Thursday, October 1, 2009

It Feels Like Spring!

While most of the country is winding down from summer, putting their gardens to rest and settling into a long winter's nap, here in the desert we are just emerging from our heat induced hibernation. Flowers are blooming, veggies have gone back into production and it's possible to spend more than 5 minutes in the garden without bursting into flames.

First off, we've added a new member to our family. Well actually, I guess she chose us, as I found her in our yard and she hasn't left yet. Ladies and gentlemen I'd like to introduce you to Harold (we thought she was a boy when we named her).

The jungle lives! A mash up of Marigolds, tomatoes and peppers.

I think I'll be making some jalapeno poppers.

Just waitin' for those Gypsy peppers.

Fingers crossed, I lost my spring tomato crop to white
flies and aphids. I'm armed with Neem oil now though.

Sweetspot peppers - never had them before - can't wait to try them.

Glorious morning blooms!

Sweet peppers and a new planting of snow peas for fall. Once the peppers are done I will extend the added box height. The original frame was six inches. This was indeed workable but this location gets so much afternoon sun that I think more soil would mean cooler roots and more vigorous growth.

My new square foot box already planted for fall with various greens, carrots, beets, kohlrabi and what not.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An ode to weiners

The Mr and I have been so busy making mosaics to for an upcoming show that there hasn't been any time for updates on the garden or perty cooking pics. I need to catch up on what everyone else has been up to as well, but until I get a few extra free minutes ........

I just wanted to share a piece we made to give to a dear friend for her birthday. She and her husband have two sweet Dachshund pooches - Gerdie and Sparkplug. They have just relandscaped their backyard with a combo of stone, brick and astroturf (we do live in the desert after all) and she's having a party to celebrate. This is our loving ode to her and her weiner dogs. I thought Annie's Granny might get a kick out of it too.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A cool dish for a potluck or a picnic

It's another scorcher here in the............ so the Mr and I jumped at the opportunity to attend a potluck BBQ in Bisbee - one of southern Arizona's cooler towns. Of course there's always lots of meet at these affairs but as I am a vegetarian I usually find it beneficial to make sure I bring my own meat free option.

Now before I hear a lot of meaty eye rolling let me just say I don't have any problems with meat (although I do wish it had a few less hormones), I grew up on a farm where we raised our own food, I have never tried to get anyone else to stop eating meat and I quite frequently cook meat for the Mr........ it's just a personal thing.

I do have to say that cooking without meat has really changed my perspective of vegetables. So much of the produce in the stores is tasteless, bitter, bland or whatever so when you have limited the options of ingredients you better go for quality because those veggies are going to be the star of meal usually. It also has driven me to become quite creative in my cooking style and really strive for variations on the usual that not only surprise people but also sate them. I like to make sure that if I am serving a meal sans meat that no one walks away from the table feeling like they missed out on something so those veggies (and whatever else) better sing!

So here's an easy dish to take to a potluck or on a picnic. It's also great as a cold lunch or as a cocktail hour appetizer with tortilla chips and a "Pink Putty Tat Tini". I'll share that recipe at another time. ;)

Homegrown lemon, orange bell pepper, jalapeno and tomatoes get rounded out with scallions, mango, avocado and parsley. I toss the avocado with lime, olive oil, salt and garlic powder to give them a bit of a kick and preserve their green color.

Toss the ingredients in beautiful serving platter given to me by my good friend and gifted potter Stef. You can see her wonderful wares at

Add in a can of black beans and corn and mmmmmmmmmmm! Well you'll just have to try it for yourself..... especially with your favorite tortilla chips!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

.... Like a Phoenix rising in Tucson

I am diligently trying to nurse my garden through this, the most difficult part of the summer. Except for my continuing battle with white flies and aphids, things are going along decently well. There has been one fatality however.... the bush beans. They gave more than I expected, lasted longer than I would have thought and fought a valiant battle to keep going but in the end it was time for them to go.

With (hopefully) enough time to get another crop in for the fall I gave my bean seeds a good soaking in water and set them out to prosper. To my surprise, the very next day, like a phoenix rising in Tucson........... ta da!

And as I may have mentioned before it's hot - damn hot! At this time of year the stove becomes our most avoided appliance and most of our meals become of the "no cook" variety. I thought I'd share some of those in case any of you are in a similar situation and need a little inspiration.

Here is our spring roll feast made with all sorts of fresh veggies, mango, feta, avocado, chicken, tofu and sweet chili sauce. Just soak your rice papers (found in most asian markets and some grocery stores) in hot water, pick your favorite fillings roll, dip and enjoy!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Home & Hot!!!!!!!

It's supposed to reach 112 degrees this weekend, which is especially jarring because we have just returned from a lovely vacation in cool and beautiful Utah.

Whenever I leave my garden for more than a couple of days I always end up taking mental bets as to whether it will still be alive when I return. There are so many variables that can wreak havoc upon my green leafy children such as hanging out with undesirables i.e. tomato hornworms, aphids and the like or suffering from dehydration if those pesky pigeons break into the water cabinet (drip irrigation timer) and manage to dislodge the batteries.

After 10 days of neglect I found my garden still alive and producing but in need of some love and attention. The blossom end rot that had reared its ugly bottom seemed to have subsided but the largest population of whiteflies and aphids that I have ever seen took up residence in its place. I sprang into action like a mother hen defending her chicks, armed with insecticidal soap and diatomaceous earth in spray form. I will post later as to their effectiveness.

I will also post some updated pics of the garden once I have done some tidying and nursing, until then I thought I would share one of my garden harvest dinners and our latest mosaic.

Homegrown basil waiting to be transformed into a luscious pesto sauce.
I substituted almonds as I was out of pine nuts.

The evolution of a few simple ingredients into what I like to refer to as green gold. I do love pesto sauce!
Tossed here with penne, peas, broccoli and some homegrown red jewels (my tomatoes).

Our latest mosaic - I think it reflects my underlying desire for a pool!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The First Casualties of the Season

A few downpours last week led to some of my peppers and tomatoes developing the dreaded blossom end rot. The showers were unexpected so I didn't have a chance to adjust my drip irrigation.

Monday, June 22, 2009

As the Garden Grows

Things are progressing nicely even as temps are 100+ degrees here in Tucson.

This is my first year growing peppers from seed. I have not had great luck in the past growing ordinary sweet bell peppers so I'm trying some new varieties. From L to R in the front row - Mini Bells, Yummy, Sweet Spot, Flexum and Carmen.

My first pepper grown from seed! It's a Carmen!

Usually this time of year is supposed to be too hot for lady bugs but I have seen little lady bug babies crawling over the plants gobbling up aphids. Perhaps they have stuck around because they like the Zinnias and Cosmos.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beans glorious beans!

My 4th harvest of green beans this year.
I'm going to saute them with some olive oil, red pepper flakes and maybe some mushrooms. mmmmmmmmmmmm

Patience is a (frustrating) virtue!

Waiting for the Gypsy peppers to turn red......

My Juliet tomatoes are beginning to blush.
They have been the most prolific of all my tomato plants.

Super Sweet 100 tomatoes, this plant is growing like a weed!

I am getting good fruit set on the Hawaiian Tropic tomato plants.

Black Cherry tomatoes have been my latest and least productive plants.

A cluster of Heartland tomatoes - they are also setting plenty of fruit.

Stupice has been true to it's reputation for having the earliest fruit. Can't wait to taste my first homegrown mater of the season!

Braving the New World

Tomato sprouts getting set out in April. A rather late planting date for the desert but I am growing varieties that are supposed to be able to set fruit throughout the summer, even in our scorching heat.

Pepper, cantaloupe, watermelon and basil going into my square foot garden bed. Will 6 inches of compost, vermiculite and peat moss be enough to grow vibrant veggie plants? We'll see..........

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bringing up Babies!

Mater babies to be exact. They started sprouting at the beginning of March.

I Love the Smell of Decomposing Vegetables in the Morning

I drink a fair bit of fresh vegetable juice and I hate to waste the left over pulp. So what's a gal to do? Compost it of course! A large outdoor composter isn't an option for me for a variety of reasons but I am still able to produce beautiful, sweet smelling black gold with my Naturemill electric indoor compost maker.

Here's the breakdown:

The juice - it does a body good.

The pulp - can you feel the potential?

The machine - this is where the magic happens.

The end result - it does a garden good.