Seed Update: Palo Alto Veggies and Herbs #2

The zucchini and winter squash that I planted a few weeks ago are growing really well! The seeds were planted on July 3rd. Given that the seed packet said days to germination would be 10-14 days, I’m pretty pleased with growth these plants have put on since being planted 17 days ago. The photos for my last update were taken July 10th, so these photos represent just over a week of growth. Isn’t photosynthesis amazing!

There are four zucchini squash coming up now.

July 10
July 19
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San Jose Heritage Rose Garden

Last Saturday, I volunteered at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden. The SJHRG is a 4 acre garden near the San Jose airport created in the 1980s. The land was cleared for airport safety, and a proposal was made to create a garden with the empty space. There are over 4,000 roses planted here. The mission of the SJHRG is to preserve rose species. They collect roses from all over the world and maintain them here. There are four criteria they use when deciding which roses to include in their collection:

  1. Roses that are obviously rare or endangered now.
  2. Roses so great that they must be shown to the public
  3. Roses they feel will be rare in the future.
  4. Roses that are important to the history of rose hybridizing.

It is entirely volunteer maintained — all of the weeding, pruning, and collecting of roses is done by volunteers. Even the people who organize volunteer groups like the one I joined last Saturday are volunteers.

Rose season is nearly over here in the bay area, so most of these roses were past their prime.

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Propagating Jade Plants

I don’t particularly care for cacti and most succulents, but now that I live in California, I have to start embracing them. Jade plant is a nice starter succulent to add to my collection (Note that my “collection” of succulents currently amounts to a single snake plant).

Jade Plant. Aka Crassula ovata. Aka Money Plant.

Image from ourhouseplants.com

They supposedly propagate pretty easily by cutting — either a short bit of stem or simply a leaf.

I went the leaf route. I came across a decently-sized jade plant near the sidewalk by a business, and might have covertly pulled off three leaves.

I read online that one could propogate the leaves by letting them dry for 2-3 days to let the ends callous over and then setting them on top of moist soil, like so:

The leaf should send roots down into the soil and form a new plant. This seems a bit like voodoo to me, but it’s worth a shot.

The Neighborhood Gardens of Palo Alto

In contrast to the lush, terraced gardens of Seattle, Palo Alto is flat and dry. Although citrus trees are a frequent sight, I don’t think I’ve seen a single vegetable garden since I’ve been here. Perhaps vegetable gardens are tucked in backyards out of view from the street, but somehow, I doubt it.

Here are some of the gardens I see on my walks around the neighborhood these days:

Lots of this style of planting: spread out shrubs/cacti with dirt, mulch or rocks in between.
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Planting Seeds for the New Garden

Last Friday, I had the day off of work due to July 4th, and took the opportunity to plant a few seeds. I had brought a handful of seed packets down with me — most of which were two to three years old. Couldn’t hurt to put them in dirt, though, right?

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Welcome to My New Garden

I moved to California exactly one week ago. I’m getting settled. Still not completely settled (but, I’ll only be here for two years, so I don’t know if I’ll ever feel really “settled).

The house where I’m renting has a small backyard with some fruit trees. When I mentioned that I was interested in gardening, my landlord (and roommate), Keith, got inspired, and decided to build some raised boxes in which to plant some herbs and veggies. He also has a couple of small cherry tomato plants in pots.

Here’s a few pictures of the new garden:

The view from the back porch, just off the kitchen. The fruit trees are mostly planted on the left side of the garage.
A small table on the deck with some potted plants
The potted tomato plants – they’ve got a few cherry tomatoes on them, but they don’t look great :/
The garden box with basil, sage, thai basil and oregano (being crowded out by the thai basil)
Fig tree on the side of the garage
The Meyer lemon tree
A pomegranate tree!

Not pictured are an apple tree, a navel orange tree, a lime tree, a blood orange tree, a plum tree, and a small kumquat shrub. The only plant with ripe fruit right now is the Meyer lemon.

I’m planning to add a few more vegetables and herbs of my own to the garden. Although in Seattle, it would probably be a little too late to start some things from seed, being in zone 9b, I expect a long growing season. Oddly enough, I don’t see a lot of vegetable gardens in yards, like there were in Seattle. I wonder if there are challenges to growing vegetables here that I don’t foresee…

Blueberry Brownies

The blueberries at the Community Garden in Seattle ripened just in the nick of time! The Friday before I left, there were finally enough ripe blueberries on the bushes for a decent harvest. (As a side note, apparently blueberry season just ended in the bay area. It would have been really sad if I left just before blueberry season started in Washington and arrived just after blueberry season ended in California.)

I ate several fresh, of course, but I saved a cup for a recipe I wanted to make: Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies.

This recipe comes from Veganomicon, a cookbook I’ve mentioned on this blog in the past. What I didn’t mention was that I’m on a mission to cook every recipe in this cookbook.

Why, you ask? Good question.

I can’t really tell you why I wanted to cook every recipe in the book. It sounded fun, I had tried several of the recipes already and liked them, and…. it’s important to have goals in life. What can I say?

There are over 250 recipes in the book, and I’ve made almost 200 of them since December. I’m enjoying it even more than I thought I would. I haven’t enjoyed every recipe I’ve made (there were a few that just didn’t suit me flavor-wise) but making all of the recipes has gotten me to try things I wouldn’t have otherwise. The asparagus quiche was one of those recipes, and these blueberry brownies are another. Vegan baking is always a bit tricky, and I wouldn’t have wanted to waste fresh blueberries on something with a relatively low pre-bake probability of success. But, it was in the book, so I had to make it.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of fresh blueberries and a 10oz jar of blueberry jelly, in addition to typical brownie ingredients (flour, sugar, oil, baking soda, baking powder, salt, etc). I couldn’t find blueberry jelly, so I used mixed berry jelly.

I am not a food photographer

This recipe turned out surprisingly well! It was a little cake-y right out of the oven, which was disappointing given the name “Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies” (false advertising). I prefer my brownies fudgy. I found that they tasted better and had a slightly dense texture the in the following days after they had been in the refrigerator. The tartness of the blueberries was a surprisingly refreshing addition. I would definitely recommend this recipe and I would make it again. Another win for Veganomicon!

Some updates from Dad’s garden

The raspberry trellises are still standing and the canes are producing plenty of raspberries! The rows still need to be filled out with canes from other parts of the yard, but that job is for a later time.

The hazelnut trees are growing nicely – the two that were bare root (the two on the right below) are doing better than the one that came potted. Dad constructed fences out of tomato cages around two of them to make sure the deer wouldn’t get to them.

The hazelnut seeds however, don’t seem to have done anything.

The hydrangea that was transplanted is growing nicely, and is producing flowers. (The madrone, however, is dead.)

The fig trees are also growing nicely, but unfortunately not producing much fruit.

That’s all for now. I’m still getting settled in California, but I’ll be back with posts about my new “garden” here in the coming weeks.