looking forward to trying the fennel salad, just like you have described, sounds perfect!

  9. Mine little container garden is growing too -- I'm posting it for a WHB entry tomorrow! Yours looks so good, and sounds delicious! Cocoa shell mulch sounds interesting!

  10. I've enjoyed following your garden updates. So much so, that I just about yanked my husband's arm out of the socket pulling him over to the screen to see the raised beds your brother built. I'm in awe! Planting season is just beginning here, and I'm hopeful to get a mini version of raised beds in this weekend. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge on gardening, and your food looks deliciously lovely, too!

  11. Yes, it's got to be dropping seeds because it's all over the yard if we'd let it.

  12. Your garden looks yummy! I am also growing fennel for the first time - love to cook with it - we saute it with shallots in a little olive oil which carmelizes it slightly and releases a sweet side to the fennel.

  13. Very nice, Kalyn: your will have a bountiful harvest. I am also considering planting some fennel.

  14. Your garden looks great already! I love the boxes...and yeah for fennel! I love roasted fennel! I can't wait to see your garden grow. It is always the best. We planted nine tomato plants and herbs but that is all we have room for. Sad!

  15. Anna, I'm very curious about it. Right now I'm thinking I'll put the cocoa shell mulch around my plants and bark between the beds.

    Paula, thanks. The beds seemed pretty easy to make. (At least my brother made it look easy.)

    Wendy, sounds delicious.

    Simona, we will have to compare notes on growing fennel!

    Maria, that sounds like quite a bit, sounds fun.

  16. That's a sturdy looking tomato plant... And I am intrigued by the cocoa pod mulch. Every year I say I'll plant some vegetables and then the poppies take over all my pots and I feel I can't pull them out and deny the bumblebees their feast ;-)

  17. It all looks gorgeous, Kalyn! I'm jealous you have so much room. I'm LOVING my peas and favas right now, but they're right where I need to plant my tomatoes, so part of me is like, "this is great, sure, but can you hurry up?" How peas would hurry up, I'm not quite sure ;-).

    As for mulch, we've used mango mulch in the past and really like it. Unfortunately, unlike Cocoa mulch, it doesn't smell like mangoes.

  18. Jeanne, can't wait to try the cocoa mulch.

    Lia, this is the yin and yang of living in Utah! It's cold all winter, but housing prices are cheap enough that you can afford a house with a big yard.

  19. It's really coming on - thanks so much for sharing! You'll be having to open a farm shop in a couple of months!

  20. never give up - you can't lose anything by working the soil. i wish you a good harvest

  21. Hi Kalyn,
    So glad to get the update on your garden! I put down some cocoa shell mulch a few weeks ago and love it. You do need to spread it out in a pretty thin layer though, as it will tend to become moldy inside if the layer is too thick. After a few weeks you don't smell the chocolate anymore, and the mulch gets even darker in color. I've also been planting marigolds in and around the plants. Supposedly they keep a lot of bugs away, though for some reason the ants have taken a liking to my zucchini plant. The zuke is already producing at least one a day, can you believe that? Next year remember - Walls of Water. They work!

  22. Elise, thanks for the tip about the cocoa shell mulch. If the weather cooperates, I plan to work on that this weekend. Very jealous to hear you are already getting zucchini! And yes, walls of water next year for sure!

  23. We've used cocoa mulch and luckily, our dogs never got to it. They prefer to eat all the fallen fruit!
    Your garden is looking so good now Kalyn, everything seems to be coming up well.
    We had problems with tomatoes too and realized that we were just over watering them. No frost here in CA, but they did get a fungus, which we treated immediately. They're looking very good now.
    We put up our Garden Tour video! Come check out our garden! :)

  24. I found your blog looking for recipes for tomatoes and I love it. I have spent the last hour just browsing all the neat stuff. Love the garden! So orginized. My wife and I just planted on Saturday. Im glad we waited it has been a cold spring here in Utah. We planted 67 plants this year for just my wife and I. I dont know what im going to do with them all.

  25. Here's a great fennel recipe.

    Ingredients: Potatoes (5), Fennel (2), Leeks (2), Olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, Salt/Pepper, Sugar.

    Cut up the potatoes and fennel bulbs and blanche them in boiling water. Drain then throw them on a baking sheet. Cut up the leeks and sprinkle them on the potatoes and fennel. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the lot with a pinch of sugar as well as salt/pepper to taste. Bake in oven for 45 minutes to an hour on 375 degrees (F). Delicious!

  26. Tuff-Stuff, thanks for the recipe. I'm posting it for others to see. For myself, I don't eat potatoes or sugar, so I'll have to think about how I can adapt this using other ingredients.

  27. I use cocoa mulch on my flower beds in the front yard because it deters the cats. But as elise said, the smell fades fast, so I also get used grinds from our local cofee shop (starbucks will also give them to you for free) to spread over the mulch. The cats hate it on their paws so they avoid the beds. It may also help to deter snails. And your beds will smell like mocha!! LOL.


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