Friday, June 27, 2008

Late June in the Garden

I borrowed a camera, so I've finally got some shots to put in this blog!

Here is the view of the veggie garden as seen from its northeast corner:

The tall things on the left side in the back (not the trees) are the poles strung with string to be trellises for the peas and pole beans. The white thing is the row cover over the broccoli plants.

And here's the view from the north side, closer to the western edge:

The two beds this side of the covered broccoli are the potatoes and beans (good garden companions), followed by two beds of tomatoes. The three beds that are perpendicular to all the others (on the far right) have more tomatoes (farthest away) and then squash (too small to see in this image). The beds behind these, in the back of the photo, have the onions and corn, which will not be knee high by the 4th of July; I'll be lucky if it hits 6" by then.

And these are the first apples I've had on the Haralson apple tree. MAYBE they will make it through the season and be edible come fall!!!

Working our way around the yard, here are the "Weedless Gardening" beds I put in this spring. The one on the left is planted with a variety of sunflowers, while the one on the right has some Paul Robeson tomatoes, Red Reselection Celery (I'm not convinced it's actually growing), and then the rest of the bed is filled with buckwheat, oats and other plants for green manure and beneficial insects.

Rose Chafers - I am over-run with them! Here they are making short work of one of my grapes. This plant actually had buds for at least two, maybe three, bunches of grapes. I guess I can kiss them goodbye. And I had such high hopes - last year I only got one grape. Not one bunch of grapes, ONE GRAPE. I spent two evenings this last week out there with a jar of soapy water and a stick, knocking these insects into the jar to drown, but there are just too many for this hunt and pick method to work. If anyone has an "organic" solution to these pests, please let me know. The bluebirds apparently don't realize that these are available for eating! Maybe they taste bad?

Peas - lovely peas. These are, I believe, the Laxton's Progress #9 peas, although I have another variety that has started to bloom now, too.

And lastly, chives - wonderful companion plants that attract all sorts of great pollinators.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Attack of the Potato Bugs

Aye, it's true - the little orange eggs are Colorado Potato Beetles. I've now initiated a Daily Potato Beetle Patrol - turning over each tomato and potato plant (and there are an awful lot of them) in search of little orange eggs, and then squishing them. So far I've only found one adult, and it bit the dust, too.

Meanwhile, we've had a little rain the last couple of days, greatly needed. It's amazing to me how much difference the garden shows when it rains. Drip irrigation and watering with a garden hose just aren't the same as rain. They help, but rain must just come with all the right ingredients for plant growth. Could be cholorine that is in the town water is absent from the rain. Or it could be the nitrogens coming with the rain that is craved by the plants. Who knows. The bottom line is, rain makes plants grow.

Caught some corvids in my sunflower patch the other day - could explain the empty spots. Hm. So, I found one CD that was a mail advertisement for something and have tied it out there to scare them off. Don't know if one will make any difference, but at least it is a try.

I'm not too sure about the whole dried milk and epsom salt thing with tomatoes. I know some folks swear by it, but my tomatoes that got dosed are looking pretty sickly. Now, it could be that because I didn't know the correct proportions and just dumped the stuff in the holes when I planted the tomatoes, I may have put too much in and the plants are suffering from overdose. That could very well be it. I hope they recover. I may have to dig down and try to remove some of the stuff. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Return of the Potato Beetles

Over the weekend I found some tiny orange eggs on the underside of a tomato leaf. I left them there in hopes that they were eggs of some beneficial insect and therefore would be welcome in the garden.

WELL - it turns out that they are most likely Colorado Potato Beetle eggs! AUGH!!! I had these pests on my potatoes last year and there were too many to keep up with (picking them off and drowning them in a jar of soapy water).

Since tomatoes and potatoes are related, it isn't a surprise that the eggs are on the tomatoes. Still, I don't want them in the garden. Solutions? Some suggest spraying with a form of Bt that targets these pests, but the thing with Bt is that it really nails just about any larva, including those of beneficials and butterflies. So, we won't opt for that choice. It looks like I am going to have to go out daily and examine each plant (about 100 tomato plants and likely as many potato plants) and squish the eggs. Ick. The eggs hatch in about four days, so I guess I know what I will be doing this evening after work.

Things are Growin' in the Garden

I've picked my first (and second) lettuce - always a rush of excitement, this first harvest.

Three tomato plants now have blossoms. I'm pretty sure these are the Glaciers.

AND - my first peas now have blossoms as well!! I'd have to consult my map to be sure, but I believe these are the one's named Laxton's Progress #9.

Beans and potatoes are doing very well. Corn is up about 3" now. Squash and pumpkins are showing their first leaves, and the runner and pole beans will soon be climbing trellises.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Final Plantings... Maybe

There are days when it seems like it is full summer already, and then we are humbled by a frost warning. We had such a warning last Thursday, and I scrambled to cover things. Row covers, wool blankets, sheets, towels, tarp, rain poncho...everything was recruited. In the end, I don't think we got the frost, but I was ready, just in case.

The scramble was a direct result of stuff sprouting! Stuff that I had planted a mere five days earlier was already up: corn, beans and squash, cucumbers and pumpkins! It is hard to believe, but I think it was contributable to the summer-like weather.

Yesterday I came to the conclusion that it was time to get the final things planted. I grabbed the eggplants and peppers I'd started from seed and found places to tuck them into the garden. The eggplants are like radishes in my garden: sacrificial plants that are supposed to draw the undesired insects away from desired crops. Eggplants are supposedly good for attracting the Colorado potato beetles. My 'taters were covered with 'em last summer, so I thought I'd give it a try. Not that ten lowly eggplants will make much of a dent in the potato bug population, but it should make for an interesting experiment.

The lettuce and one or two spinach plants are almost ready for "baby greens" picking. This is very exciting. Most of the spinach I planted, however, didn't grow. Hm. I may have to replant, but later in the summer when I can count on it for a fall crop. And one of my tomato plants already has flowers! I suspect it is one of the Glaciers - a variety known for producing early (a real asset for us mountain-dwellers).

One of the beds of onions and leeks that I had started from seed this winter seems to be a complete failure. No great loss, though - four beds of onions and leeks is a bit much. Still, it would be nice for once to successfully grow them from seed. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I decided to not let the space go to waste (if such a thing is possible) and filled it with all the remaining seeds I had for beneficial insect plants (coriander, cumin, parsley, savory, buckwheat, red clover, fennel, dill, feverfew, chamomile, et al). We'll see what comes up.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Finding the Bright Side

I figure that everything must have a bright side. And these last few days, I've been trying to discover the bright side of these Guamish days. I think I've found the garden.

Yep - the heat and humidity have done wonders for the growth of garden plants! Two days ago I could just see the tops of a handful of the pole beans I planted a couple weeks ago; yesterday they were all up, 3-4" tall, and reaching for the trellis strings! Holy cats! The peas are now climbing the trellises; the potatoes are looking robust! Why, I wouldn't be surprised to see the squash and pumpkin seeds I planted three days ago sprouted and producing fruit when I get home tonight!

I bet if I put up a lawn chair and sat there and watched, I could actually see the hop vines growing. Maybe hops are our northern equivalent to kudzu (growth-wise, that is).

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It is Guaming Out

Years and years ago, when I was but a child (ages 2-3), we lived on Guam. My folks never liked it - hot and humid does not go over well in our family. Since then, however, whenever we have HHH weather (hazy, hot and humid), we have said "It is Guaming out." These last two days have been very Guamish. Ugh. The Adirondacks are just not supposed to be like Guam!

Still, at least now we can say it has warmed up! We've gotten some much-needed rain and heat, so things are sprouting. I bit the bullet and have planted the beans (something like 10 varieties, not including the pole beans which went in a couple weeks ago), corn (five varieties of sweet corn, four kinds of popcorn), and the squashes. I stuck the pumpkin seeds directly into the manure pile - I suspect part of the reason they did so poorly last year was lack of food. This should take care of that.

I had bought innoculant for the beans, but it seemed like such a hassle to use it, that I opted to just stick the seeds in the ground. Since last year a whole bed of beans vanished with nary a sprout (birds?), I decided to cover the plots this time with row covers until the seeds sprout.

I also put in an entire bed of sunflowers...if they grow (ran out of row covers, so I'm hoping the birds and squirrels don't discover it). The mammoth grey striped sunflowers did great last year, so I've planted a bunch of those in addition to some other varieties. I think I'm taking a chance this year, though, because they are in a bed next to the fence - easier access to hungry bears. Hm. We'll see what happens.

So, with the exception of the companion flowers, the garden is officially "in." I planted the nasturtiums yesterdy, and some of the cosmos and marigolds, as well as a few of the companion herbs, but I have a long way to go yet. It's just too Guamish to do it today, though.

On the tomato front: all but a handful of paste tomatoes have found a home! And I have about 100 plants in at my house. I may be going into the fresh tomato business this fall!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tilling, Tomatoes and Driplines

We finally got some sunny and warm weather, and some real rain, over the last four days. I took advantage of it to get some more gardening done.

First on the list: get the new beds made! I pulled off the plastic to find that the lawn had been mostly killed off, so armed with string, flour and the tiller, I attacked the patch and created five new beds. Flour? Yes. After measuring off the spaces for paths and garden beds, making them straight with string attached between two sticks, I mark the ground using flour. It's cheap, it's available, and it's biodigradable. Once my flour lines are on the ground, I can wind up the string and till away, no worries about string getting wrapped around the tiller tines, or my beds being crooked! So, I now have two more long beds and three short beds running perpendicular to the long beds (had to work around an apple tree, so these three beds have a different alignment).

After tilling, I got out my super duper square-ended spade (from Lee Valley Tools - the best garden purchase I've made to date) and cut the edges of the beds. I have found that the tiller really doesn't do much but maybe stir up the top inch or two of the lawn. A good shovel and a broadfork really prove to be the best for making the beds, in my opinion. This time, though, I opted not to use the broadfork - I'm trying multiple techniques this year. The old beds were all broadforked when made and again this year. The older new beds were broadforked this spring. Then there are the "Weedless Gardening" beds where the lawn was mowed, newspaper put down and manure and mulch piled on top. And finally, these last five beds: the soil from the edging piled on top of the "tilled" center bit, which, as stated above, really isn't tilled deeply. We shall see if any of these beds prove to be better than the others!

So, the lawn was tilled, the edges dug out and plopped on top of the "tilled" center, the clumps were broken up and raked into slightly mounded beds. About an inch of manure was spread on top and the whole thing sat for a couple days, resting.

The next chore: completing the drip irrigation system. My new lines and clips arrived, so in the heat and humidity of Friday my mom and I installed dripper lines. I had been using 12" drippers, but the new lines are 6" (this is the spacing between the drip holes). This is what Dripworks recommends for veg gardens (12" for flower beds), and I am thinking now that they are right. Still, we use what we have and now all the beds are equipped with water for the summer. I have the system set on a timer that has four settings per day, seven days a week. I have set it for 15 minutes of dripping each time. We'll see how that goes. Too much? Too little? We'll have to wait and see. Sure beats standing out there with the garden hose for over an hour every night after work!

Finally, the tomatoes. I have TONS of tomato plants. I was over ambitious this winter ordering seeds: they all sounded so interesting! As a result, I ended up with about 18 varieties of tomatoes (Paul Robeson, Black Prince, Rose, Siletz, Rose di Berne, Roma Paste, Grandma Mary Paste, Bellstar Paste, Blue Beech Paste, Dad's Sunset, German Lunchbox, Principe Borghese, Brandywine, Amish Paste, Cherokee Purple, and I can't recall the others). And when you plant from seed inside in the winter, you plant extra seeds because they might not all germinate, and those that do may not all survive. Long story short: I ended up with 150+ tomato plants! I have filled the two new long beds and one short bed with tomatoes! And I still have plants left over! If you are going to be in Newcomb anytime soon, and you want tomato plants, come see me!!!

All that remains now to be planted: beans, corn, squash, pumpkins, celery, herbs and companion plants, sunflowers. Space remaining: three long beds, two short beds, and the two "weedless gardening" beds.

Will it be enough?!?!? Stay tuned...