Hakuna Matata!

Figeater Beetle Larvae
slimy, yet satisfying.

What a wonderful phrase
               Hakuna Matata!
                         Ain't no passing craze
                                   It means no worries
                                             For the rest of your days
                                                       It's our problem-free philosophy
                                                                 Hakuna Matata!

Hakuna Matata: when you pull up a dozen Figeater Beetle larvae for every third shovel of compost.

Figeater Beetle Larvae

Hakuna Matata: when the elder weather council predicted steady rain today, and so you push off watering for a week... just to watch the chance of precipitation fall from 93 to 0% over the course of a single morning.

Overcast, but no rain.
Rain canceled due to lack of weather.

Hakuna Matata: when your first batch of homemade compost, the one so full of pine needles and leaf stems it took a year to breakdown, is finally distributed... and delivers a hidden army of cutworms and pill bugs that decimate your squash seedlings.
Cutworm Damage to a Squash Seedling
Headless Squashman

Hakuna Matata: when the gorgeous tree sprout you found in the cucumber bed, the one you want to grow as a houseplant,  turns out to be (probably) a black walnut. Which means there's a mother tree nearby, somewhere...

Black Walnut Seedling (not confirmed)
The evil queen in disguise

Hakuna Matata: when you're drooling to eat the snap peas, but since your cool season is short and unpredictable (could end in march, could end tomorrow) you've dedicated all plants to increasing seed stock so that next year, next year, you can sow and consume with absolute abandon.

Cascadia Pea Pods - Saving Seed
Can't touch this.

Hakuna Matata: when the seeds you collected from Olsen, the twin mini-white cucumber, germinate at an extremely poor rate... and the few that do survive look like they belong in a "Honey, I Shrunk the Cucumbers" remake.

"Olsen" cucumber sprout
honorary member of the itty bitty cucumber committee

Hakuna Matata: when the onions you were convinced did not survive the five weeks no water end up sprouting after all... exaaaactly where you've now planted your cucumbers. Way to poke companion planting in the eye.

Cucumber and Onion Seedlings
Onion ambush

And, at the same time --

Hakuna Matata: because the peas are flourishing, with flowers and pods joyously forming, ignorant of my nearly overpowering desire to masticate them.

Golden Sweet Pea FlowersSugar Magnolia Tendril Pea FlowersSugar Snap Pea Flowers

Hakuna Matata: because Moriarty the unkillable Eggplant is happy even after a dramatic haircut, putting on a huge flush of fruit that will need to be thinned soon... lest his arms fall off.

Moriarty the Mitoyo Eggplant
Moriarty... and his previous neighbor, Godzilla (eaten by cutworm, RIP.)

Hakuna Matata: because Stoner Tomato the mystery volunteer is setting stripey fruit, and is probably a mediocre tasting Black Vernissage plant, but nevertheless totally content sharing a bed with the beets and getting by on next to no sunlight.

Mystery "Stoner" Tomato volunteer - probably Black Vernissage
S'all gooood.

Hakuna Matata: because my dry farmed lettuce cover crop accidental experiment has turned into a lawn, and is now one of the prettiest parts of my garden.

Mixed Lettuce - accidental dryfarm
May have over planted... just a little

Hakuna Matata: because I have an entire (haphazardly organized) card table full of healthy and vigorous tomatoes, melons and seeded peppers and squash awaiting transplant and the return of the sun.

Tomato Seedlings
Beam us up, Scotty!

and finally,

Hakuna Matata: because I was lucky enough not to get hit in the head by this jerk when he tumbled forty feet from the sky.

Shed Palm Frond
Hose Sprayer for scale...
Shed Palm Frond - base
...but scale is cheeky.

So yeah... I think Hakuna Matata sums it this last week pretty nicely. No worries.

Happy Planting!

Pea Genes, if you peas...

Two cool new 'Pea Things' have revealed themselves in my garden.
Let me introduce you:

Sugar Magnolia Tendril Pea

This is a Sugar Magnolia Tendril Pea. I'll just call him Magnolia for now, because his official title is a mouthful and SMTP doesn't roll off the tongue either.

This is my first year growing Magnolia. They're pretty fun. They're a hyper tendril pea, which means they stick out  a crazy, almost disconcerting amount of grippy-grabby tendrils lacking leaves. They start like this...

Sugar Magnolia Tendril Pea - Tendrils

Then they grab stuff...

Sugar Magnolia Tendril Pea - Tendrils

.... then more stuff, until they turn into little fists and punch each other while trying to grab more stuff.

Sugar Magnolia Tendril Pea - Tendrils
They also have quite pretty flowers:

Sugar Magnolia Tendril Pea - Flower
I'm pretty.

They have purple flushed pods, though I don't have any photos since mine are just starting to flower. But all in, that's what a typical Magnolia pea is supposed to look like.

Now... check out this Dude.

Sugar Magnolia Tendril Pea - Parsley Pea Rogue
I really want to nickname it the "Lilliputian Leaves" pea but, alas, after a bit of research I discovered it already has a name: Parsley Pea.

(booo... fine.)

Here are few more pictures -- though my phone is obsessed with dirt and refuses to focus its attention elsewhere without some literal handling. 

So... what is a Parsley Pea and how did it get in with my Magnolias? Genetics time.

Now, if you know nothing about pea genes (but want to!) here's a fantastic link: Andrew's Blog - Following in Mendel's Footsteps. (I'm familiar with Andrew and his work on peas from the fantastic forum: Homegrown Goodness. If I haven't posted on my blog in a while, this is probably where you'll find me! It's definitely one of the best in-depth resources for anyone looking to know more about the vegetables that they're growing, and all the fascinating genes behind them.)

In a nutshell, the Magnolia type hyper tendril peas occurs when you outcross a Parsley pea with a regular pea. Though I haven't discovered how many genes are involved (still doing research!) it appears that within the Magnolia gene pool there are still enough recessives to occasionally unite and, with their powers combined, throw a Parsley pea.

Of the 30 or so Magnolia seeds I planted, two are growing like Parsley peas. And while they are very cool to look at, there are a few downfalls.

Firstly, since every tendril terminates in a leaf, the Parsley pea has no 'grabby hands.' Though mine may appear to be climbing, they are in fact just swept up in the arms of their neighbor Magnolias, being cradled and carried aloft. Ooo la la, how romantic.

Secondly, research has shown that the pea yield from Parsley peas tends to be very low, and much later in the season than Magnolia or other traditional varieties.

Regardless, a very interesting pop-up in this batch of Magnolia, and something I'm looking forward to saving seed from later in the season! Who knows, maybe they'll have purple flushed pods, too. We can only wait and see ~


Second on today's agenda, a pea that caused a minor stir on this Homegrown Goodness thread earlier this week.
(spoiler alert: mostly unwarranted)

Cascadia Rogue - Sport - Accidental Cross (red and white flowered)

What's this red and white flower doing in my patch of Cascadia, which normally have all white flowers? Great question. Even stranger, when I posted an inquiry on the forum, a few people (remember Andrew, from above?) were genuinely surprised at the color arrangement. They'd never seen it before.

And while the good folks at Homegrown Goodness haven't seen everything, they sure have seen a lot.


Remember the pink/purple colored flower from the Magnolia section? That type of coloration is quite common in peas. However, the particular and distinct division between red & white on the flower above was not something anyone on the forum had seen before. Also, see the slight red pigment where the leaves connect to the stem? That is also not traditionally present on the heirloom Cascadia plants (though you will notice, both the Magnolia and Parsley peas have it).

So over the next few days, I took photos and kept track of the flowers progress. It went a little something like this:

Flower Color Evolution of the Cascadia Rogue - Sport - Accidental Cross

Interestingly, as the days went on the red & white flower turned more and more traditionally purple. The yellow spots indicate a different blossom on the same plant. I followed its progress closely, so see if it would open up red and white, like the first one, or go straight to a more traditional pink/purple.

Cascadia Rogue - Sport - Accidental Cross (first flower bottom, second flower top)

Traditional pink/purple it was! The top blossom is the same as the one with the yellow spot next to it in the previous graphic. The darker purple one below is the original flower, that has begun to dry up and shed. If talking this subject has interested you, you can also check out this LINK for another short overview of the genetics behind purple flowers.

Now, why the first blossom looked so different and unique to anything we'd seen before remains a mystery.

But I have do a theory...

...wait, wrong theory.

Daylight. On Monday and Tuesday of two weeks ago, we had a crazy 48 rainstorm and extremely heavy cloud cover. The next day, the first blossom opened. It was overcast that day too. However, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday the sun came back in full force.

I suspect that, like some tomatoes that turn purple when exposed to light (while the shaded ones remain red), the first blossom remained such a distinct red color due to a lack of sunlight exposure on that first day.

The second blossom, which emerged pink/purple, did so during several days of heat and bright sun.

Perhaps this is the cause of the unusual red & white color? But what it doesn't help to explain is how colored genetics ended up in my white flowered gene pool of Cascadia. Since white flowers are recessive, the most likely cause is an accidental cross that happened at the seed farm (since all my Cascadia seeds this season came straight out of a packet).

Another strange arrival this week at the Shandy Dandy that I will definitely be keeping an eye on (and saving seeds from) in the near future!

In the meantime, this colored little Cascadia still needs a nickname. Thoughts?


PS. It took me a few days to write/compile this post, and in the meantime the original red & white flower has started forming a pod.

Cascadia Rogue - Sport - Accidental Cross Pod

Happy Planting!

It's Fall! ...in January? (and we're all gunna drown)

It's already next year but... we still haven't finished last year. At least as far as the seasons go. The leaves only just started falling from the trees last week. At this rate, it won't be winter until July... and summer won't come until... Christmas?

Good thing that's not how it works. I love our climate* even for all it's strangeness.
*As long as we're not on fire... or having a that which must not be named.

Garden in Fall
The main source of all this juvenile compost?
Meet my towering garden guardian: Probably Ash Tree, aka Pat.

This may surpise you... but I think he's an ash. If you recognize him as something else, let me know! But use your magic powers to ensure it's, like, an elm or an oak or something. I need a vowel. I don't want to end up calling him Dwt just because he turns out to be 'definitely walnut tree.' 

Pat going blond.
See the palm tree in the top right corner of this photo? That's Jerkface. He desperately needs a beard shave *coughcuelandlord. Because while I love dodging 5 foot long saw blades falling 40ft from the sky... well, I don't.  More on Jerkface and his horrorshow appendages in another post.

Cloudy with a chance of palm trees
Jerkface's extended family posing dramatically. Above the telephone pole, you can see a free range police helicopter off in search of prey.

We've also been having partially cloudy skies of late, which is such a nice break from the intense and glaring direct sun we usually have. To take advantage of it, I've been rushing to do any/all double digging and heavy thing moving work that needs to get done. And boy, I'm sore from it... it's easy to forget how many muscles there are in the body until all of them hurt.

The last item of news is also weather... and one of the main reasons I'm hauling ass on my digging projects this weekend:

If you haven't been keeping track of our weather here (and why would you be) we haven't had rain since... well, lemme think about it. August was the last rain big rain I remember. It was so memorable, I even made a whole post about it. After that, well... we had a brief overnight sprinkle in early September? Which warranted a mention in a post at least.

So yeah... it's been a bit.

The yellow underlining is mine, because it's that part that concerns me the most. It's not so much an issue for me or my garden, but very much an issue for the more than 300,000 acres burned up by wildfires in December alone. The LA and surrounding areas are a series of hills and valleys. Most of these valley floors are urban; most of the hills are uncultivated and often difficult to access, with the exception of some wealthy sprawling neighborhoods which mostly occupy the foothills.

And since much of the recent fire damage was in the hills... the foothills and surrounding areas are now primed to get buried in mudslides.

Right now, as I look out the window, the sun has broken through the clouds. The garden is basking, growing happily. It's 12:15pm. 70 degrees. Hard to imagine that in 24 hours roads will be flooded, and we may be digging our friend's houses out of the hillsides.

We'll see how it plays out.

But not to end on a dark note, here's a long overdue picture of my partner in crime, the many nicknamed inherited miniature grey panther of lore: Greyson Greyweiner Greybutt Poose Bunny Goober Noodle, the first.

Greyson dudeface eatin' weeds, with a Moriarty the Eggplant photobomb.

And yeah... that's lawn weed grass whatever stuff he's eating. I actually had to dig and pot it up, just for him. It's his favorite thing ever. I don't know why... but hey, if it keeps him out of the corn patch (which he also has a thing for) then I figure I can indulge him this one thing.

Weeds in a pot, sure. Why not.

What a cow.

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

The holiday season might mean winter for most of America, but here at the Shandy Dandy we're still waiting for fall.

Wishing you a Merry 77 & Sunny, and a Happy 76 w/ Clouds!
December is traditionally one of the coldest and wettest part of the year in my area. Our average rainfall in December should be around 2.75 inches. Unfortunately, this year it's been exactly nope
Ditto for November.

Which leads me to the real topic of this post -- Because although our weather has been lovely... I haven't been here to enjoy it.  Much to my shame, my garden rap sheet now includes abandoning my vegetables for the last 5 weeks.

The person who was going to water/check on it had to back out last minute. So my poor garden has spent the last 40 days enduring the following all on its lonesome:
  • zero rain/irrigation
  • warm temps
  • 25-45mph Santa Ana winds
  • ash from the huge Thomas fire, and two smaller nearby fires


Stumbling around the garden in the dark, fully expecting to be arrested by mother nature for criminal garden abuse, tripping over fallen branches fatter than my arm, camera flashlight my only guide, desperately seeking out any signs of life...

Truthfully, I was expecting to find nothing more than what I found this spring when I moved in -- an empty sandlot pocked with a few scattered weeds, poking up their plump seed heads like middle fingers, crows guffawing at my stupidity from the trees. She's going grow stuff, here? Ha! Hey Lou, check out this joker...

(Truthfully, when I moved in last March it was actually a not-quite-so-empty sandlot... unfortunately.)

However, an empty sandlot is not what I found that night. 
And... well, I'm still confused about it.

BEHOLD! The stubbornness of life.

So, without further ado, may I introduce you to my new friend, dry farmed.... lettuce?

(top) Mixed Lettuce Blend (bottom) Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes Peppers
I know, I should have flipped the photo. But this post has so many pics... I got lazy.

Um, what.

Seeing as peppers are planted nearby, I assure you this is not a shady part of my garden. I planted the lettuce here with the intent of putting up a shade cloth before leaving (and having someone here to water it, clearly) but in my rush I completely forgot to cover it.

So... not only did the lettuce survive in +/-10 hours of daily sunlight and warm-to-hot temps, but it did so in sandy soil with no rain/irrigation for over a month. But... doesn't lettuce have shallow roots? Need constant moisture? Hate high temps? I'm confused. 

But wait, there's more --

Here's the second bed, in a far SHADIER part of the garden and with NO competition from pepper roots for what little moisture there was.
Mixed Lettuce Blend
It did worse than the other bed. >?? Both were seeded from the same seed packet at the same planting density on the same day and watered the same amount (then abandoned the same amount.)
This makes no sense. 

And that's just the lettuce. 

As for carrots...

Mixed Carrot Varieties
Sorry for the crappy photo, I was losing light and moving fast.

Also seeded right before I left. Also... sprouted?

Now, the picture below was taken the day before I left. Carrots were seeded that same day on the bottom of the right bed, below the flags (which don't mean anything, they were re-used). Above them, elephant garlic seeded a few days previous. In the left bed, onions (no survivors - at least one thing I expected!) 

Everything was deeply watered that day, then abandoned, blah blah, you know the drill.

(left) Onion (Right top) Elephant Garlic (Right bottom) Mixed Carrots

Fast forward 5 weeks of summer weather and no water, yadda yadda, and here we have:

(Top) Elephant Garlic (Bottom) Mixed Carrots

Ok... so I don't know about you, but everything I've ever read about carrots says they take 3 weeks to germinate and must be kept evenly moist. Meanwhile, these guys are living in dirt dryer than my sense of humor.

While germination was clearly spotty, the fact that there was germination at all truly perplexes me. The carrots were a mix of several varieties sown together, and now I really wish I'd differentiated. Was it a single variety that did well? Or did one side of the bed just have a magical water gnome kingdom nestled below it? 

Dry lettuce? Dry carrots? What is going on here?
On the other side of the spectrum -- 

Brassica bed before I left:

Mixed Brassica seeded in ground; misc squash project dying in 'planter'


No Brassica
the glory

 ...fine, don't like kale anyway.

Onto the legumes, which I figured would survive, if anything would. Boy, was that a mixed bag. As far as the fava beans went, the young sprouts survived the drought and heat much better than my more established plants (huh?) even though they did grow very slow.

Even then, the level of 'success and survival' I'm talking about here is pretty helter-skelter.

On the left, Ianto's Yellow and Extra Precoce a Grano Violetto were barely sprouted when I left, and seem to have done ok. On the right, Robin Hood and Windsor were about six inches tall when I left, and were mostly destroyed.

All peas, on the other hand, were as cheerful as ever, even for being 1/4 their normal size. All varieties were seeds in the ground when I left. I did have a few dead sprouts here and there, but those that lived show no damage from heat/water deprivation. 

I gotta say, I love peas... both to eat and for their endearing, childish nature. They always look like they're reaching for you to pick them up. And they're nosy, touching everything. What's this... i grab this? mine... what's that? --

Cascadia Pea

One of my other Cascadia plots has even given me flowers!
Cascadia Pea flower
I want to draw eyes on it so bad you don't understand

And this overachiever even gave me one whole pea, huzzah.
Cascadia Pea Pod, young

OH. Another big surprise... elephant garlic! I feel like a proud mother, and I didn't even do anything. The cloves were hardly two days in the ground when I left (remember the carrot picture?) 

But boy oh boy, look at my babies now...

Elephant Garlic
another crappy, losing the light pic

100% germination. And, yes, turns out even the slacker in the bottom left was present and accounted for, albeit tiny and drowning under tree crap. 

And you know what's even MORE interesting? All these elephant garlic sprouts came from grocery store! (except the three closest to the flags) Yep, plain old elephant garlic, $3 a head (I think?) with tons of huge cloves per head. And those three topmost cloves? Um, the entire contents of a $4 bag at Green Thumb.

I know, right. Garden hack win.

Here's the grocery brand. Definitely no sprout inhibitors in these. Hard to tell from the picture, but all grocery store clove plants (excluding poor drowned bob) are taller than the three from Green Thumb. 

Melissa's Elephant Garlic

Oh, and I almost forgot.

Remember when I posted about growing eggplant for the first time and being really 'blah' about eating it and all the plants being covered in spider mites and finally just saying fuck it and ripping them all out?
yeaaah, about that...

Meet the Moriarty, the un-killable eggplant.

Moriarty the Mitoyo Eggplant
You should see him in a crown.
In my defense - I did rip up all the Casper, and three of the Mitoyo plants. But instead of ripping out this last Mitoyo, I cut it down to a wee stick, snipped every leaf, then left it in our August heat. A spur of the moment, curious and casual experiment. Would it live? How long? Did I care? Pass or fail, I was ripping it out later anyway.


Clearly, I got attached. 

But I mean -- its recovery was astounding. It went from a dumb stick to a fully leafed dandy producing flowers like crazy, all in a few weeks. Three plump, grapefruit sized fruit in it's first reborn flush, no problem. 

Right before I left, it was working on ripening this masterpiece:
Mitoyo Eggplant, twin - young
And when I got back:

Mitoyo Eggplant, twin - old

A bit dirtier, no bigger, but ultimately no worse for the wear. If this little dingle-berry has seeds, I'm saving them. 

I mean, look at it! It's like a perfect little purple... anatomy. I love it.

A few more before and afters:
(excuse the constant switching between photo angles; I don't think that far ahead when I take them)

BEETS - before
... and after.
Mixed Beets

 They don't look much bigger in the picture, but I assure you they got huuuge while I was gone.

Red Mammoth Mangel Beet

 Here's another shot of the beets, but instead of the beets, take note of the volunteer mystery tomato on the right.
Mixed Beets (right) volunteer mystery tomato "stoner"

That thing... is the slowest growing, least needy tomato I have ever encountered. It's like a stoner tomato. It showed up, maybe, five months ago? Hardly grows, lives happily with only 3 to 4 hours morning sun. In fact, it had its biggest growth spurt this past month while I was gone, and had zero crispy/dead leaves after five weeks no water.

It was even putting out it's first flower the day I got back. 
Who are you...
Stoner Tomato, the mystery volunteer -  first flower
so dark, so fast

In other volunteer tomato news --

I dunno who this dude is either, or how he got all the way back into my pea/bean patch, but hey, keep on keeping on little slugger. I wanna taste those green ones on the bottom once they ripen up.

Unfortunately I was overeager... those red ones were, um, severely overripe.... *retches quietly in the background* 

As for my intentionally planted tomatoes...I'll just let the 'after' pictures speak for themselves:
If you know anyone in need of a few spiders mites, I might have a couple I could spare...

Riesentraube Tomatoes, decimated by wind and spider mites
The wind completely snapped this brand new bamboo stake. Touché, Santa Ana, ya jerk face.

And, go figure, the Ajvarski Peppers that I've been talking smack about ALL summer because of their blossom end rot issues (due to inconsistent watering, I thought) decided to be cheeky and produce some of the most flawless, huge, tasty, non-butt-rotted fruits ever... after being consistently not-watered for more than a month.

Regardless, I won't complain about having a ripe, sweet peppers a few days before new years.

Ajvarski Pepper

In cucumber news, this hastily constructed trellis made from early season Sunflower stalks was home to a few Suyo Long plants I was trying out (and one dead pickling type, rip). The plants were already succumbing to powdery mildew when I left.

Suyo Long Cucumber on sunflower stalk teepee
... and now it just looks like the cucumber monster took a shit in my planter. 

Suyo Long Cucumber monster poop

This Tetsukabuto squash plant was also dying from powdery mildew when I left. It was a late season start, kindly made possible by Dave @ Our Happy Acres who sent me the seed. Thanks Dave! This poor plant was over crowded and poorly treated from the start, seeing as it was my test subject and not part of my original garden plan. In turn, it produced only one fruit, which was still growing when I left.

Tetsukabuto Squash

 After I returned:

Tetsukabuto Squash

Not too shabby, all things considered. I look forward to growing more of these in much better conditions this coming season.

I'll finish with a personal squash project picture -- this is my nicknamed 'Bourbon' F1 (Buttercup x Turban) that colored up nicely while I was gone. I was an 'out of curiosity' cross made early last year, so I was able to grow out the offspring later the same season. This spring I'll plant seeds from this baby, mostly to enjoy watching how the different colors/shapes/sizes segregate in the F2. I probably won't continue the project beyond there, unless something unusual, tasty, or interesting pops up.
Bourbon F1 - (Buttercup x Mini Red Turban)
Bourbon F1 - (Buttercup x Mini Red Turban)

In conclusion - what a strange, fascinating homecoming!

I need a beer.