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Friday, November 19, 2010

Catch-Up! Hummingbirds, butterflies, vegetable gardens

Here are the Monarch caterpillars stuffing themselves on the Mexican Milkweed (Asclepia incarnata). Had to make two trips to the nursery to pick up 3 more gallon cans of milkweed, bringing the amount of milkweed to about 15 plants. The caterpillars would have eaten more, given more. Not only will the Monarchs come, they'll eat you out of house and home. Every lady Monarch for miles around heard about the milkweed and hastened over. I never cease to be amazed when something works exactly as advertised.

The hummingbirds are migrating, recognizing the feeders in the same place they found them last year. The gold finches told their friends about the nyger seed in the backyard, and they ate 2 sockfuls in a week. The Gulf Fritillaries are still hatching from the Passion vines. Urban wildlife is persistent and smart!

We've been eating from our heavily composted vegetable garden for several weeks. The tomatoes ripened very late, due to the cold summer. The most successful varieties were San Diego and a September planting of San Francisco Fog which is still producing tomatoes. The Rainbow chard has been a constant delight (saute' finely chopped garlic, a bulb of fennel also finely chopped, in olive oil until translucent. Add the sliced chard just long enough to wilt it. Salt to taste.)

We grow a lot of things.It was a great year for Italian parsley--still going strong, a foot high, shaded by the tomatillo bush. The chives liked the shade of the tomatoes in the afternoon. The fennel grows abundantly and happily shaded by another tomato. Basil and peppers of course, like the full sun (good luck finding any this year!)

Vegetable gardeners, get the latest issue (Dec/Jan.) of  Organic Gardening magazine, as it has a remarkable organic, layered vegetable garden growing in L.A. We've composted, but this goes farther--it's a no dig garden, layered with 14 layers of various things. The garden "recipe" was developed for the Australian Outback, which is even less hospital to vegetable gardening than our semi-desert. The Layered Garden is on p. 46.

If you go to  you'll find an astonishing source of just about anything you could think of in vegetable seeds--including the hard to find baby purple artichoke, Violetto. Even more impressive is their selection of books-- many hard to find old ones at amazing prices. They carry the original book on layered gardening, the carry the original book on companion planting. (This makes sense, but never tried it- next on my list of plant experiments) 

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