A Visit To Carmel Valley and Earthbound Farms

Last weekend, Nate visited and we took a trip down to Carmel and Monterey. We stopped in Carmel Valley to see Earthbound Organics Farmstand.

The Farmstand itself was overpriced and underwhelming, but there is a small garden onsite that I got to peak around.

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Pruning Potted Raspberries

Nate is doing some spring gardening on his balcony in Seattle. The potted raspberry plant that he got last summer is showing signs of life.

Raspberries, as I’ve learned, have a two year lifecycle. The first year, the canes are called primo canes and the second year they are called floricanes. The floricanes are the ones that will produced fruit. After they produce fruit one year they are as good as dead, so you can prune those canes out.

Nate had a couple (and I mean two) raspberries from his little potted plant last year, but it has sent up two very long new shoots that should produce berries this year.

I know you’re supposed to prune out old raspberry canes each year to keep the plant from getting too crowded and thick.

But I’ve also seen some people clip the tips of the new canes back to encourage the canes to branch out and form side shoots that will grow even more raspberries.

We’ve decided to run an experiment…clip one cane and leave one unclipped: which one will produce more raspberries? (I realize this experiment has an N of 2, and is therefore more of a case study.)

First he started by cleaning out the old canes. It’s not a hard task. There were only three.

He trellissed the remaining three long canes against the balcony railing.

Of the two longest canes, he clipped 6 or 8 inches off the tip of one.

The other cane was left unclipped. I’ll have to remember to update you with the results of this experiment come July.

A Tour of Nate’s Garden

Nate’s garden – a collection of potted plants on his apartment balcony in Seattle – is showing signs of spring!

The columbines are coming back:

We think some of these are perennial columbines that came back, and some are seedlings that self-sowed last fall. (We also saved some columbine seeds last year.)

As is the strawberry:

The compost is alive and well. The worms weren’t bothered by winter at all.

The raspberry bush also made it through winter and has little leaves emerging:

More on the raspberry later….

Foliage Friday: Buckeye Tree

There is a buckeye tree right outside my window. When I moved to Palo Alto last July, this plant made it look like it was late fall. Its leaves were shriveled up.

I was told that this is a California buckeye tree, and that this is normal. Its lifecycle is shifted relative to other trees. It blooms in late winter / early spring and the senesces in mid-summer. Although this lifecycle seems odd, it actually makes sense for a tree specifically adapted to California’s climate. It leafs out in the winter when rain is (slightly) more plentiful and then goes dormant when nary a drop of water falls from the sky. Supposedly, the blooms come in early summer, and it goes dormant almost immediately afterwards, but I have yet to see any blooms myself.

The buckeye fruit (or nuts?), as well as the leaves and bark, are poisonous. Interestingly, the pollen is also toxic to pollinators. I read this on USDA’s forestry database: “Honeybees are the chief pollinators of California buckeye, but the pollen and nectar are toxic to them [5,9,14]. Losses of adult honeybees and their larvae due to poisoning can be severe [9]. Human beings have been poisoned by eating honey made from California buckeye [18].” Crazy, right?! What kind of a plant would kill its own pollinators?

After doing a little more research, it sounds like the buckeye is poisonous to honeybees, which are not native the US, but the buckeye might not be poisonous to native bees and other pollinators. Native bees must have evolved alongside the California buckeye to be resistant to its toxin, I suppose…who knows?

The blooms look like this:

Image from: Pacific Horticulture

I’ve been keeping my eye on the tree, watching it leaf out, and waiting for the blooms. The leaves have kind of a quirky look to them.

Here it was in early January….


….late January….

Small leaf buds

…still late January….

Leaves are looking like small pineapples


Chartreuse umbrellas


Deeper green leaves

…and that’s where we’re at. Still waiting to see those blooms… and I’ll be sure to warn the (non-native) bees not to go near them!

Squirrels v. Sweet Peas

I think the rat problem is actually a squirrel problem… I noticed a squirrel jump into one of the garden boxes and other day. I went over to look, and it jumped right out before I could get to the boxes, but it looked like there were freshly dug holes. So, I have to apologize to the Palo Alto rats for my false accusations.

But about these squirrels….

Here’s what the squirrels did to my sweet peas:


I quickly repotted them and packed the soil back in, and I’m hoping they weren’t too badly damaged!

I also used some of the wire mesh that I had laid on the in-ground peas to form a cage around the pot.

Ha! Take that squirrels!

I also did the same with the in-ground peas:

They should be safe and sound now.

One Year Anniversary

I posted my first post on March 17, 2020. It’s exactly one year later. Some things have changed, some things stay the same.

One year ago, my garden looked like this:

I was living in Seattle, finishing residency, and about to move to California.

Today my garden looks more like this:

I’m living in Palo Alto, finishing up a fellowship, and heading back to Portland for a job sooner than I had expected.

Next year my garden will be in yet another city and will look quite different.

The Sweet Peas Seem Okay…

The sweet peas are now outside on the back porch 100% of the time.

You might not be able to tell from these photos, but there are small buds forming low down on the stalks, suggesting that they are happy in their new home and are branching out after being pinched back!

On a related note, the peas (snow and sugar snap) are coming up under the wire mesh that I laid down. It’s working to keep the squirrels out.

I suppose I can just leave the wire mesh down and let the peas grow up through it?