Garden, chickens, bees

It’s a very foggy August here in the East Bay, and I think the red mulch is really helping the garden to flourish. I have a tomato jungle with many green and some ripe tomatoes, corn almost ready to eat, baby eggplants and artichokes, squash (always a plethora of those) and cucumbers.

Plus, the chickens should be just about ready to lay. I was given an Americana rooster, named Malawi, by a family who couldn’t keep him, and so far the neighbors are okay with him. I added herbs and fake eggs (chickens like to lay their eggs next to existing ones) to the nesting box, and hung a continuous feed feeder up so that they can eat to their hearts’ content, all in preparation for eggs.

The chickens were a little spooked by the new feeder at first, but soon got used to it.


On a sad note, though, the bees have failed to thrive. I’ve been noticing their numbers diminishing, and yesterday looked in the hive. There were only a few dozen bees, and not much comb. The bee guru says this just happens sometimes. It’s disheartening. After the last bees live out their hospice days in the hive, I will clean it out and prepare it for a new swarm in the spring. And I’ll move it to a spot where they get more sun.  Then perhaps they will do better.  For now, just waiting for the wonderful sound a hen makes when she announces that she’s laid an egg! laid an egg! laid an egg!


Potato towers and red mulch

This morning I went out to look at the garden, and a little junco was nibbling under the cucumber—hopefully eating weeds! Can you see it between the plants?

Yesterday was devoted to putting down red mulch and building potato towers. I first read about potato towers in Sunset Magazine (waiting for the dentist!), then saw them on the Bennington Garden Blog. Now they seem to be all the rage. The idea is to put in a bunch of potato pieces and keep adding layers of straw, soil, and compost as the potatoes grow. They grow up instead of sideways, giving a tower of harvestable potatoes.

Everyone likes to try something new, including me. They seem like an appealing, space-saving idea. I like the thought of just reaching in for new potatoes as the rest keep growing. I went to Urban Ore my favorite shopping spot for the garden, and picked up an old wicker hamper for one. I made another one out of a remnant of chicken wire and a bamboo shade.  It took most of the morning, and I remembered the best home improvement advice I ever read. “Never think anything is going to take 15 minutes; it takes 15 minutes to find the screwdriver.” Or in my case, to assemble wire cutters, pliers, scissors and glasses.

The red mulch (according to its label) is “a recent innovation to maximize the effect of reflected light on plant growth…red has been found to enhance the growth and yield of several vegetable crops, including tomatoes.”  I decided to give it a try, especially as the foggy east bay is not the best tomato-growing environment in the world.







First I weeded, then top dressed the plants with compost, then put on the mulch. I had to cut and paste a bit to fit my odd rows, but it went pretty well. We’ll see. I think I’ll put it on the eggplants and cucumbers, too.

And the first baby cucumbers are as cute as any newborn.  Meanwhile, I’ve been eating and giving away lettuce every day, and enjoying the bumper crop of peas.