Archives for category: Urban Garden

Please watch and share my latest “Late Bloomer,” “Growing Corn Curbside,” the 20th episode and end of season 1! Also, the corn episode completes the corn, tomato and watermelon trilogy. Watch here, or higher resolution, including HD, on youtube.

Once again, I have to deal with my hard, clay soil, but, it was worth it. With corn this fresh, who needs to cook it?

What’s in store for Season 2? Well, more Monarchs, my winter garden, and lots, lots more! Thanks for your support! Comments welcome! – Kaye

This story and video from Sydney, Australia, totally justifies all that I have been trying to do in my front yard: grow edibles, create community, and use water on growing food, not a lawn. I hope you will check out what a group of neighbors in Australia, the front line of climate change, is doing to improve their neighborhood and world. And the kids are adorable! Thanks for reading! – Kaye

Today, October 22nd, is the 22nd birthday of my son, Walker. He’s a senior at Stanford, and I’d hoped to be up there, but the life of a college athlete is very busy, and he didn’t think he would even have time to dine with me. So, I am not going to see him in person on this special day, a day that only happens once in a lifetime.


Walker & Kaye, at the Getty Center 2012

My birthday is on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, and I remember well my 14th birthday. I was learning to sew in 4-H and made a heart shaped (top and bottom) apron out of red-checked cotton, and trimmed it with red rick-rack. I also baked a heart-shaped cake, and my mother got the town paper to photograph me for the weekly paper. I have that article in one of the many scrapbooks my mother made me.

Anyway, after a long day in the garden yesterday, I wasn’t too energetic today and felt my energy was supposed to be in Palo Alto, not Los Angeles, so I didn’t get off to a great start. In the afternoon, I forced myself to go out and check on caterpillar C (A & B have left the building, ha), and spent an hour trying to relocate him or her to a safe place for cocoon-building. As it was exploring what I considered to be the Ritz Carlton for Monarch cocoons (underneath the overhang of my pop-out kitchen window), it FELL about four feet into a bucket of bamboo sticks! I gasped and picked it up by the piece of straw it was grasping. Talk about grasping for straws!


Monarch Caterpillar 5th Instar Stage Grasping Straw

Stunned, it lay in my hand for a couple of minutes. I decided that I was violating the “Prime Directive” (any “Star Trek” fans out there?) and I put it back on the milkweed bush. When I looked again 20 minutes later, it was nowhere to be found. Luckily, I have another caterpillar coming along.


Monarch Caterpillar 4th Instar Stage

And I found several eggs.


Monarch Egg

And fluttering around my head was a female Monarch butterfly feasting on the pollen of the Mexican Sunflower. It’s amazing how the stripes on the caterpillar turn into polka dots!


Female Monarch Butterfly on Mexican Sunflower

I have limited space in my garden. Some parts gets more sun than others. Some soil is more amended, but most of it is compacted clay. So, when I buy new plants, it takes me awhile to figure out where to put them. Almost every spot that gets maximum sun will be used to plant edibles. Today, I made a hard choice. I had bought two California native blueberry bushes from Grow Native Nursery last week, but hadn’t figured out where to plant them. I kind of wanted to keep them together. They grow in light shade, which is a plus, but, I just couldn’t figure it out, till it hit me to turn my Flower Island (see My Flower Island episode of Late Bloomer) into a California Native plot. I just planted two Asclepias speciosa milkweed in there yesterday, and after my caterpillar adventure, I planted three Phyda nodiflora Frogfruit ground cover there. Then, it hit me. I’m over roses.

I had an Iceberg Rose bush out there that was high maintenance and rarely bloomed, got lots of rust, and of course every time you tend to it, you somehow get pricked by a thorn. I’m over it. I dug up that rose bush, and planted two Vaccinium “Indians Wanderer” California native blueberries under the newly pruned Princess flower bush, which I trimmed to grow up more like a tree than a sprawling bush, giving more light underneath.

Vaccinium - California Native Blueberry

Vaccinium “Indians Wanderer” California Native Blueberry

Well, it’s technically not a native garden, yet. That’s an African daisy bottom left, and Mexican feather grass top left, which I happen to love, but the other seven plants are natives. And they all will bloom and attract bees and butterflies.


California Native Garden

So the day wasn’t a complete wash. And I am Skyping my son tonight! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! – Kaye

Curbside gardening is an interesting prospect. Just when you think you have things under control and figured out, they change. If you have followed the Late Bloomer web series, you may remember how this whole gardening thing started for me. Our parkway Acacia tree died, and I got in touch with my soil. (See the whole story in episode 1.)

Dead Acacia Tree

Dead Acacia Parkway Tree

Still, I thought I wanted to replace the tree, as I’m a tree person. But, you just can’t grow vegetables under the shade of a tree. And the roots from a city tree in a plot of ground 6’x20′ will pretty much fill up that space. But, back in September, after the Acacia was removed, I got a free Jacaranda tree from the city, and they are so pretty, I planted it.

Dried Up Jacaranda Tree

Dried Up Jacaranda Tree with Seed Pods

It was only after that, that I realized my parkway was my best sun and I did not need a tree there. So, I stopped watering it. Not nice, I know. But, to my surprise, it lived anyway (they are originally from Australia, so they love it dry and hot), and yesterday I noticed the first purple flowers blooming.

Jacaranda Tree with Purple Bloom by Kaye Kittrell

Jacaranda Tree with First Purple Bloom

Now, it’s going to be interesting what happens. Obviously, I can’t let it get very big, or shade too much. But, I don’t want to cut it down, after it worked so hard to live. I need to see how ambitious I am going to continue to be with gardening, also. This is my first year, and I’ve spent all my extra time on the garden, the blog and the web series. So, it remains to be seen. Until the shade becomes a problem, I’m going to keep planting edibles and flowers to attract beneficial insects around it. You can see the bluish-purple bloom on the far left side.

To the right of the tree are my Mexican sunflowers. I LOVE these! They keep blooming and aren’t as affected by powdery mildew and bugs as the sunflowers. I wish I had planted more. They are supposed to get up to 6′ tall, but mine are between 18″ and 4′.

Mexican Sunflowers Tithonia rotundifolia

Mexican Sunflowers – Tithonia rotundifolia

The blooms are VIVID. Hummingbirds and bees love them. Well rotted mulch or compost, and trimming off the spent blooms will extend the blooming season.

Mexican Sunflowers Tithonia rotundifolia

Bright Orange Bloom on Mexican Sunflower

I’m out direct seeding cool season crops today. What are you up to in your garden? Thanks for stopping by. – Kaye

I  just planted celery seedlings in the parkway where my corn was. I read in “Golden Gate Gardening” that celery would like to be planted in pure compost if it can get it, so I obliged with a whole bag of biodynamic compost between six seedlings. It also needs a lot of fertilizer, so I mixed up 4 cup worm castings, 2 cups organic vegetable fertilizer, and 1/2 cup citrus fertilizer (because celery likes slightly acidic soil as do citrus trees). I sunk each seedling in a pile of compost in the middle of the crater, spread the fertilizer around each, watered deeply, then covered in compost.

Was I deterred by the fact that the book said celery is a demanding vegetable? Heck, no! Celery needs to be kept moist all the time, so I figured I plant them right beside my neighbor’s sprinklers which overspray about two feet into my garden bed, so it will get an additional watering every day! Just as I was scooping in some compost, a huge, green beetle flew right by my face and plopped on the mound of compost and started burrowing in the wet soil. I ran for my camera and it was buried when I got back in less than a minute. I uncovered it, and took a couple of shots as it was madly burrowing back in.

I didn’t know if this inch-long, bejeweled creature was friend or foe, so I captured it in a jar and ran to the internet. There are tons of great photos of emerald green beetles, but this one happens to be a Fig Beetle. They will dive bomb right at you, and suck juice out of figs. There are no fig trees around here, so I’m guessing, according to a post I read on Encino 411, that the beetle larvae metamorphosed in the compost and opening the bag set it free. (Then, I captured it again, oops.) Not sure what I should do with it now.

The parkway is coming together nicely. I planted milkweed and yarrow along the curb where the sunflowers were. I’ve still got two Japanese melon, one Japanese cucumber, and the Patty Pan squash, and now the celery.

There’s room for a couple more plants. Since this is my best sun, I’m going to pop in the two ‘Stupice’ heirloom tomato seedlings I bought yesterday. This variety, I was told, came from the Czech Republic, and has a short growing season, can take a milder climate, and that I could still get tomatoes this year. So, I’m giving it a shot.

Thanks for dropping by! Have a great Sunday! – Kaye

In “Wild Farm,” next week’s episode of “Late Bloomer,”, we meet Lisa Putnam and her sister Kathleen, who are master gardeners and they take us on a tour of Lisa’s family farm in Woodside, CA. Lisa explained that her insectiary brings in beneficial insects which eat the bad insects, like aphids!

Insectiaries are areas staffed with those types of plants which will attract beneficial insects. (Wikipedia) They particularly love flowers that are flat on top, Kathleen said, called Umbels, like carrot, dill and parsley. Let those go to seed, Lisa said, and they bring in beneficial insects which will reduce your crop-destroyers.

I returned with the intention of planting some insectary plants in my small garden.

The California native plants that I bought at Grow Native Nursery over the weekend serve two purposes, to bring in beneficial insects and attract lots of butterflies and also promote drought tolerant plants which need no fertilizers and exist very well in California’s dry, clay soils.

Yesterday, I removed a huge bush under my olive tree, that required a lot of maintenance, with the purpose of reconditioning the soil and starting my insectiary.

This turned into quite an operation with my neighbor, C.L., giving me a hand with his 25 pound iron pole/blade. Between the two of us, pushing, pulling and slamming that blade down into the roots about 50 times, we finally got it out. The bush nearly filled my garden waste bin.

That was a lot more work than I imagined, but getting it out was only the beginning. I raked and pulled out roots and stones for about two more hours before I was able to add some sifted soil to the mix.

Truly an urban gardening scene, here. Dog walkers just have to go around when I’m gardening near the sidewalk.

I’m also going to plant butterfly bush across the sidewalk under the Princess Flower, but first, I have to remove some invasive wood sorrel that shot up since the buckwheat was cut. That’s my job for this afternoon.

This spots gets only about four to five hours of direct sun per day, so I planted sun/part sun Solanum and one of the milkweeds, Asclepias fascicularis behind it. The milkweed will get weedy at the bottom, so by planting the Solanum in front, it will hide the weediness of the milkweed. Here’s the finished result, last night about 8PM.

Thanks for reading! – Kaye

Please watch me struggle to grow flowers on the 6.5′ x 14′ strip of parkway between the street and the sidewalk in “My Flower Island – Episode 12” of “Late Bloomer.” Buckwheat saved the day.

For anyone curious about how we are making “Late Bloomer,” this episode was shot over the course of two months. You have no idea how difficult it is to get a few lines recorded with non-stop air traffic (from 7:30AM till 7:30PM on sunny days), occasional street traffic, neighbors dropping by (always a good thing – many neighbors have appeared in my episodes), construction noise, gardeners, and the occasional ring of the telephone. That’s urban gardening for you!

The beginning of the episode was shot on an April weekday afternoon soon after I started filming “Late Bloomer,” and I was chasing a sliver of reflected light trying to record all the dialogue. But, by June, I had settled into shooting me talking to camera only on Sunday mornings before 8AM, and it’s often June Gloom till noon, which means, no sun, and it’s quiet. Guess what, you need quiet to record dialogue! Who knew?

After I collect all relevant footage and photos to an episode, I create a script and send it to my cheerful, talented and efficient editors, and motion graphics artist, which you can read about from the Late Bloomer Team tab, above.

Before the day is out, I will be posting information about Los Angeles Horticulturist Hugh Evans, mentioned in this episode. Be sure to check back to learn about this influential Californian. But, right now, I must go water my garden!

Today, the flower island looks like this. Buckwheat cut and melting into the soil, enriching it for the next crop, which will likely be peas and oats. You can barely discern the burgundy row of Amaranth which was stunted by the fast-growing buckwheat. Now, the Amaranth will take off, and hopefully reach a height of eight feet!

Thanks for watching and reading! – Kaye

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Information for commercial vegetable production in Ontario