Garden of Eatin'

A Garden Visit From Baker Creek

A garden visit from Baker Creek

Last week I had the honor of hosting Jere Gettle (as in the Jere Gettle from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, pictured at right) and Paul Wallace (the man in charge of Baker Creek’s west coast branch, the Petaluma Seed Bank) at my humble little abode. They were only in town for a day or two, and decided to swing by for a visit and see what this whole Garden Betty deal is all about.

There was just a slight problem, though. Most of my garden looks like this right now…

Compost-covered raised beds

Or this…

Snow peas at the end of their season

But Jere and Paul were gracious and kind enough to humor me!

My garden is in that in-between season where all the fall/winter crops are starting to come out, but all the spring/summer crops are still in the seed-starting stage.

Spring and summer seedlings

I’ve left a few sad-looking plants in the ground to wither away so I can collect the seeds.

Letting snow pea pods dry out to collect seeds

On top of that, we’d just had a big, blustery storm, so in the hours before Jere and Paul’s arrival, my gardener (the one who does all the chores I hate, like tree-trimming and leaf-blowing) was tree-trimming and leaf-blowing the whole property away. My fiancé was busy cleaning out the chicken coop and raking back the mulch that the chickens had kicked up, and I was making Moroccan iced tea and getting my grapefruit-rosemary bread going in the oven… whew. It was a team effort to get the half-empty and half-dead garden looking as presentable as possible!

There were a few signs of hope, though… like the apple blossoms on our tree…

Apple blossoms

And the new leaves coming back on the grapevines…

New leaves on grapevines

And the chard, carrots and beets still hanging on…

Rainbow chard

Carrots and beets

The nice thing about living in Southern California is that there’s always something growing… like citrus. Citrus is the pride and joy of our winters.

Ripe grapefruits in the middle of grapefruit blossoms

And yes, those are grapefruit blossoms surrounding ripe, ready-to-be-picked grapefruits. Our grapefruit tree is amazing. It bears fruit nearly year-round, and there’s only a span of three months where we don’t pick any fruit because they’re still green. The rest of the year, the juicy yellow orbs fall from the tree an armful at a time.

Last month, we put in three types of blueberry bushes (Misty, Sunshine Blue, and the cotton candy-hued Pink Lemonade varieties) and I really cannot wait for them to start producing fruit!

Blueberry bush

We also have tomatoes. Bushy, healthy tomatoes over 2 feet tall, which I’d started over the winter as an experiment. They got off to a slow start, but with the longer days and warmer nights of spring, they seem to be growing inches a day now. I had started a variety of Siberian and Russian tomatoes, thinking they would fare better in cooler temperatures, and it looks like I was right! The four plants all have flowers now, so I’m crossing my fingers for the first tomatoes to set in a few weeks.

Tomatoes started over winter and thriving in spring

Remember my rogue tomatoes from last summer? They’re back — and there’s more.

Volunteer tomato plants

We had left a few tomatoes to rot in the ground over winter, and volunteer plants started springing up a few months ago. At last count there were 14 plants, maybe more… and we decided to let them all grow and do their thing.

Despite being semi-neglected, they’re growing even faster than our “intentional” tomatoes and are threatening to take over the neighborhood once again. We’re not staking or pruning them, but we did erect a little pseudo-scaffolding with shipping pallets to keep some of the vines off the ground.

Volunteer tomato plants "staked" with pallets

Volunteer tomato plants "staked" with pallets

Our Purple of Romagna artichoke, a perennial beauty, is beginning to flower again.

Purple of Romagna artichoke

A year ago I started two artichoke plants from seed, and now have eight plants as they’ve died back and regrown with a vengeance each season. It’s starting to get a little crowded in this bed, so I’ll probably divide them at the end of the year, and start a new artichoke patch elsewhere in the garden.

Purple of Romagna artichoke plants

While the snow pea vines have started to brown, the Tall Telephone garden peas are as lush and green as ever. Our plants reach over six feet tall and are full of fresh, delicious pods that I split open and eat right off the vine.

Tall Telephone garden peas

Our onions and garlic are also doing well, but I want them to hurry along so I can pull them up and make room for all our new plants!

Onion bed

The chicken salad bar is coming back to life, with what could possibly be the world’s biggest nasturtiums. The leaves are bigger than my hand!

Giant nasturtium leaf

So far, the chickens have left most of the nasturtiums alone but they love to snack on the clovers and peas coming up. Every couple of weeks, I toss another handful of seeds into the bed to replenish their buffet.

Chicken salad bar

Jere and Paul shot a mini tour of my garden while they were here, and video snippets will be posted on the Baker Creek blog. I’m hoping they’ll come back in the summer when the garden is in full swing!

What’s going on in your garden right now?

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »