Fire Mountain Garden Exchange

August Plantings by Editor
August 19, 2011, 7:46 pm
Filed under: Flowers, Fruits, Natives, Vegetables

So as is our custom, we refer once again to the 1994 “Reliable Seeds” catalogue from our inspiration Charles Ledgerwood, if this is your first visit to our site, please look back on the previous issues to find out more about Mr. Ledgerwood.

For the month of August he recommends

(Caps indicate best plantings for the month)

BEANS, beets, carrots, CELERY, CORN, CUCUMBER, leek, LIMAS, okra, , NZ spinach, Swiss chard and marrow squashes. You can keep planting bunching onions and radishes of all sorts all summer long to spice up your salads.

This is the time to start staging you garden and growing space to prepare for the September to December planting season, arguably the best time to grow things in SoCal. Look at you lawn and think how much water you put on it and think how much lettuce, arugula and spinach you might be able to grow if you just give up a small part of it. Start preparing extra space for fall crops and watch this blog for the fall planting tips.


On the flower side of the path, this month you can plant:

Centurea, Cineraria, Cosmos, Gypsophilia, Hollyhock, Pansy, Lunaria, Marigold, Nasturtium, Phlox, Salipiglossis, Snapdragon, Stock. Sweet Peas, Verbena, Viola and Zinnia.

Please refer to the last  several year’s August missive for some great suggestions.


March Rant by Editor
March 3, 2011, 5:24 pm
Filed under: Fruits, Natives, Uncategorized, Vegetables

What a difference a couple of years make. Looking back at previous planting missives I noted the lack of rainfall in late February. We sure can’t say that now. I have had my sprinklers off for quite a while. Of course we all know that one Santa Ana can take away two weeks of rain.

Right now we are still eating fresh lettuce every night, not so many peas as I had a really weak crop this year and I still have onions and arugula to add to the salad. We still have lots of tomato sauce and basil pesto I froze last summer too.

It has been almost as cold as I can remember here, maybe 1985 was colder as it froze in our back yard and that has yet to happen this year. That means that if we are going to start anything in early March we should consider protection from the elements. In our area I have always found that a thin tent of clear or white plastic works fine. If you have the little plastic domes those are great and I have used sheets of bubble wrap as well to cover seed beds.

Pole beans

I will be getting a couple of spots in my garden ready for pole beans of several varieties, They grow like crazy here and are great fresh, steamed and my favorite, pickled in dill. They are easy to grow, just make a round damn in a open spot, make a tee pee out of poles firmly set in the ground and tied together at the top. Plant four beans per damn and away you go. Early light feeding with a fish based fertilizer will make for a great crop.

On the subject of tomatoes, be careful in March. I have mentioned this before, the temperature is unpredictable. If you plant early and we get a cold spell I would yank out the ones you have and start over. I have never had a good crop come from a plant that has been through cold. I prefer to wait until April. Tomatomania will be coming up soon in Encinitas on March 19 – 20. I have also been very happy with Green Thumb Nursery in San Marcos, they have a great selection.

I would like to repeat my lesson from looking at Vietnamese truck farms. They grow everything in seed beds then transplant. They get huge amounts of produce out of a little space. I am going t start basil and beets this week, the basil in a one gallon pot, the beets in a flat, they should be ready to transplant in early April.

Hope it warms up and rains more.

Go out and get your hands dirty

February Rant by Editor
February 5, 2011, 8:19 pm
Filed under: Flowers, Fruits, Natives, Perinnials, Vegetables

We were away from our garden for the month of January, travelling in SE Asia (more on that later), but the results of our fall work paid off. We came home to a garden full of lettuce of multiple varieties. The snow peas are in full fruit and I have straggler beets from my summer crop that I left in the ground to mature. I just boil these as a side dish (I pickle most of my beet crops). I still had a great crop of red and white onions. I have given up on weeding arugula out of the entire garden; I just let it grow in the paths, so I always have some. All in all a good start for a tossed salad.

Our trip to Vietnam and Cambodia was very instructive, a culture shock giving us insights into their history, our history and into a people who have been living off the soil in this area for thousands of years. The markets are an indicator of eating habits of the great majority the Vietnamese and Cambodian people. As much as I love the Vista Farmer’s market, it gets a 1 on a scale of 10 when you compare it to the street markets and the breadth of items available. These are very efficient gardeners, the country has not been corporatized in farming yet (yet!!!!) so we are talking about old style farming (Water Buffalo is the tool of choice!!). Everything is fresh every day. Imagine that here!

They transplant all of their seedlings, be it rice or lettuce, which means that they can optimize the space available. They can concentrate fertilizer and water on small areas to produce a tremendous amount of plants. Judging by what I saw, I would estimate that we are underutilizing our dedicated veggie garden space by a minimum of 50%! I am going to do this on my next crop of lettuce. The pictures I have here are obviously small commercial operations, but by the looks of it one 4’ x 4’ plot of lettuce could supply most of the neighborhood.

This is a last chance to spray Volck Oil on your fruit trees before they leaf out; I would recommend you get right on it. Every year that I have sprayed my 40 year old nectarine and other stone fruits, the results have been much more rewarding than years I just got lazy and didn’t spray.

One last aside, I remember when I was a kid in the ‘50s growing up in Oakland, my parents subscribed to Sunset Magazine. It was what was cool in Cal at the time. I started subscribing when we bought our first house, which was a mistake, because Kristine could always find something for me to do! Unfortunately, the magazine went into a decline. We received a promo offer last year, so I agreed to try it for $10 a year. It’s a little light and fluffy, but they have come back to presenting some good gardening tips. It seems to be worthwhile checking out.

December Rant by Editor
December 12, 2010, 7:29 pm
Filed under: Flowers, Fruits, Natives, Vegetables

I like to re read my posts from previous years. While the recommended veggies and flowers don’t change, the weather report does. We have had a weird fall for sure this year what with rain followed by moisture sapping Santa Ana’s and then cold just this side of freezing; its tough to be a gardener, let alone a plant.

I am still enjoying lettuce from my July crop, just ate the last cucumber and still have a killer diller crop of white and red onions. The summer cilantro has risen from the dead in a corner of the garden and the oregano and rosemary are great. These last two are mandatory for the winter soups and tomato sauces around here (made with pesto from our basil and frozen tomato sauce made in September and October). We are garnishing our salads with the tomatoes that we dried in the cheapo Ronco fruit dryer as well.

Last month I started lettuce and beets per the method described in last December’s missive. I have starters of both coming out of my ears and they love the cold. For some reason my peas are wimpy, maybe the seeds are too old – which I will try to remedy tomorrow.  I do have one note on the brussel sprouts-I get mine at Trader Joe’s, I know, a thousand Hail Marys, but they are good.

I have an interesting suggestion for a very special treat, passion fruit or purplegranadilla( and These are beautiful vines with dramatic flowers and the most wonderful fruits. We know these grow on Fire Mountain as we have living proof in the yard of friends just off Avocado. Be sure to read both articles and pay attention to the location and the potential size

It’s early to plant but not too early to think about.

Ciao and if you haven’t tried sweet peas, do it, they are beautiful and the aroma is so nice. For me they remind me of the barber shop I went to when I was a kid and the smell of the skin bracer the barbers applied to the “big boys and adults’.

Merry Christmas and please support animal rescue groups this holiday season.


May Rant by Editor
May 16, 2010, 3:52 am
Filed under: Cactus, Flowers, Fruits, Natives, Perinnials, Succulents, Vegetables

The wonderful late rains really made the garden a different place this year, the blooms came earlier and more frequently on just about everything.  We have only one Puya Raymondii this year and it just makes me so mad at the State Ag and whoever forced Eternal Hills to bulldoze

one of the most spectacular plant collections in North County in the name of returning the area to its native condition, I am sorry but I would much rather see 50 puyas in full bloom than rabbit ear cactus.  I can take solace in the magnificent epiphyllum bloom this year, the rain and the conditions produced several plants with over 30 buds and they are breaking loose now.

This is a great time to plant your tomatoes, basil, green onions, summer lettuce; they have been doing really well in my garden this year. As usual I recommend Green Thumb in San Marcos for Heirloom tomatoes; they have a pretty good selection. I personally have never been to tomato mania at Quail gardens as I think they do it too early here to successfully plant, but I know they have good stuff. I am on my second round of tomatoes, having lucked out in my planting just before the last cold snap. I have my first set too!

The beets have been outstanding this year, a great crop to grow and put up. As most of my good friends know, I have had a very successful turnip crop too. It was a mistake planting, so of course they grew perfectly. They are wonderful young (like radishes) but kinda hard to give away as adults. Don’t shy away from summer lettuce; it can work, with the addition of some frames with 50% shade cloth and lots of water.

Once again this year I am letting sections of the lawn (so beautiful in the rainy months) go dry and spending my water on veggies.

Don’t forget to thin your stone fruits; peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots should all be picked down to a couple of fruits per spur to ensure the branches don’t break and the fruits are sizable

Get out there weed, thin, mulch (very important this time of year) and plant.

April Showers Bring… Weeds?! by Editor
April 9, 2010, 12:46 am
Filed under: Flowers, Fruits, Natives, Perinnials, Vegetables

April so soon!

If your yard looks like mine, I imagine you will be spending a substantial amount of time weeding and re-weeding. I walk my dogs by our neighbors that replaced ground cover with succulents, rocks and gravel and feel a pang of jealousy. After the rain do yourself and your neighbors a favor and check all around your yard for standing water. The mosquitoes are out in force this year. I don’t know if Oceanside and Carlsbad have funds for vector control at the lagoon so we have to do our part in our yards. It appears that we may get only sporadic rain for the balance of this month, so tune up the sprinklers, check for leaks and set the timers fro just before dawn so the water has a chance to soak in before the sun hits it.

I am still rolling in lettuce and have been distributing it around the neighborhood. Really wonderful French varieties from seed that we brought back from a trip last year, which are also available on line, just type ‘French lettuce seed” in your search engine, there are lots of hits. This lettuce is so tasty you can eat it by itself. The snap peas were dug in yesterday. That’s a trick I learned from Mr. Ledgerwood himself. I dig slit trenches about a shovel wide and 12”-18” deep jamb the dead or mostly dead pea plants into the trenches, stomp them down and cover them with soil. It’s a great way to get nitrogen right back into the soil. It is always best to wait at least two weeks to plant seed over fresh compost as that gives the fly larvae that are  inevitably laid on the plants time to mature and leave, otherwise they will use your seed as a food source.

Well, it’s always fun to give advice, but so hard to take even your own. I was ambushed by Mother Nature this week and it is my own fault. What with the warm weather last week, I fell for the ‘it has to be spring’ story and went to Green Thumb in San Marcos. They had the best looking heirlooms, great looking hybrids and egg plants to die for. I broke my own rule and bought tomatoes

and put them in a fresh bed. The general rule is to plant tomatoes when the night time temperature stays in the mid ‘50s.  So what happen the last couple of nights- right back down in the ‘40s. Carumba!! I hope they will be ok.

Do check out the heirlooms, they present some weird and delicious fruit, but they are susceptible to more bugs and disease than the hybrids. I always have a couple of Early Girls, San Diego’s and Rutgers mixed.They produce dependable tomatoes every time.

March Rant by Editor
March 4, 2010, 4:20 am
Filed under: Cactus, Flowers, Fruits, Natives, Perinnials, Succulents, Vegetables

Love that rain! We haven’t watered for two months except for vegetable starters. I am sure since the residents of Oceanside are using less water this year, the City Water Department will have to raise our rates.  Never the less Fire Mountain looks great, everything is green and I do mean everything.  As soon as it dries out a little I will be filling all three of my green waste recycling containers with weeds.

This is somewhat of an in between month for planting, too soon for the killer tomatoes and a little late on the winter lettuce type crops.
We seek wisdom and guidance once again from the departed seed man of Carlsbad, Charles Ledgerwood, for our recommended March planting.

A little wisdom I’ll repeat from last year for the newcomers: Our area is most excellent for growing beans and this is a great time to start. We grow pole beans on bamboo that we cut in our yard.  I make a little mound of soil, hollow out a bowl in the center, stick four poles tilting away from each other in the ground and plant a sprouted bean near the bottom of each pole.  The dirt basin makes for easy watering and feeding. Having the poles angled makes the beans easy to find. You can tie the poles together with twine if one starts to lean too far out, from the weight of the crop. Potatoes grow particularly well here too and they are so easy. Let a couple of store bought potatoes grow ‘eyes’ in a dark drawer, quarter them and put directly in the ground or in a pot (we use 5 or 15 gallon nursery pots); when the foliage withers, carefully dig up the little spuds. We have tried to plant tomatoes in March and the results have been spotty. Unless the month is uniformly warm (this one obviously isn’t) the plants seem to stagnate and when it warms up the growth is unimpressive. We now hold out until mid April.

I am replanting all season lettuce; trying for one more crop of peas and watching the beets grow like Topsy. I have prepped one bed for late march Tomatoes. Be sure to check out Green Thimb in San Marcos for heirloom tomatoes and don’t forget TomatoMania at Quail Gardens March 20-21.