Thursday, November 11, 2010


A few days after the squash plant began blooming, I went out to my garden and discovered a second bright yellow flower growing on the second squash plant.

This is obviously very exciting, but it's also very odd. For one, I didn't realize that squash plants grow flowers. I expected that one day the plant would simply start popping out squash babies. I guess that goes to show my ignorance when it comes to gardening. Second, I've been desperately trying to get the flower seeds I've planted to get past the seedling stage, but so far they've been pretty insistent on dying (the wacky weather is partly to blame for this). So the unexpected flowers from the squash plants is simultaneously a small victory but with a tinge of embarrassment.

As for the first flower, after a few days from blossoming it has started to shrivel up. At first I wasn't sure what that meant, but one helpful reader alerted me to the fact that the flower indicates the actual squash is on its way. First the flower blossoms (or is it blooms?? is there a difference?) then it shrivels up, falls off the plant, and finally it is followed by squash.

As you can see from the picture above, next to the shriveling flower there are a few other buds that are very close to blossoming. The more flowers, the better the crop yield. At this point however, I will consider even a single edible squash a great victory.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


This morning I walked out to my patio and found that my squash plant is in bloom! For the past week or so I had noticed a rather large bud that I assumed was a baby squash in the early stages. That was clearly not the case as it was a flower all along:

The flower is cool, but now I am really puzzled as to where the squash will form (or if they will at all). There are various other buds along the stems, which I think will all eventually turn into flowers but what I really want is squash. I'm hoping that the flowers are indicators that the squash is coming.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rain and Cool Weather

Only a few weeks after suffering through the hottest day in the history of Los Angeles it is finally starting to feel like fall. Except for a couple of hot days, for the most part the temperatures have held steady in 60's and 70's; we have even had a few days of rain. My plants are really enjoying this change in weather. In particular the swiss chard thrives in this climate and has yet again started to recover from the brink of death. Although the extreme heat destroyed almost the entire crop, the few remaining leaves have started to heal. Shortly after the heat wave, I planted a few more swiss chard seeds to make up for what was destroyed. This time, the seedlings sprouted much quicker and also seem much sturdier.

The wooden box of flowers also had many casualties during the extreme heat, but I also planted additional seeds and they have quickly been sprouting and growing in the past couple weeks.

The snow peas were not as lucky. Prior to the heat wave the snow peas were already struggling, but after the thermometer hit 113 I knew it was time to put them out of their misery. It pained me to rip them out of the soil but it was time to start fresh. I was going to plant additional snow pea seeds but I couldn't find the packet of seeds...I have a feeling a sneaky shiba inu is to blame for its disappearance. That pot will remain empty until I make another trip to the nursery to purchase additional seeds.

Although the squash plants were also affected by the hot weather. I was able to trim off the damaged and diseased leaves to make the plants look much better. The older of the two squash plants is now reaching the stage where I believe they will start producing actual squash. I'm not completely sure what the actual squash embryos (probably not the right term, but just got with it) look like, but there are a couple of buds that haven't sprouted into leaves as they normally have been doing, which lead me to believe they might be actual squash.

Among the herbs, the Thyme seemed to be the most affected by the heat. A sizable portion of the stems were heavily damaged, however, after a few weeks of cooler temperatures it has bounced back quite nicely. I expect that the plant is close to blooming, which would signal that it's time to harvest the thyme for use.

The Italian basil was less affected by the heat and has continued to grow nicely. I'm actually not sure when the plant is ready for harvesting but I imagine it's soon. If anyone reading this can tell me please email me and let me know if you think the leaves are ready for harvest. The larger leaves are currently about 1-2 inches.

In my last post I introduced a new plant into the mix. At Ryan's request I planted some yellow banana peppers to replace the failed spinach. Unlike the other plants, peppers LOVE hot weather, so during the heat wave the seedlings really thrived and grew quickly. Once the temperatures cooled a bit so did their rate of growth. Nevertheless the seedlings look very healthy and as long as we don't have an unusually cold fall/winter they should do fine.

I'm adding yet another plant to my garden. This time it will be red onions. The seedlings sprouted after only a week of being sowed and seem to be doing fine. My only concern is that I've been noticing a lot of fungus growing in that planter. Not really sure what is causing this but so far it does not appear to be affecting the seedlings so I'll just continue to remove the unwanted fungi as they pop up.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Heat Wave

Yesterday the temperature in West Hollywood hit 111 degrees and I did not take precautions to protect my plants form the scorching heat. The brutal weather finished off what was left of my snow peas.

The squash, thyme and the flower box were also hit hard. Some of the leaves on the squash plants look dry and wilted.

The thyme didn't fare so well either. It's difficult to see in this picture but some of the leaves were burned and up close they look as though I put a lighter right up to the leaves and singed them.

As for the seedlings in the flower box half them have gone completely limp and appear to be dead. Some of the swiss chard leaves were also affected, but as before, I think they will recover.

Today's weather forecast predicts a slight "cooling" off with temperatures in the mere 90s. Before leaving the house though I made sure to bring a few of the plants into my living room. I don't think they can take another day in the sweltering heat. I did leave the larger squash plant and the peppers outdoors.

It's really amazing (and not in a good way) that the growth and progress that took a few months to accomplish was nearly wiped out in just one day. As of this post the temperature is 94 degrees. By this time yesterday it was already well over 100 so hopefully it's a sign that the temperatures will in fact continue to drop the rest of the week.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Long overdue update

It's been a while since my last post so in order to cover the progress of each of my plants I'll get right to it.

Both the thyme and basil plants have gone through another growth spurt and appear to be maturing. As you can see in the picture below, the thyme is really filling out and becoming quite bushy.

Similarly, the basil plant is definitely past the seedling stage as the leaves and stems are starting to thicken. Generally, this plants looks very sturdy and healthy, so I am expecting a good amount of basil leaves once the plant reaches maturity.

Another plant that is making healthy progress is the Swiss chard. There was a point in time where my hopes for this plant were starting to diminish. However, in the past few weeks what appeared to be wilted seedlings are now growing into full healthy leaves. It's difficult to see from the picture but some of the leaves are starting to develop crinkles, which is typical of mature swiss chard plants. Also, the different colors (a characteristic of this variety of chard) are really starting to show through.

A few weeks ago, my squash plant reached a size where I considered staking the plant for support as it continued to grow. Staking, for those of you who may not be familiar with the term, is basically using a stick (or something similar) and staking it into the plant then securing the plant to the stick for use as support. This is usually done for large plants that grow tall and would otherwise fall to the ground. After some research and getting advice from some gardening forums, I decided against this. Instead, it was suggested that for squash I simply let the plant grow over the container and "run the ground" as some call it. I'm not quite at that stage, but as you can see from the pictures below, the plants are ready to spill over the edge of the container.

As for the additional squash plant I started only a few weeks ago, that one has been progressing quite rapidly. Filling to container with soil all the way to the top and not burying the seeds too deep really made a big difference. The second squash plant is already at a stage of development that took my initial plant much longer to reach.

She-ra definitely approves.

Moving on to the snow peas, this is another plant which I had completely ridden off. I am still not 100% sure the plant will yield any crops, but I am still not ready to give up on it completely. After a couple of brutally hot weeks the plant was withering quickly. I jumped into action and decided to give the dead leaves a trim. I ended up getting rid of quite a few of the individual plants and lots of leaves. This ended up helping a couple of the plants. If you notice, on some of the plants, the part closest to the soil is trimmed pretty bare, however, the tips continue to grow and thrive. I think that if I continue to thin out the plants and get rid of dead leaves that a few of them might just make it after all.

Finally, a quick update on the wooden box with flowers. These seedlings seem to be making good progress. Both the flower mix and oregano have sprouted many seedlings. The powderpuff asters however remain absent.

In case any of you are wondering what happened to the spinach, despite planting additional seeds I was thoroughly disappointed with the results so I completely got rid of it (at least for now). In its place I decided to plant some sweet banana peppers.

For these seeds I had to purchase additional potting soil. This particular mix of potting soil is very different from the previous two in its composition. It is not as refined and instead appears to have many pieces of bark and chunks of other stuff that I can not identify. Hopefully it works as well as the previous two types of soil i've used.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Good News/Bad News

First the bad news. After getting of to a great , spinach seedlings have all withered and died. The unusually cool summer had helped them grow at first but the increased heat of the past couple weeks was too much for the fragile seedlings.

The above picture is from two weeks ago. It's a little difficult to tell but the seedlings are already showing signs of trouble. With each passing day they seemed to become more and more shriveled. One week after the above picture was taken almost all of the seedlings were gone as seen in the picture below:

A couple days after the above picture was taken the pot was completely empty. All the seedlings disappeared, it was almost as if they had evaporated.

Although the snow peas are not completely gone, these too have been greatly affected by the heat. A few weeks ago the seedlings were growing very rapidly and appeared green, sturdy and quite healthy. That has all changed. They are now slowly withering and many of the leaves are shriveling up and dying. I tried cutting the sickly looking leaves but that didn't seem to help much. In the picture below the seedlings look much healthier than they look up close in person.

After speaking to various people as well as some online research, it appears there is a very simple explanation for the failure of these seedlings: the weather. The lesson learned here is DO NOT GROW SPINACH OR SNOW PEAS IN THE SUMMER. Actually, do not grow any leafy vegetable in the summer is what I took away from my research.

On to the good news. The wooden box where i planted the sweet william flowers, oregano and the powderpuff asters (again) has come alive with activity the last couple days. To be honest, I do not recall which side of the box i planted what in, but judging by what has sprouted, I can take a good guess. On the left side of the box is where the seedlings sprouted first. I believe these must be the sweet william flowers. The middle has a good amount of seedlings as well; these are the oregano seeds. The right side of the box...well...nothing is really happening, which leads me to believe is where i sowed those pesky powderpuffs.

For some reason, whenever I try photographing any of the pots where the seedlings are in the early stages of sprouting the picture ends up blurry and out of focus. I've tried changing the camera settings but nothing seems to help. So if you can't really make out what you're seeing in the pictures above, you'll just have to take my word that there are quite a number of seedlings growing in the wooden box. I do not want to get too excited as the seedlings are still quite young, but it's looking as if I may be able to grow some flowers after all.

I have not had time to post much the last couple weeks and there is a lot to report on. For now though, this mini-post will have to do and hopefully by the weekend I'll have a longer post with additional updates and pictures.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Unless you're living under a rock, I'm sure that by now you've heard about the massive egg recall taking place across more than a dozen states throughout the country. But just in case you are in fact living under a rock ; ) here is a link to the story:

This story gives me a chance to slightly deviate from my usual content to discuss one of the reasons for starting my garden in the first place. As some of you might recall in my early posts, I mentioned the fact that most of us are so disconnected from our food sources that we have no idea where our food comes from. We simply walk to the grocery store, buy our food and rarely think twice about what we're eating, where it came from and whether it's even safe to eat. We just assume that if it's in the store, then it's edible. I'm not suggesting next time you're checking out at the supermarket to eye the contents of your cart suspiciously. Instead, I'm merely pointing out the fact that despite the many benefits of our modern food production system there also exist many potentially dangerous consequences that we rarely stop to consider. Upon reading this story a few troubling things really jumped out at me.

The first is that people started getting sick as early as June, yet the recall of the eggs did not commence until August 13th. That means, that for at least two months, potentially harmful eggs contaminated with salmonella sat in grocery stores and sold to millions of people across the country. Chances are you may have consumed some of these tainted eggs on more than one occasion.

Second, the affected eggs were not limited to just one or two brands of eggs but at least THIRTEEN different brands. Why is this disturbing? Because among them, are brands that claim to be "organic" and "free range" eggs. That means those who pay a little more money for eggs that are are supposedly coming from safer and cleaner conditions are no better off than those who pay for generic brand eggs. In reality, you really don't know where exactly your eggs are coming from and what conditions they are exposed to before they reach your plate and ultimately your stomach.

Finally, the recall began last week with a few million eggs, but as of now that figure has grown to over 380 million eggs. That is a huge number and there is a likelihood that it could continue to grow. So even if the eggs currently sitting in your fridge aren't on the recall list (which by the way can be found here: ), there is a possibility that tomorrow they will be. So what is a consumer to do?

The fact of the matter is that we are a very large country (world in fact) and the sheer number of people needed to be fed requires food production on a scale so massive that situations such as this are sometimes unavoidable. When you are concentrating the processing of hundreds of millions of eggs to just a few facilities it's impossible to keep things running smoothly and safely 100% of the time. When a part of the massive food production system gets infected (in this case, the egg processing plants), chances are that contamination will spread to a large portion of the food coming from this location. The scary part is that it may takes days, weeks or even months before the damage is assessed and the public is warned. In the meantime we continue consuming the tainted product.

Trust me, I am not about to start raising chickens on my balcony to ensure the eggs I eat are safe. Again, I merely want to point to the fact that perhaps localized food production is not such a bad idea and that eventually, it might be nice if people living in cities had the knowledge and ability to grow even a portion of their food. This is what my garden is about. Hopefully I am able to show myself and others that it is possible to grow some of your food if you ever wanted or needed to.

Now go straight to you fridge and make sure your eggs are safe to eat : )

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not giving up on flowers...

This past Sunday I made a trip to home depot to put my gift card to use. I purchased a great little wooden basket that I will use to plant a mix of flowers and herbs. I tried finding a garden table for the basket, but nothing captured my attention. I considered buying material to build my own table, but on second thought I decided to stick with learning to garden before moving on to carpentry. In addition to the basket, I also purchased more seeds. I told myself I wouldn't let the failure of my powderpuffs deter me from growing flowers so I decided on the Heirloom Sweet William seeds, which appear to be a mixture of various flowers. Other than the artistic rendering of what the flowers will allegedly look like once grown, I don't really know much about this variety of flowers. One thing, however, immediately sold me on these seeds: the words 'GUARANTEED TO GROW' right there on the label. I'm sure that what they really mean is, "guaranteed to grow....if you know what you're doing" but I'll take my chances.

In addition to the flowers, I also picked up a packet of oregano seeds to use in the wooden basket. I figured I've had good luck with herbs so far, and if I can't get the flowers to grow I can at least have some oregano plants and their cool looking purple flowers in my wooden basket.

When I returned home, I immediately went to work on planting my new seeds. I used the wooden basket to plant the sweet william flower mix, the oregano AND I am giving the powderpuff asters another shot. Perhaps the smaller container will help the seeds germinate this time around. I should also note that before filling the basket with potting mix, I lined it with plastic bags to prevent the wood from rotting (a tip from my friendly neighbor).

In addition to my new basket, I planted 3 squash seeds in the container I originally used for the powderpuffs. First though, I mixed in some fresh soil and this time I added enough potting mix to bring it to about half inch from the top. (This is a tip I received from a member at the Blossom Swap forum). The thinking behind this is that when the seeds are closer to the surface they receive more direct sunlight and water which should facilitate germination. I used this same technique in the wooden basket. Below is a picture of basket, the newly planted squash seeds, spinach and the basil and thyme.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Flowers.... or lack thereof

It's been over three weeks now and the powderpuff seeds still have not sprouted. I am ready to accept defeat. The question now is, do I try again? I think my garden definitely needs at least one flower pot in the mix so yes, I will try again. This weekend calls for a trip to the nursery for some additional supplies and hopefully some free advice from the friendly employees.

This past week was my birthday and some very thoughtful friends gifted me three great gardening books and a gift card to home depot. I intend to use the gift card for some added supplies and the books for some much needed research.

In addition to the books, I have found a great online forum ( where a wide variety of people with gardens connect to share advice and tips. My favorite part of the forum is that people are extremely friendly and eager help answer questions and to provide advice. Already between the books and the online forum I've learned some valuable information that would have been very helpful at the start of this project. I say better late than never when it comes to acquiring new knowledge. I will certainly be better prepared for the next round of seeding.