West Coast Sunday Morning Garden Chat

mmg ladybug

An update from MaryG and Higgs Boson’s Mate:

After almost giving up on gardening following the demise of many of my seedlings and succulent puppies during two horrible Santa-Ana-wind-fueled heat waves that brought temperatures up to 100 degrees, Higgs Boson’s Mate and I are back at it. There is no more room in the back yard, so he built me a raised bed with arbor for the driveway:

mmg fancy-new-raised-bed

He learned how to cut curves in wood and did the arched sides at the top. Then he used the remnants to make little aprons for the bottom. He is turning into quite a craftsman. We just planted tomatoes and herbs in it, with some pole beans at the back. I know all my plants are far too close together, but I have a good 25 years of frustration at not being able to garden to work out. I figure the plants can fight it out. Market forces at work!

The things I planted in the first two raised beds didn’t go as well as I would have liked, because I planted them a bit too early, and a tree grew too fast and shaded them too much. I did get some great miniature sunflowers going:

mmg perfect-sunflower

That one has been and gone, but I was so happy with the way the picture came out I had to include it. I have planted more seeds of another variety there and hope for a better second crop. Though I am not good at thinning out, I did realize that they were much too close together and transplanted some of the lesser-looking seedlings into the second set of raised beds, where they are doing great:

mmg sunflowers-and-cosmos

They have attracted a whole swarm of these good guys (see picture at top).

Yay! There are a lot of ants around here and I was afraid they would start farming aphids, but not with the ladybug crew at work, I hope.

The last raised bed is growing a bit of Japanese ornamental corn:

mmg tall-corn

It is supposed to have green and pink stripes in the leaves, but only a few came out like that, and don’t really show up in the photos. Still, it is very healthy and supposed to be good to eat. We will have to get the ladder out to harvest it, though.

I wanted to share a few sites on Etsy and Ebay where I have gotten some great seeds at great prices. It seems there are a lot of people who collect non-GMO, heirloom and organic seeds as a hobby or a sideline to their farm, and will sell a small amount for as little as a dollar. They come in tiny plastic bags I used to assort with crack cocaine, with labels showing varying amounts of information about the plants on them.

This person is awesome: ALLooABOUTooSEEDS . He or she has seeds of everything in the world, from cactus to bonsai trees and all manner of herbs, flowers and vegetables. His seeds look very healthy and almost everything I have gotten from him and planted has come up. Some then died because I was lying in bed in front of my fan cursing the Koch brothers and worrying about the wildfire that started across the freeway from the nuclear plant, but I have replanted them and if we just get our usual June gloom this month, they should do well. He charges the same shipping and handling – I think it was $2.50 – no matter how many seeds you buy from him.

Ditto for this seller: FLOWER AND VEGETABLE SEEDS. I think everything he has is a dollar. Shipping is also the same for any number of packets and he ships really fast, too.

For zone 10-11 or greenhouse people, or someone who wants something no one else has and can bring plants indoors for winter, there is SmartSeeds. Her seeds are more expensive than most, more like $1.99 and up, but she has things I have never seen before. She also charges a fixed rate for shipping. She has a great philosophy:

I come from a long line of gardeners. A hundred years ago, this town was my great-grandfather’s lemon ranch. Now it’s home to six colleges, all landscaped with awesome plants. Claremont calls itself The City of Trees. It’s like a zoo for plants.

I live on the family homestead. The garden’s far bigger than the house and is always out of control, just the way I like it. There’s always plenty to share. I share seeds with gardeners all over the world. If you live in Qatar or Vanuatu or New Zealand, I want to know about your garden. One man’s weed is another man’s awesome exotic.

43 replies
  1. 1
    raven says:

    Quite a ship’s carpenter the old salt has become!

  2. 2
    Jerzy Russian says:

    That is one awesome piece of work! I assume the raised bed is made of redwood. I love building things out of redwood, but the prices have gone up, and my back does not allow so much woodworking. You really need to get a good stain on the wood, or otherwise your projects won’t look so good three or four years down the road.

    Ants are a huge problem for us. Apart from nuclear weapons, I am not sure how to control them effectively.

  3. 3
    Keith G says:

    The gardening exploits (and progress made) of Mary and Higgs are one of my favorite Sunday reads.

    I think those two could put together their own “how to” journal.

  4. 4
    MomSense says:

    @Keith G:

    Favorite reads period. I love seeing all the beauty that MaryG and Higgs are creating.

  5. 5
    JPL says:

    Your work is magnificent!

  6. 6
    🌷 Martin says:

    Higgs, I’m really impressed with your work. Keep it up, you two are doing really, really nice stuff.

  7. 7
    Tommy says:

    @JPL: Yes, yes it is. Wish they’d come to my house for a week or so. I got plenty of room, lets of yard, and I’d almost give them an “open check.” Heck and I can feed them well, really well :)!

  8. 8
    Judy in SD says:

    I like the art installation on the cinder block wall, would love some close ups and information as to its creation. Kudos to the dynamic duo for all the planters and plantings.

  9. 9
    Emma says:

    I get so much inspiration from these. Keep them up, please!

  10. 10
    rikyrah says:

    Why Democrats Are Losing the Voter-ID Message War

    Democrats have yet to counteract the Republicans’ voter-ID narrative—or their polling—even though most African Americans oppose new voter-ID laws when they catch on to what they are.
    By: Charles D. Ellison
    Posted: June 5 2014 4:49 PM

    Voter-ID laws must not be all that bad if black folks like them, right?

    That’s the new political wolf ticket that the Republican rank and file want you to buy. Conservative activists, as jumpy as So You Think You Can Dance contestants, have hit the media trail with their latest talking point: Black folks heart voter ID, courtesy of freshly baked polling numbers, courtesy of Fox News—the king of unapologetically biased networks.

    Per Fox, 51 percent of African Americans are down with voter ID when they’re asked: “Supporters of these laws say they are necessary to stop ineligible people from voting illegally. Opponents say these laws are unnecessary and mostly discourage legal voters from voting. What do you think?”

    And Republicans are, predictably, elated with the results, produced by this feat of leading questions and survey chicanery. Polls, after all, validate political narratives—if you word your question right, folks will tell you the sky is red. Flacks use them to raise money and win elections.

    Polls won’t, however, point you in the direction of that other poll showing that way fewer whites feel the Voting Rights Act is necessary. Nor will they show the North Carolina PPP poll (pdf) that showed 72 percent of African Americans strongly oppose voter-ID laws—in a state that’s 25 percent black.

    The Fox poll offers a dangerously legit-looking way to give mostly Republican state legislators ammunition for an amazingly misleading “we told you so” on voter ID. The message, beyond the numbers, suggests there’s nothing wrong with rigging, complicating and corrupting a relatively decent voting system that’s precariously fragile from years of abuse.


  11. 11
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @Tommy: My son and dil, live in your (broad) area, St. Louis? They recently converted their side yard from grass to a raised bed salsa garden. They’re having a blast as prior to their move, they lived in a South Florida condo. They have happily traded their intercoastal view for a home where they can plant and create various types of outdoor living spaces.

  12. 12
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @Judy in SD: Agree. The wall art installation is beautiful. I wonder if any of you gardening enthusiasts can discuss techniques and resources for wall terrariums/scaping.

  13. 13
    Yutsano says:

    Since I have a black thumb:

    I managed to dent my mother’s car this morning. This is made all the more fun in that I had to call her and tell her since she’s out of town. Fortunately the dent isn’t too bad. But still…F.M.L.

  14. 14
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Very nice, HBM, very nice.

  15. 15
    WereBear says:

    Great stuff!

  16. 16
  17. 17
    WaterGirl says:

    @pamelabrown53: A week or two ago, someone here mentioned a lasagna garden and I assumed that it was about growing everything you might put into lasagna (except the pasta, of course). But I googled and it turns out I was laughably wrong.

    So today when you mention a salsa garden, I am busy trying to figure out what that might be, because surely it’s not about growing everything you use to make salsa. But the google tells me it is! How fun.

  18. 18
    Belafon says:

    @rikyrah: Every so often I see an ad from John Cornyn asking if I support verifying ID for voting. The wording is made in such a way that there is only one correct answer, which, when I wrote Cornyn, I did not give. My reasoning is that there’s a reason that our constitution contains an amendment disallowing poll taxes: Because they were used to keep certain people from voting. And that’s all these voter ID laws are designed for, especially since there is 1) very little evidence of voter fraud, and 2) Texas in particular has made it hard for certain people to get an ID, while making it easy for old whites to vote (why else would they close DPS offices near the border, disallow student IDs, and yet allow concealed carry licenses as valid IDs).

  19. 19
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Thank you all for your kind comments. Who says you can’t teach an old sea dog new tricks?

  20. 20
    D58826 says:

    @rikyrah: The democrats are losing most of the message wars’ Most people don’t like Obamacare, even though they like the components. ABC survey out today says 51% of public supports another Benghazi probe because Obama is covering-up something. The Democrats are falling all over themselves to criticize Obama on Bergdahl. The lynch mob is forming and the democrats are selling the tickets. The stories of the platoon members are to be taken as gospel but according the Sen. Chambliss (r) we have no way to confirm anything that Bergdahl has to say. The mother of one soldier who died 2 months after Bergdahl went missing wants him returned, court martialed and punished for her son’s death. Look I understand that she is devastated by his loss but what she wants is a kangaroo court not a court martial. I don’t mean to sound heartless but soldiers die in wars – the cliché is fortunes of war.
    John McCain is now saying that Obama returned Mullah Omar’s cabinet. to him. In other words the President of the United States just committed an act of treason. All of the republicans who demanded that Obama take any steps necessary to return Bergdahl are now say ‘but Oh we didn’t think you would actually do it’. And the patriots who are sending death threats. Of course they are being egged on by people on Fox. The only thing missing from some of these interviews is the bowl of water that they can use to wash their hands of any violence that results from their words.

  21. 21
    pamelabrown53 says:

    @WaterGirl: The google is right in this case, WaterGirl. We lived in the Southwest for the bulk of his formative years…and he and his wife love the cuisine to the extreme.

  22. 22
    WaterGirl says:

    @pamelabrown53: Me, too! If food isn’t spicy, what’s the point?

    Fine print: any food that contains a substantial amount of sugar is excluded.

  23. 23

    Gardening experts, is it too late to plant seedlings this coming week?

  24. 24
    Violet says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Seedlings for what? Completely depends where you live and what you want to plant.

    HBM and Mary G, your garden is lovely, your handiwork is beautiful and your love of what you’re working on is infectious. Love your updates! I’m growing sunflowers too and they’re really fun. Big fun too, because they’re probably ten feet tall right now.

  25. 25

    @Violet: I live in Western Mass, seedlings for tomatoes, peppers and such!

  26. 26
    MikeJ says:

    Looks like the way to make Mercedes run even with all the other F1 teams is to take away their rear brakes.

  27. 27
    zamphuor says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:
    That is beautiful!!!
    Could you post the dimensions of that? I’d love to make one of these for my mother (ok, maybe it’s for me, too :))

  28. 28
    Anne Laurie says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Seedlings should be fine (it’s a little late to start seeds in Western MA, though). If it stays this hot, you’ll have to keep a close eye on the new transplants, and may need to water them twice a day, especially if they’re in containers.

    Depending on how long your peppers take to mature — and on how late it stays warm into the autumn — you may end up having to wrap & unwrap the ripening plants if we get our usual overnight freezing temps followed by another couple weeks of summer, but that’s nothing to worry about now!

  29. 29
    🌷 Martin says:

    @MikeJ Not just rear brakes, but 140HP from the ERS as well.

    Lewis really got a raw deal there.

    (FYWP for eating replies)

  30. 30
    satby says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Anne Laurie is right, you can still plant seedlings… but it’s getting late and seedlings can be so iffy. At this point I’d do a few plants as a backup even if I tried seedlings.

  31. 31
    Violet says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Looks like AL had a good answer for you. In my neck of the woods we’re harvesting tomatoes and they’ve pretty much stopped setting fruit. Peppers are now all about keeping mulched and alive and waiting for cooler fall weather for peppers to set. We’ll be putting in fall tomato seedlings in July.

    I always think it’s worth a go to put something in, even if it’s a bit late or early. You might get lucky with the weather and it’s cooler or warmer than expected and whatever you planted does really well.

  32. 32
    WaterGirl says:

    (possibly dumb) question:

    What’s the difference between a seedling and a plant?

    Our farmer’s market (central IL) and other stores still have tomatoes and pepper plants, etc, so if you’re planting late, isn’t that what you would want to plant?

  33. 33
    SectionH says:

    Well, I posted about the recent gardening at our condo in the Other Gardening thread earlier, but since then we’ve acquired a new plant.

    We drove up to our old stomping grounds in North County, stopped in at our previously regular Farmers Market, and among other things we bought was a Coffee Plant from Ben & Mary Poirier of Ben’s Subtropicals. (For SoCal BJers, they’re in Fallbrook, and have really interesting plants, as well as the best eggses ever, if you can catch them at Vista or Sykes before they sell out.)

    This coffee plant doesn’t like much direct sun, so it looks like a great fit for us. Ben said it will take 3-4 years to actually start producing fruit, but gardening is pretty all about patience anyway. The fruit we sampled was that sort of vaguely sweet flavor a lot of subtropical fruit has, pleasant enough anyway. Nice bright red berries. One saves and dries the seeds, and apparently can turn them into coffee. That’s scarcely why we bought it – Mr S doesn’t even drink coffee – but if the chance arises, I’ll experiment.

  34. 34
    SectionH says:

    @WaterGirl: I missed your reply to me in the other gardening thread (re how long the remodeling will take) until we stopped for lunch. Sadly, I’m sure you’re right.

  35. 35
    SectionH says:

    @WaterGirl: Um, something like the difference between a baby and a person? I mean, a baby is a person, and a seedling is a plant, but both babies and seedlings are young and need some nurturing – obviously a baby needs more than most seedlings, but that’s the distinction I’d make.

  36. 36
    WaterGirl says:

    @SectionH: But I’m also right about how wonderful it will be when it’s done! It will be completely worth it.

    I say this as someone who spent 5 months getting my house repaired after the tree fell on it a year ago. The bathroom was by far the most discouraging part of the process. I vividly recall a very depressing hour spent with 5 adults in my small bathroom on a very humid day: me, my contractor, two plumbers and a contractor worker bee.

    By that point in the house repairs, I was pretty familiar with the day-to-day frustrations and disappointments and compromises that come with having all that work done.

    But this particular morning in the bathroom felt like an entire hour of being told why and how every single thing I wanted for the bathroom couldn’t be done or couldn’t be done in the way I wanted.

    It was so discouraging, and the bathroom was one area where I was spending a bunch of my own money (instead of insurance money) and all I could think was “I’m spending 12,000 of my retirement money on this, and instead of the beautiful bathroom I imagined, I will have to settle for something mediocre”.

    But when it was done, it was absolutely gorgeous and none of the “oh my god” details had mattered. So keep your eye on the prize!

  37. 37
    Mnemosyne says:


    Unfortunately, I’m guessing that the poll hit a little streak of xenophobia, since the “stop ineligible people from voting illegally” probably made the people being polled think “illegal aliens” rather than, say, ineligible former felons.

    Yes, I know, shocking that a Fox News poll would be designed to find and exploit a person’s hidden prejudices, huh?

  38. 38
    WaterGirl says:

    @SectionH: So when I buy my little tomato and pepper plants for 3.00 each from my favorite organic guy at the farmer’s market, am I buying a plant or a seedling?

  39. 39
    ruemara says:

    I am moving in with HBM & Mary G. I keep you in tasties, you let me putter withe plants, yes? Epic stuff, as always.

  40. 40
    SectionH says:

    @WaterGirl: um, I’d call that a plant. Seedlings I tend to think of as maybe still having their “baby leaves” (which all look alike to me, from acanthus to zinnias) plus maybe 3 or 4 more sets of leaves.

    Oh, I do believe you about the remodeling. We were under pressure to get out from our house in Escondido, and we just managed to get all the popcorn ceilings and the major wall removal done before we had to move, so we’ve known all along that we’d be in it for the long haul. We’ve gotten all new flooring in except for the kitchen and baths, and painting in the great room done.

    I’ve said all along that if we’re mostly finished with the remodeling by the 1st anniversary of our moving in, I’ll be happy, and probably surprised.

    Thanks for the morale support, srsly. I may need more as we go along. ;->

  41. 41
    Anne Laurie says:


    Our farmer’s market (central IL) and other stores still have tomatoes and pepper plants, etc, so if you’re planting late, isn’t that what you would want to plant?

    As I understand it, a seedling is just a young plant — as with animal babies, the definition of “young” can vary. If your seedlings are too young & small, they will have a hard time adjusting to the sun & rain & temperature changes outdoors. If they’re too big, they may be root-bound and nutrient-starved from trying to live on the equivalent of baby formula — and they’ll be harder to move and transplant without breaking bits off.

    I order my tomatoes by mail, and usually the “seedlings” that arrive for me to transplant are about 6″ to 8″ tall, with eight or ten leaves, and maybe a blossom or two. But this year my Los-Angeles-area supplier sent me a bunch of foot-high plants, maybe twice as bushy as usual, and several of them had tiny green tomato fruits already; obviously, the early warm weather on her side of the country encouraged all my reserved plants to grow up & fill out early. I suspect she was keeping a nervous eye on weather reports across the country, because in another couple of weeks those plants would have been too big to ship, and mid-May used to be within the freeze danger zone here in New England!

  42. 42
    WaterGirl says:

    @SectionH: Perspective is something you desperately need when your house is in the middle of repairs. And sometimes it’s other people who have to supply it because you may have run out of yours!

    When that’s the case, just pop your head up and I will be there. :-)

    Without patting myself on the back too much, I have to say I think I did really well handling everything during the months and months of constant repairs and just a mattress on the floor, the tv and tv stand, and the kitty tree. But if I was going to have a hard day, it was always on a thursday.

    I referred to them fondly as my “mini meltdowns”, and the first one was the bathroom day I described earlier. I think I had about 5 in all, always on a thursday, during the 2 months of waiting on my insurance money and then 5 months of repairs. And of course, once you’ve labelled them mini meltdowns, it’s kind of hard to take them too seriously. Perspective is a wonderful thing, and sometimes it just has to be imported from someone else!

  43. 43
    WaterGirl says:

    @SectionH: @Anne Laurie: Hmm, I don’t think my plants were even 8″ tall, so maybe they were seedlings. My zucchini plants only had two little leaves, I think.

    Now they are all grown up and I will be eating my first zucchini this week. So excited!

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