R.I.P. Lettuce and Welcome Wildflowers

[image: front&back of a seed card]
[image: front&back of a seed card]

Farewell to the lettuce scraps I planted in a flowerpot a few weeks ago. Although it had sprouted a few leaves, I think I overwatered and drowned it. It was kind of… squishy… as I removed it from the pot today. So sad!

A few years ago my sister-in-law got me a subscription to Birchbox. In one of the boxes was the card pictured above from Bloomin. I didn’t have anything to plant it in at the time. Well, now I do! According to the instructions on their website, I need to soak the card in water overnight and then plant it in shallow soil. Hopefully they’ll still sprout and grow after four-and-a-half years. It’s a bit out of character for me to be planting a thing I can’t eat, but I think I’ll enjoy a bit of prettiness on my desk next to the celery and scallions (which are both doing marvelously). Again, this assumes that the seeds aren’t totally dead after all this time. Fingers crossed!


[image: somewhere in the range of 40–50 red chile peppers]
[image: somewhere in the range of 40–50 red chili peppers]

My SUPER CHILI PEPPER plant has been putting out way more peppers than I can use, so I’ve just been chucking them in the freezer. I currently have 40–50 of them, and I think there are probably 25 more on the bush. I’d say we’re nearing the end of Round 2 harvesting, and wouldn’t you know it, the dang plant has started putting out flowers AGAIN. California’s got to cool off at some point, right?

I’ve been thinking that maybe I’d make some really killer-diller hot pepper jelly with them (to be served with the world’s largest block of cream cheese). I’ve had people suggest vinegar hot sauce as well. SUPER CHILI PEPPERS (it just feels right to spell it in all caps) clock in at 50,000 Scoville units, according to this chart, on the same level as Cayenne or Tabasco peppers.

I’ve been really happy with this plant! I might try to transplant it from its basket to the ground for next year. Apparently both peppers and eggplants are perennials, so I could try and keep the basket around, but I have a feeling the root systems are already fighting for space, given the size of the plants vs. the size of the basket. The SUPER CHILI PEPPER plant is pretty, with lots of little white flowers. Of course the eggplants are pretty too, with their lovely purple flowers. I’m going to have to make a decision soon about what to do with them, I think.

Someday it will turn cold. Someday it will rain.


Indoor Kitchen Scrap Gardening


I may have jumped the gun on this project a little bit. I assumed that since October hit I would be getting less from my garden (and mostly be preparing to rip it out and say a eulogy over the compost). That’s obviously not the case.

A few weeks ago, I read an article on regrowing kitchen scraps. It sounded fun and easy, so I gave it a try. I have a window that gets very good afternoon sun. From their bottom inch, I have regrown four green onions and have just started on a fifth. These I’ve just been doing in a glass filled with damp paper towels.

My little pots contain celery (the leafy one on the right) and butter lettuce (the one that doesn’t appear to be doing much on the left). The celery I started from a cut down head, maybe 2.5 inches long. I planted another head outside to see if that soil would do better. I hear that squirrels like celery, so I don’t expect it to last very long. And maybe eventually someday the weather will turn cold. Possibly.

The butter lettuce is from one of those “living lettuce heads” which, score, already comes with a root ball and some soil. You can’t see in that photo, and you would have to lean in very close to see in person, but there are a couple tiny little leaves forming.

Do I think I’ll be able to make a salad eventually? Nah. Will I grow enough celery just to serve alongside buffalo chicken wings? Seems iffy. But it’s a fun little project, and I definitely will be able to use the green onions. Plus, I like being able to look over from the couch to my desk and see some greenery. It’s pleasant!


[image: a male kabocha squash blossom]
[image: a male kabocha squash blossom, leaning against my sewing machine]

I realized I haven’t talked much about my kabocha squash plants here yet. Back at the beginning of August, Lydia gave me four seedlings. I planted them in the ground, not in baskets like the rest of my vegetable experiment. Here are some photos I tweeted soon after I planted them.

After I got back from Amsterdam, I immediately killed one, thinking that it had severed its stem when it went from vertical to flopping down and growing along the ground. However, I took a cutting from the DeathPlant, in the hope that I could maybe somehow regenerate some roots? (I’m not really sure how plants work.) Anyway, that cutting has been on my desk for three weeks, and it’s grown a blossom! So nice. The outdoor plants have also been generating blossoms, but those generally aren’t quite as photogenic (there are some exceptions, of course—that was the morning I left on my trip).

However, the problem is that squashes are monoecious, meaning they have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. In order to get fruit, you have to get a male flower to pollinate a female flower. And, sadly, I have been lacking in female flowers. It’s been a complete kabocha sausage party up in here.

[image: an unopened female kabocha squash bud]
[image: an unopened female kabocha squash bud]

Until now! I have one, yes ONE, female bud on the vine. I hope dearly that it will grow and eventually blossom. Unfortunately our bee population around here is sort of lacking, so I’ll be pollinating by hand. (Before I had done research into how male and female flowers differed, I definitely made my plants have gay sex.) I keep checking, but this is the only one so far. I was hoping she’d have a gal pal to grow together with.

It was my original hope to have squashes (well, A Squash) by Thanksgiving… now the estimate seems to be New Year’s, once you take into account the fact that the kabocha, like other winter squashes, needs to “cure” for several weeks after it is picked. I’m getting way far ahead of myself here, though. The bud hasn’t even opened yet. There is still a long time where it can be attacked by squirrels or deer or turkeys or whatever other wildlife we have in the neighborhood. Ah, the perils of non-basket gardening!

Garden Update: October 6, 2015

[image: new growth on my cherry tomato plant]
[image: new growth on my cherry tomato plant]

It’s October, shouldn’t my plants be winding down by now? Apparently not in California! To be fair, it’s still supposed to be in the 80s this week, I can understand why my plants are a little confused.

My cherry tomato plant has been putting out ridiculous new growth. There are still a few tomatoes from the original crop that are finally starting to ripen, but the plant itself has decided it’s time for more flowering and more fruit. I’m looking forward to the first round being over so I can cut the damn plant back a bunch. It really grew all over the place.

I’m also getting more flowers and nascent fruit on my bell pepper plant, which I thought had been eaten to death by bugs (it has very sad, chewed up leaves).

The chile pepper plant is well into its second round of fruit. I’ve been getting so many chile peppers I’ve just started chucking them into the freezer. When I get enough (I think they’ll be like 50 per ounce, they are so small) I’ll make hot sauce or some very, very fiery pepper jelly.

I think the Indigo Rose tomato plant is nearing its end, although I’ve seen some new growth on it, too. But no new flowers. YET.

Both eggplants are putting out a lot of flowers, as well as a decent number of fruits. They’re on the small side—maybe because there are so many?

Bugs attacked the basil, but I think I’ve course-corrected there. The thyme is still ridiculous. Is it odd that I like to run my fingers through it? It’s sort of like brushing a doll’s hair. I like to work out the tangles. It’s oddly soothing. And you smell like thyme afterward!

Really, the only major disappointment has been the kabocha squashes. They’ve been growing well, but I haven’t gotten any female flowers yet. Just male. So no squashes. I’ve been calling it a “kabocha sausage party,” which SHOULD be delicious, and yet it’s just depressing. I’m going to keep trying, though.