Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Leaves. Beginning mid-October and until mid-November, leaves occupy every weekend. If I am not at the arboreteum, hitting the trails, I'm in the yard, dealing with the endless leaves.
Once upon a time we used to bag them whole and put them by the curb and pay to have someone take them away. That got pricey. We have 35+ trees on our lot and we were spending big bucks having them hauled away. That practice morphed into leaf chopping. We would spend the entire weekend blowing all the leaves into the driveway into a huge mound and then spend a couple of hours going over them with a lawn mower to chop them into fine particles. This created a new problem, ridiculously heavy bags. The picker upper people refused to pick them up. The light bulb moment came when a woman at my husband's work offered to take them all off our hands every year forever...for her garden.
Before this time, my relationship with leave clean-up was not positive. Once we blew it off, got a week straight of rain and went out to find an completely dead and rotting lawn. I resented having to spend the last great weather weekends with this chore. That was before I knew the magic of leaf mold.
Now things are very different. I have kids that are old enough to really help and young enough to still respond to bribes. Judicious pruning has reduced the overall amount of leaves we have to deal with, but most importantly, I have tasted the magic that leaf mold does for the soil. We are probably 3/4 done with it for this year. This was the easiest year yet. Instead of blowing 100% of them into the driveway, I blew a bunch of them into the beds and just chopped them to smithereens there. From the driveway I still have 14 full bags of very fine mulch to spread around but I'm not giving any away. This stuff is gold!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Many of my tomatoes are done now. I had another huge harvest of 30+# of tomatoes a couple of days ago, before the storm and have continued to average 5-10 fruit a day. Really remarkable year. I definitely am putting down the composted horse poop again. I'm not sure if it is what has made such a huge difference for me with the peppers and tomatoes this year or if was just a better choice of heirloms but I'm not taking chances. Poop hauling is not fun, but it's so worth it.
Disease has come with the cool rains that started this week and Sungold, Dr. Carolyn, Cherokee Purple, and Amish Paste are all toast. It happened overnight but it's OK, they were declining anyway. Cosmonaut Volkov is still healthy but production is waning. San Marzano and Carbon are still blooming their little hearts out. They were all knocked down to half their height in a major storm we had this week though. They bent and didn't break, so I've propped them up in the hope the remaining fruits will ripen. I probably have another 30 tomatoes still out there. If not, that's OK. It's been a great year. I don't wanna be greed.
Monday, September 7, 2009
The summer of weirdness continues. I'm sorry I've been slacking on the blog. We got busy with school starting and oddly, there was not that much to report. Typically by this time of year I've started to see some decline in the plants by now. Not this year, things are looking as green and lush as they did a month ago. The tomatoes are even still throwing more blooms which his weird. I'm starting to get a little antsy for some change here. While I love all the produce, I really need to start prepping some of the beds soon. Once the manure pile at the stables freeze, I can't do anything and we can go from balmy to badness overnight here.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Chocolate Stripes has mannerisms consistent with royalty. She makes you wait, being the latest to ripen of my varieties. She is strong and has resisted all of the bits of illness that have touched other varieties this year. Her taste is something special, sweet rich and complex. She was not a sure thing, she needed some coddling to get her off and running. She, like Persimmon are definitely fans of warmth. The cool, wet weather we had for the most of the summer made her sulk. I'm saving the seeds from this big girl in the photo as well as regrowing some of my seeds from this year, next year. This late in the year when I'm hauling in 15-20 slicers a day, pretty little girls like this are wonderful for keeping my interest up.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Earlier this year, I read about the ability to grow potatoes in relatively smallish containers. There were special ones that could be bought for this in Britain, but I decided to try and make one of my own. I made it out of landscape fabic in about 15 minutes via sewing machine.
This was my first attempt at growing potatoes. I selected a variety that went with this year's garden theme of weird veggies. The purple potato. Planting was nothing fancy. Four little purple potatoes seedlings planted in potting soil and a bit of straw. As summer progressed, and the potato vines grew I added more dirt to the container and slowly unrolled the sides to their full height. The container after that was essentially maintenance free. No water demands to speak of other than the rain. (Though we did have a very wet spring/summer).
My initial plan was to cut slits in the side of the sack and plant annuals in it to make the whole thing more attractive. I never got around to it, but it wasn't needed. The plant for this variety of potato was quite pretty and lush enough to cover the bag almost completely until last week. Last week, half the plant died without ever blooming.
I decided to empty it all out today to see what I got. Potatoes! Not a ton of them but considering what a small space they grew in, I'd say not too bad. They look kind of weird here because I just washed them and they are still half wet. We're going to grill them tomorrow.
My verdict on this experiment? A success! Pretty plant, small space, no cost, no maintenance and a meal of potatoes once foliage dies. Yep, I'll take it. Plus there was not one bit of bug damage to a single spud despite a big family of little ants that moved in.
The live portion of the plant still had a bunch of baby spuds on them so I replanted it to see if I can get a few more out of it. I'll do this again next year. I'm tempted to see what happens with one of the highly productive varieties, but the kids love the purple ones so much, we'll see.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
There were a couple of nice surprises when I returned. For one thing, the rain finally slowed down so we didn't immediately have to start the task of mowing a foot of lawn. It can wait until the weekend! Another surprise was in the cuke/melon bed. Lemon cuke exploded in both growth of vines and number of cukes. I harvested one for a picture and can go out any time and pick about four more, there are easily two dozen cukes on this plant right now. I'll definitely grow this again.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Dragon's Egg cucumber is a smaller plant than Lemon Yellow which is possibly related to being in less sun. Regardless, it is a bit farther along. Definite baby dragon's eggs on this one. It had some help in the pollination department. It's looking a little pale here. Looks like it's getting some worm tea for dinner tomorrow.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
My first recipe comes from Jen, a forum friend. It's simple! Chop a bowl of tomatoes, sprinkle with a decent amount of kosher salt and let it sit for 5-10 minutes. Drain the bowl most of the way and add chopped cilantro, lime juice, a seeded chopped jalapeno, and chopped red onion. It's fantastically fresh tasting and
Friday, July 24, 2009
My pole beans which have been in the ground three+ months now have done something. Now there is nothing robust or rambunctious about the tiny little tendril they sent up to wind around the poles. It is quite pathetic actually. Perhaps I should be calling them petite haricot vertsto be more accurate with the way they are behaving. Nevertheless a bit of wimpy growth is better than stagnation, so I at this point I will take it and rejoice!
Progress in the circle garden has been more substantial. I had Spazzy McDrool do a bit of posing here for scale. This mass of green stuff is as follows: Basil , chives, and annuals in the foreground, peppers behind that, zinnia and perennials behind that, tomatoes next and then behind that eggplant, more basil and annuals again. At this point any symmetry has been lost by the not so attractive staking and clotheslines between the trees hold up the tomato plants. Not caring at this point, just eating. A lot!
The back corner is still looking pretty good. A Bambi flattened all the onions and beheaded a few chard but so far no depressing damage from varmints or pests. This bed has required next to zero attention the last couple of weeks other than tomato picking and yanking a rare weed. I'm kicking myself that I never used cocoa bean mulch back here before. What a huge difference in weeding. It's great!
Here's a closer look at the same bed. The geraniums are looking kind of tired and I should have squished the dead allium stems down a bit better in the back before taking a picture, but all in all things aren't looking too bad for this time of year!
Finally an update on this years problem child. On June 13, I granted the refusing to grow Persimmon tomato a stay of execution and gave it one more chance in a container on that patio. Here's a pic. Persimmon responds well to threats. It's growing all over the place and is now loaded with tomatoes that are sizing up very quickly. The peppers in this container are doing well too. Their peppers are twice the size of those in the circle garden on half the size plants. This container averages temperatures of about 90 degrees on most days and it seems that was just what the doctor ordered for Ms. Persimmon.
Have a good weekend everyone. Wishing you good gardening, pleasant hammock swinging or at least no hail!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
RED. Whether two legged, four legged or six legged, red gets attention. That's why this time of year, I take measures to minimize how much of it is visible. My tomatoes are ripening by the droves now. However, I don't allow them to become fully red on the vine.
It's been my experience that the fruits on my vines tend to remain untouched while they are green, peachy, or orange. The day they turn red though, you can expect chunks out of them from squirrels, holes in them from bugs and total disappearance of them from the neighbor's landscapers who spot them and respond to the call of their juicy goodness.
It is said that the best tasting tomato is one that is allowed to become fully ripe on the vine. Thankfully, my palate is not refined enough to notice any difference in the slicers from one that is allowed to ripen on the vine and one that ripens on the safety of the kitchen counter. Cherries are different for me. I do let them get fully ripe on the vine because I notice a difference in those that don't . I am also less sad if I loose one of them to a bug or a chipmunk.
When I pick the slicers is dependent on a few variables. Typically, I like to pick them when they are starting to orange up. If it is a treasured variety that is not that productive and I only have a few of, I might pick it a bit sooner to assure at least a one makes it in my belly. Something like Matina that is loaded and being picked at the rate of six or seven a day is allowed to go longer. I pick a bit earlier if I will be out of town for a week and not able to keep on top of it. I pick a bit later if they seem to be ripening up slower on the counter. It varies.
Avoiding big balls of red in the garden this time of year allows me to have tomatoes without worm holes and I avoid the feeling of dismay that comes from arriving home and seeing a six inch cherokee purple laying on the ground half eaten with flies on it. The slight flavor trade-off isn't for some, but it sure works great for me!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
There are as many suggestions for dealing with this pest as there are weeds in the garden. One that is particularly popular is baiting. Homemade or store bought baits are placed in the garden to catch and kill the beetles. Photos show some pretty impressive (and disgusting) numbers of beetles in these traps. I have no doubt, they are an effective means to catch beetles. Still, I don't bait.
My theory is that beetle traps can actually make the situation much worse by luring even more beetles onto your property. Instead, my method is simple. Catch em. The kiddos can be enlisted for this task. Current going price on a beetle head is a dime. They were a nickle on the first day they hatched due to large quantity. When we catch them, we stick them in a bug hotel with stuff to munch on, because we are dorks and feel bad squishing them. OK sometimes we also feed them to the toads. Most of them go in the bug hotel though.
Japanese beetles don't bite, but they feel creepy when you catch them. They have claws on their feet that don't hurt at all, but you definitely know you have a beetle in your hand. There are a couple of tricks to catching them. Early morning or late evening are the easiest, because when they are cold, they are less likely to fly. These beetles have a trick where they roll on their side and off whatever they are hanging onto. If they are on a huge tomato, good luck finding them once they roll off. That's why when I go to nab on, I place one hand under the leaf and then go to grab it. Most of the time they roll right into my hands. It's handy to have your container right there because once they unfurl their legs from the rolling, it feels ICK!
Friday, July 17, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
First Persimmon: Got a late start, loaded with fat healthy buds in the container, just beginning to fruit.
Matina: Beginning to ripen. Has an open habit. Has some blossom end rot off and on, likely related to high temperatures on the patio. Loaded with fruit, non-buggy and very symetrical.
Cosmonaut Volkov: Plant is on the shorter side, about four feet, but it is really loaded down with fruit, several appear to be close to pinking up.
Dr. Carolyn: Not as much fruit or height as Sungold, but still has lots of clusters. Individual tomatoes are larger than Sungold, no ripening yet. Loaded with blossoms now. Had some BER when it dried out during vacation.
Carbon: Not a ton of fruit or blossoms. Has a bit of bacterial leafspot in the leaves. This is my only fruit so far that appears to have something nipping at it.
Amish Paste: Multiple plants at various stages of growth. These are the largest fruit so far. Lots of buds, growth has been massive the last week of foliage.
San Marzano: Each plant is loaded with these clusters of fruit. Still lots of blossoms. I should be harvesting this for weeks to come. Plants are huge.
Sungold: Ripening and still making buds. Stint of BER was only a couple of days. These tomatoes taste way better if allowed to get very ripe on the vine. The plant is loaded with clusters of fruit. I counted one cluster with 15 tomatoes on it! None of these tomatoes have made it into the house yet. They are getting eaten like candy by us in the garden.