My Garden Follies - Let's Talk Dirt - Penny Lane Blog at - 302336

Penny Lane

My Garden Follies - Let's talk dirt 
May 8, 2013 2:50 pm 
Updated: May 15, 2013 8:57 am

Gardening in Southern California is different than other parts of the nation.  The gardening year actually starts in September.  Fall is warm and although the days are getting shorter there is a lot that can be done in the Fall, beginning with preparing the soil and digging in compost, which I did not do. 


Spring is the prime time to put in those warm weather vegetables but here Spring really means March, not May or June.   Usually, I wait too long to get the soil amended and before you know it the temperature is soaring into the 90s.   Last year, I only managed to plant a couple of peppers, tomatoes, basil and a zucchini plant, that died.  

Fall came and went and I never got around to digging in the compost or planting any winter produce.  I did get the gardening bug in March and set to work on my tiny side yard garden.   

The soil along this side of the house was as hard as concrete.   I had been working on a compost pile in this area with the plan of tilling it all in and creating something that resembled a garden.   I purchased numerous bags of Amend as well as my meager compost and set to work tilling, sifting out rocks and huge hunks of concrete.   My goal was to have the garden planted by April 1st.   No Baking Papa bought me a tiller as a birthday present and honestly it was the best gift ever.  My little tiller took a real beating during March.  

I plotted and planned.  6 tomato plants, one raised bed with carrots, beets and onions.  Another area with zucchini, Serrano, Jalapeno and Bell peppers.  I planned a section for corn and dreamed I could grow green beans up the stalks.    

Here it is the beginning of May and already I have run into trouble.   While we were gone, the dog buried a bone in half of the carrot patch.  The beets that got off to a great start are struggling.  The zucchini died.  Only a few of the corn seeds I planted have sprouted.  What has sprouted are hundreds of tomatoes and about an equal number mystery squash plants!  All volunteers from my compost.


Let me take you on a tour of my little haphazard garden.    


 The chives are doing well.  These are going on year two.  

See that mystery squash plant?  I think it grew 2 feet in one day!  

It isn't alone either, it has cousins sprouting up all over.    

 Tomatoes and squash I didn't plant and one lone corn plant you can barely see.  

 More tomatoes and a squash plant that have grown out from under the compost bin. 

 This is a San Marzano tomato that I actually planted.  

It hasn't grown much but it is starting to get tomatoes.

But look at the frame below, more volunteers!  


This is what is left of the carrots.  How pathetic.  


The volunteer squash.  

See how it is planning on taking over and strangling my tomatoes?  


This is my pride and joy.  An artichoke plant with a baby artichoke.  

This is year two for this plant.   


The Serrano pepper from last year is already putting out peppers.  

This plant never stopped producing and has kept me in peppers all year.  


 The 5 fruit citrus is in the front yard.  

It is small but is surviving.  


Finally, this is my neighbors Loquat tree.  

It is neglected and loaded with fruit.  

The birds will get most of these.  

May 8, 2013 3:01 pm
It never fails to astonish me the toils that we gardeners go though. I chased my wild garden today-morels. I was skewered by less savory plants. Several of my gardens are doing well. Or should I say as well as can be expected for the year MO has had.
May 8, 2013 3:06 pm
Cat, I am wondering why I even bother sometimes. I should just spread the compost and see what happens. I am envious of your morels. None here. Last year my basil did great and grew to almost 4 foot tall, this year something is eating it. Not happy about that!
May 8, 2013 3:13 pm
Why don't you pay for a plane ticket and come here with the rest and then you can see how I truly feel your pain :) ;)
May 8, 2013 3:16 pm
I intentionally plant zucchini and it dies, who can't grow zucchini? When does a plant turn into a weed? When you don't plant it and it grows! I feel terrible pulling up all these squash and tomato plants but they will choke out what I did plant. Sigh..... I have a lot to learn. Starting with tilling the compost into the soil in the Fall so these seeds can sprout and and be killed by frost or dug under.
May 8, 2013 3:18 pm
I would LOVE to come visit! One of these days! I will bring my favorite weeder / digger too. I will have to check it though, I am sure that TSA would not understand!
May 8, 2013 3:45 pm
May 8, 2013 3:52 pm
A link to my second favorite garden tool. The Cape Cod Weeder!
May 8, 2013 4:00 pm
I have some mint plants coming back this year! I want more from my garden than I'm able to maintain, so might have to settle on container gardening this year. I'm glad your garden is doing well!
May 8, 2013 4:01 pm
I'm so envious that you are able to plant a garden. I'm still waiting for mother to stop tossing snow at us so that I can get my tomato plants out. We are expecting frost this Saturday and I'm hoping that will be the last for the season.
May 8, 2013 4:14 pm
sueb - mint here is a weed. It has to be corralled within a container or it will take over and own the entire yard. Container gardening is great. I have mint, oregano, thyme & rosemary in containers.
May 8, 2013 4:16 pm
Hi; enjoyed the blog. Thank you for sharing. My chives are up again this year and it is at 5 years for them. My anuals are coming nicely. Have tomamotes started but not going in until may 25 weekend. Hope they will ripen this year. Have not in the past.
May 8, 2013 4:16 pm
Elaine - This has been a rough & prolonged winter for many. Last week it was 90's here, this week is in the high 60's to low 70's. Mother Nature can't make up her mind. The only things that are thriving in my garden is the stuff I didn't plant!
May 8, 2013 4:24 pm
Hi Nadine. Chives are so hardy aren't they? I have garlic chives too, great for pot stickers. The snapdragons and Gerbera Daisies are doing well. The best Snapdragons and the ones I did not plant. Just volunteers from the year before. They sprouted in the Fall and are now about 2 feet tall. There is a lesson to be learned here.
May 8, 2013 4:43 pm
Hi B'Nana! (I loved your "date" blog, too. . .memories :)) I hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew this year. Gardening has become a year round occupation since I got my grow light last fall. I want another one, LOL!! I had ONE volunteer this year. . .a little parsley plant! I did plant more parsley and cilantro and purple basil this year in my little herb patch. Going to try some rosemary this year. I just planted my squash this week so it's not even up yet and my new "plot" has been tilled. I am hoping to cheapy fence it this week end and then plant everything else. My peppers and tomatoes were started in two flats and they need to come out from under the grow light and "harden" out of doors before I set them. Gardening is like participating in a little personal miracle, isn't it?
May 8, 2013 4:59 pm
Hi Lady Sparkle! Gardening is a miracle - it would be a true miracle to grow zucchini again. Our pollinators are missing in action! Sound like you have a lot on your garden agenda. I have purple basil too, although it isn't doing much yet. Are you past your 'frost date"? Although this year who knows, huh?
May 8, 2013 5:53 pm
Everyone tells me that mint is supposed to spread, but I have had a hard time keeping it growing in years past! My rosemary bush is about 6' across, and is does nicely! I have not been able to keep thyme or oregano growing, and have to buy new plants every year!
May 8, 2013 5:55 pm
Wonderful blog Baking Nana, I think spring has finally sprung in Nova Scotia. Our chives are up, hoping my rosemary takes root. The rest as Nadine said May 25. Love artichoke and San Marzano are my fave. to make spaghetti sauce with, can you please tell me where you got the seed or plants for these? Of course with my luck they would not be sold in Canada.Thanks.
May 8, 2013 6:06 pm
Hi, yes I agree especially with my tulips. I hope to get a picture tomorrow as one of my red ones has part of in yellow. Never seen that before.
May 8, 2013 6:11 pm
Weeds are thriving in my flower garden. My spring bulbs came up really nicely this year without me doing anything. Waiting to see if the deer got my few tulips or not. It is usually June before they bloom. Now I just need to figure out how to get rid of those weeds
May 8, 2013 6:47 pm
Seattle is my hometown and your volunteer tomatoes reminds me of a bit of Seattle history. I remember them warning us not to eat any of the tomatoes. A bit off the Gas Works Park History page. Tomato seeds are apparently indestructible, even after sewage treatment. When Seattle bought the Gas Works Park property to create Lake Union’s first park, the soil was too polluted to grow grass, so the city coated the site with sewer sludge. The grass grew well and, during the first summer, an added bonus of tomatoes sprouted in the park. Gas Works Park displays rusting remnants of a 1902 gasification plant that converted coal to liquid fuel for streetlights and cooking stoves.
May 8, 2013 6:57 pm
Thanks for the tour of your garden! Since I really don't have one this year, it's fun to see other's!
May 8, 2013 7:21 pm
I am starting out small with just a few herbs in containers. We had snow this month and still not sure about what the next two weeks will be like. My DH has a green thumb and can grow anything. I do not have green thumb. This year, my DH doesn't want a garden. I am hoping he will change his mind in a couple of weeks to at least have a salad garden.
May 8, 2013 7:50 pm
Ok, now we all have "the dirt" on Baking Nana. The only volunteers I get up here in the desert are tumble weeds. Nice blog and great photos. I really like that photo of the Serrano.
May 8, 2013 8:01 pm
Oh sueb - mint has been the bane of many gardeners. I have had a small patch turn into the entire bed AND a part of the lawn!
May 8, 2013 8:03 pm
Thanks for stopping in manella. I wish I could give you a good lead on the San Marzano tomatoes. These were bred and grafted here in the valley - to grow in this area. The one I bought is not doing as well as I hoped.
May 8, 2013 8:07 pm
Nadine - bulbs in this area have to be lifted and refrigerated to 'fake' winter, except Glads but those are subject to gophers though. Hence, bulbs are tough to deal with.
May 8, 2013 8:09 pm
DeniseY - see my Cape Cod weeder above. That and a LOT of mulch! I am glad you are seeing the beginning of spring.
May 8, 2013 8:17 pm
Marie C - Interesting story! A couple of years ago I was stuck in traffic, no the parking lot, of an LA freeway, I was so depressed, we were not even moving.....I looked out my window to the left and there in the center medium of the freeway grew a tomato plant. Right out of the crack in the concrete was a thriving tomato , probably the result of a impatient motorist tossing the remnants of their McD's lunch. That tomato managed to succeed and live on. It was symbolic to me. We all need to have the tenacity of the tomato seed.
May 8, 2013 8:20 pm
Doc - I have read about the garden you are leaving behind - it is far greater than the one I am attempting to grow. Notice I said, attempting! I am not sure how successful this will be.....if not I have access to the farm stand down the street!
May 8, 2013 8:33 pm
bd.weld - You got the dirt on me! Those tumbleweed seeds are more tenacious than tomato seeds! They start off looking so innocent and then turn into monsters! I once got passed by a tumbleweed on the way to deliver the kids to school - it was exceeding the speed limit! They are a reminder that we live in a desert, whether I want to believe it or not. My tomatoes and I am in denial.
May 8, 2013 9:02 pm
Your blog tickled me Baking Nana. Gardening is not for the faint of heart is it? It's time consuming, expensive and it wears you out. Yet every year, we can't wait to do it again. We quit growing corn and carrots because they took waaaaay too much water plus we can buy both for "cheap" at the farm stands. One year my DH said, "The corn only cost us $3.00 an ear and the carrots .50 each." LOL!!! The one thing I cannot grow successfully to save my life (and I've tried and tried) is cilantro. Will I try again this year? Oh....probably.
May 8, 2013 9:06 pm
BTW, one year, Orangezest grew Serrano peppers that were NOT hot. I just loved those things. They had the best flavor of any pepper I've ever eaten. Yours look really nice!
May 8, 2013 9:15 pm
Hi Candice - I should have avoided carrots, beets and corn. But I am now at the 'Do or die" point. Pull all those squash volunteers or let them grow and sacrifice the corn? Survival of the fittest? I love my Serrano pepper plant. I will let you know if this batch is spicy or not.
May 8, 2013 9:16 pm
Oh, Cilantro here is 4 for a dollar. They can grow it, I will buy it.
May 9, 2013 1:45 am
I have to settle for containers of herbs on my terrace. My basil from last year came inside late October and has thrived, so has the mint. My thyme and oregano didn't do well inside and must be replaced. I am trying for the fourth year to grow lavender. My poor pitiful seedlings! But if coddling helps they will get bigger, fingers crossed. Those squash plants may just be zucchini, no?
May 9, 2013 5:54 am
I feel your struggles BN. I just got my little farm planted and I just know in some cases that no matter how they good they look now, some will be doomed to failure. I have cut back on some things but gone overboard with others. And 2 years ago I had a grape tomato pop up in the middle if the jalapenos and it grew to mythical proportions. We had grown grape tomatoes 2 years earlier on our deck.
May 9, 2013 6:00 am
Good morning BSM. These are definitely not zucchini, they are sending out long runners and are probably butternut squash, pumpkin or kabocha. I have never been successful with basil indoors, I am glad yours survived the winter. Lavender grows really well here, a little too well. I had one plant that got huge and I ended up having to take it out. Poor planning on my part.
May 9, 2013 6:15 am
Isn't it amazing how big those grape / cherry tomato plants can get? I have hundreds of seedlings popping up, why did I buy 6 plants? Doug, are you doing a bunch of different peppers?
May 9, 2013 6:59 am
Baking Nana, if you plant them, they will grow! It takes years to get tired, old soil conditioned. Don't give up. Especially when you have serranos like that! Get your soil tested at the extension service and follow their recommendations to amend the soil. The fact that you have so many volunteers tells me that the soil is pretty darned good already! Your zucchini might be a bad variety for the area, or the microclimate it is in might not be suitable. Zucchini would grow on the Moon as far as I can tell, but it can succumb to fungal diseases pretty easily.
May 9, 2013 7:54 am
Hi there, Doc! What is odd about the zucchini is that I have grown zucchini successfully everywhere I have lived until we moved here. Last year I blamed it on location and lack of pollination. This year, well who knows what the heck happened, the dog may have something to do with its demise though. It is still early enough to put in another couple of plants so I will try again. It seems that through the years, just about the time I get the soil in shape, we move. If the condition of the soil is any indication, we should be here for a long time!
May 9, 2013 7:55 am
BN: Looks like you have an excellent start on your homegrown veggies. We don't usually plant anything until Mother's Day for fear of freezing temperatures. Freezing? Are you kidding? Not this year. I'm not sure how factual, but somebody said we were the hottest place in the nation yesterday. Looks like I'd better decide where I'm going to get my tomato plants.
May 9, 2013 8:51 am
Baking Nana, have you used worm castings in your garden? We get them at the Farmers' Market. We live north of San Diego so we can plant early. Our tomato plants are over 6 feet high and are loaded with tomatoes. Everything is thriving. Roses are spectacular. Flowers are huge, last much longer and, even with the recent rains, petals did not fall off. I highly recommend worm castings.
May 9, 2013 9:43 am
Good morning bikerfamily. A couple of weeks ago we had a heatwave, well into the 90's, it kind of scared me. I thought that mother nature may have forgotten 'spring'. It was just a flash in the pan, we are back into the 70's and even got a little rain. Have fun picking out your tomatoes. There is nothing better than a homegrown tomato.
May 9, 2013 9:48 am
Mamabutterfly - I used to be able to get worm castings but haven't seen them in a while. I will have to check again. Chicken manure dug into the beds last year really helped. I use as a planting guide. It is actually based out of San Diego but the climate is very similar so it works well. Thanks for stopping in.
May 9, 2013 1:24 pm
We get them at the Vista Farmers' Market. We will be there Saturday. I will ask the lady if she goes to any other farmers' markets.
May 9, 2013 1:28 pm
Thank you Mamabutterfly. I appreciate it.
May 9, 2013 2:45 pm
I am so envious of that long gardenign season, Baking Nana. I miss that very much, and I can't wait until I can do it again. I love volunteer plants! : ) Looks like you've got a whole army of volunteers there. Our soil is so bad here (too many black walnut trees which just stop everything else in its tracks once it reaches a certain point, so I garden in containers and raised beds. Most of mine are in a greenhouse right now (lots of tomatoes and peppers), but I did plant kale, broccoli raab, rutabagas, sugar snap peas, arugula, and stawberries in my raised beds, and some herbs in containers. I love gardening! I'm in my zen time when my hands are buried in the dirt, and I have those lovely little plants waving back at me. :)
May 9, 2013 3:11 pm
There is something very rewarding about gardening. Even composting is very thought provoking, turning the discards, scraps and dead into soil to bring new life the following year. I love my volunteers too, only not so many of them! It is hard for me to pluck them out of the ground. All the cool season crops are coming to a close here although just north of us are acres and acres of strawberries that are in full swing. This is the time of year that by the end of the day you should smell like dirt! Thanks for stopping in wisweetp, good luck with this years garden.
May 9, 2013 7:30 pm
hey bn! i love that artichoke too, but the chives brings joy as well. this is the first year that i have a garden. i planted too much. it seems we are in very similar climate zones. we plant early march and can grow "fall crops" thru-out the pet peeve, already, is having to kill the seedlings or " thin the herd" as i call it. we have a monster loquat tree by our side door that, due to a mild winter, had berries @2" in diameter. good eating for me, birds, squirrels,coons and possums. i have planted too much and now must find frames ...some type of support system for everything. the plants are going crazy! i love how you named the compost items " volunteers." i gotta start composting myself! love those san marzanao maters, but i love italian recipes... i gotta find them! great blog. get down and dirty gal!
May 10, 2013 6:33 am
Good morning gderr. Thinning is absolutely the hardest thing for me to do. It is so hard to choose which plant stays and which have to go. As for the San Marzano tomatoes, I have had good luck with romas in the past and was told that San Marzanos are hard to grow here. I am not sure why though. Having fresh chives is wonderful. I have garlic chives as well that are great in pot stickers. Good luck in the garden!
May 10, 2013 5:10 pm
I am lying on my backside in Maui so I am blissfully unaware of the progress of my square foot garden. I planted beets, 4 diff tomatoes, radishes ,carrots, zuchs, cukes, walla walla sweet onions, tomatillos (thriving), mesclen, and two other crops???? The biggest producer is the mushrooms that evidently came from the soil. Almost all my herb pots are thriving but for some reason my basil is struggling this year.Last year I planted it from seed and it grew gangbusters, but this year I transplanted a small basil and it just looks pitiful. I want to try the artichokes next year. LOVE them! Best of luck with your victory garden!
May 10, 2013 5:11 pm
We had the best weeder in Oly and I need to find one again. It literally pulled the weed out and Sparky's farming family swore by it. Now I wish I had it.
May 10, 2013 5:44 pm
PS Some years my garden should be called the defeat garden :)
May 11, 2013 4:21 am
Your growing season sounds like Florida's growing season. We're just starting to enter our 90 degree temperatures and rainy season starts in June and plants are starting to decline, quickly I might add. We had a very mild winter this year and I have some tomatoes that have been growing since December. I keep most of my plants in containers that can be moved to more shady and rain protected areas when the heat gets turned up to keep them going longer. I am trying two new spinach this year that are supposed to be heat and humid tolerant and like to grow in sand. Okinawa and New Zealand, just hoping the bugs don't find them too tasty. Anyway great to see other gardens, thanks for sharing yours Baking Nana.
May 11, 2013 8:38 am
Good morning Mauigirl. I too have mushrooms in the raised bed. We are looking at several days in the mid 90s coming up, that should take care of those. We will have to do some research and find that weeder you loved so much.
May 11, 2013 8:43 am
Hi Sherri, We get the heat without much humidity, at least not until August. A couple of years ago I tried a Spinach that I think was called "heat wave" it wasn't all that great. Something is loving my basil. I don't mind sharing a little but it would be nice if the critters would leave it alone long enough to get a foothold. Happy gardening and let us know how that spinach does.
May 11, 2013 1:49 pm
Hi Baking Nana, I checked with the lady at Vista Farmers' Market this morning. She lives in Meniffe. She said to get in touch with her and she would give you directions to her house. Her email address is
May 11, 2013 2:03 pm
Thanks Mamabutterfly. Menifee isn't too terribly far. I will get in touch with her.
May 12, 2013 1:06 pm
I lived in New Jersey for a couple years, and that soil was so fertile that anything I planted flourished (I was still harvesting turnips in winter). Still think Jersey corn is the best, and there really is a reason NJ is called the Garden State. Not the case in Florida. First year I lived here I planted a fairly large garden which turned out to be a huge fiasco. I finally just gave in and let the weeds take over. I was having success growing herbs outside, until the squirrels found them. Our squirrels particularly love cilantro. Watched them totally devour a cilantro plant in a single day (who knows maybe they wanted it for salsa?). I then moved to potted herbs on my screen porch (clay pots everywhere), and this year bought the "stack-a-pot" system which I'd seen at a gardening seminar put on by our county. It has three tiers at 3 plants/tier, each tier sits (stacks) on top of each other, and I'm using it just for herbs. It's compact, rotates easily, and overall, is doing pretty well. The thyme bit the dust, and the chives isn't looking great, but that's because my cat has decided she likes chives better than catnip. And I need to find more recipes for fresh oregano because this particular plant is prolific, now turning into a bush! I'm told perseverance wins out in the end, so best of luck to you. I'll just continue to frequent my local farmers' stands for my fresh produce.
May 12, 2013 9:17 pm
lutzflcat - Aren't we fortunate to have those markets with veggies raised and cared for by those more knowledgeable / lucky or just plain have more fortitude. So far the cat has not discovered the chives, maybe she is the one eating the basil. I would love to see your tier system. Sounds like something that would work here. The temp got into the triple digits today, mid summer in May. It might be a rough summer. It isn't even cooling off tonight. Not happy and neither are the beets and carrots.
May 14, 2013 10:10 am
Don't you just love volunteers? The only thing I am eating from the dirt is chives and asparagus so far. Garden is going in this week....tender plants are awaiting the ground while still in the green house. We have had great weather, finally, to plant, but I fear a late, strange frost with a change of the moon.
May 15, 2013 5:20 am
Good morning RNG. I am envious of your asparagus. I have never been able to grow asparagus, it is just too hot and dry for it. I have a love / hate relationship with the volunteers. There are so many of them. This is totally my fault and a result of poor planning. Lesson learned! I bet you are itching to get that garden planted. Thanks for stopping in.
May 15, 2013 8:40 am
Well I had 16 nice sized jalapenos and a bunch of just about right grape tomatoes disappear in one night...ugh. I suspect a RAT. My husband came in today with one of the man grins and said I no longer have to worry about that rat. I ask no questions. I hope it had a bad case of heartburn with that many jalapenos.
May 15, 2013 8:57 am
Oh Sherri, doesn't that drive you nuts! My friend had a similar problem seems a critter (I suspect a rat) ate her bell peppers, the buds off the brussel sprouts and the rind off the lemons and oranges! Grrrrr..... I am glad your hubby solved the problem. Mind you, that rat probably has cousins. Keep an eye open!
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Baking Nana

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Aug. 2009

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About Me
Every morning my granddaughter calls and says, "Good morning Nana. Whatcha doing? Are you baking Nana?" Hence my name, Baking Nana. I love to bake bread and never get tired of it. Yeast is additive! Visit me at If you would like to contact me directly please use the 'Contact Me' on my site.
My favorite things to cook
I go through phases, Asian for a while then Italian then on to something else. I love experimenting with new flavors and different spices. Some times my husband will ask if we will ever have "ordinary" food again. Once in a while I have to toss him a burger just to keep quite! Actually, he is a good sport and my favorite taste tester.
My favorite family cooking traditions
In our family if it is your birthday you get to choose the menu. We have had some really interesting meals. In March we have 5 birthdays so we do one big party - what a crazy menu that is! Christmas dinner is very traditional. Sausage rolls, Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, gravy, Green beans with bacon, Mashed Potatoes (the really fattening kind) and trifle for dessert. If I were to dare to omit any of those items I would be lynched.
My cooking triumphs
Mastering really great bread is probably my biggest triumph. I am always so pleased when I create a perfect Asian dish.
My cooking tragedies
There have been a few but none so horrible that I can't laugh about them now.
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