Sneak Peek Garden Visit: an inspiring front yard harvest in northern California

Kerry's Spring HarvestWhile my dear friend Kerry was away on vacation, I looked after her beautiful garden and in return, I enjoyed a springtime harvest of fresh broccoli, fava beans, lacinato kale, peas and cauliflower. Honestly, I think I have the better end of this deal: delicious homegrown organic vegetables in exchange for a wee bit of work (watching for aphids). Sign. Me. Up. This is pure bliss!

Kerry's Pea BlossomsAren’t these delicate pea blossoms lovely?

Kerry's Peas 3

Here in northern California, mild winters make it possible to grow a host of edibles all year round. In addition to growing a wide range of vegetables in her front yard, Kerry and her husband Fred also grow strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, Meyer lemons, apricots, pluots, peaches, passion fruit, figs and several varieties of apples – all in their small, but sunny Palo Alto backyard.

Kerry's Moorpark Apricot Tree

These developing Moorpark Apricots will be ready to harvest in June. 

While Kerry and I are both advocates of growing food rather than lawns, she is far more experienced and successful. Ever since we first met (via a plant ad on Craigslist!), I’ve admired her and her beautiful garden, and every time I visit, I learn something new.

Kerry's BroccoliWhen the weather turns warmer, Kerry will replace the broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage with sweet corn and Australian blue pumpkins – all grown from seed.

Kerry's cauliflowerKerry grows the bulk of her vegetables in beautiful raised beds of staggered heights that she designed to complement their Mediterranean style home. The automatic drip irrigation system (that she installed herself) conserves water and prevents weed growth.

Kerry & Fred's Front Yard 1

Following the wise advice of edible landscape guru Rosalind Creasy, Kerry layers her vegetables between a host of colorful ornamentals. Much to my delight, there isn’t a single blade of grass in Kerry’s front yard. Rather than complain, Kerry’s neighbors describe her has an “inspiration.” I couldn’t agree more.

Kerry & Fred's front yard 3

 Kale, peas and fava beans grow behind colorful drifts of nasturtiums and …

Kerry's poppies

self-sowing California poppies.

Kerry's Fava Beans

Fava beans (Vicia faba), my favorite spring time vegetable, planted with fragrant freesias.

Kerry & Fred's front yard 2

When grown in front of a porch, Fava beans provide privacy as well as food. In the foreground, Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha) and Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) display new spring growth; by summer they’ll measure three feet tall and wide and will be covered in purple flowers.

Kerry's Favas with ant

– Fava bean blossoms –

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and would like to see more of Kerry and Fred’s inspiring Palo Alto garden (as well as other local gardens), learn more about growing your own food and get great ideas for your own garden, I encourage you to register for and attend Common Ground’s upcoming 8th Annual Edible Landscaping Tour to be held on Saturday, July 19th, 2014 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Tickets are $35 per person and all funds raised benefit the Common Ground Organic Garden Supply and Education Center in Palo Alto, California. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

Kerry's KaleLacinato kale harvested from Kerry’s front yard was put to use in my favorite winter “rainbow” salad and added as a garnish to homemade chicken soup. De-lish!

Winter Rainbow Raw Kale Salad

Combine chopped lacinato kale, the juice of one Meyer lemon (or one orange), a splash of Meyer lemon infused olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, salt and freshly cracked black pepper in a large bowl and toss well. Massage the kale and let marinate at room temperature one hour before serving. Add thinly sliced red cabbage, peeled segments of pink grapefruit (or oranges), sunflower seeds as well as roasted, peeled and quartered beets. Thinly sliced red onion is also a good in this salad. Rainbow swiss chard can be substituted for kale, but won’t need to be massaged. Enjoy!

Tomato Harvest 2013 Totals

Featured

first Paul Robeson tomato harvest

June 20, 2013

Tomato Harvest 7-25-2013

July 25, 2013

Tomato Harvest 8-1-2013

August 1, 2013

Tomato Harvest 8-4-2013

August 4, 2013

Tomato Harvest 8-12-2013

August 12, 2013

Tomato Harvest 8-17-2013

August 17, 2013

Tomato Harvest 8-22-2013

August 22, 2013

Tomato Harvest 8-31-2013

August 31, 2013

Tomato Harvest 9-1-2013

September 1, 2013

Tomato Harvest 9-7-2013

September 7, 2013

Tomato Harvest 9-13-2013

September 13, 2013

Tomato Harvest 9-17-2013

September 17, 2013

Tomato Harvest 9-25-2013

September 25, 2013

Tomato Harvest 9-26-2013

September 26, 2013

Tomato Harvest 10-7-1013

October 7, 2013

Tomato Harvest 10-9-2013

October 9, 2013

Our tomato harvest is just about finished so I’ve decided to start tallying the results …

Tomato Harvest 2013 TallyCan you believe it? 258 tomatoes! All that from a few plants, a good dose of sunshine, a simple little drip irrigation system, three bags of composted chicken manure, some fish heads, a dozen crushed egg shells, earthworm castings and an occasional blast of neem oil. Our two best plants – both purchased as seedlings in two inch pots from Love Apple Farms on March 21st and immediately transplanted into gallon pots before being planted in the ground on May 4th – produced over 245 tomatoes this summer! Two plants: 245 tomatoes! Amazing isn’t it? And that doesn’t even include the losses we suffered from pests like this:

Hornworms on Paul RobesonA serious infestation of voracious hornworms ruined over a dozen tomatoes on each plant!

Hornworm in action 2We didn’t think the plants would survive, but much to our amazement, they bounced right back and have kept on producing. As of today, these two plants still have 39 tomatoes ripening on the vine and at least a dozen flowers apiece.

And don’t forget all of those countless handfuls and bowls of beautiful, delicious cherry tomatoes … they were a mix of Sun Golds and Sweet 100s produced by just two plants.

Finally, my favorite tomatoes this summer (based strictly upon taste) were Paul Robeson (delicious on sandwiches!) and the Sun Gold cherries – I’ll definitely be planting them both again next year. What was your favorite / best producing tomato plant was this summer?

To see my results from last summer, read my Farewell to Summer post.