Wednesday, July 30, 2008

More Firsts

Plucked my first tomato of the season yesterday! It's not 100% ripe yet, but it came off the vine very easily and will be perfect in a day or two.

I also found, quite by accident, my first beans yesterday. I was picking peas and suddenly found a "pea" that didn't look right. It was too flat. Lo! and behold, it was a bean. Either very short pole beans or very tall bush beans. Regardless, a lot of them were ready for picking and so I did. There weren't enough to make a meal for me, so Toby got them with his stew beef last night.

I think the cauliflower is a lost cause. It started to produce heads last week, and I had high hopes, but they are looking very brown now and don't seem to be growing. The best of the bunch is covered with frass from the LGWs (little green worms), so that right there is a real turn off.

Harvested two more broccoli heads, though, and gave them a thorough soak in salt water last night. Maybe I'll blanch them tonight.

It also looks like the peas are starting to dwindle. Harvested enough for two more containers to freeze, and there are still plenty of pods on the vines, but unless we get some sunshine, I don't think I will be getting too many more harvests - the pods are not filling out.

And just when I was thinking the corn would never produce even tassels before our first frost, I found that one of the varieties (I think it is the Tom Thumb) is starting to get tassels - it is barely knee high. The garden never ceases to amaze.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Harvest Exapnds & Other Observations

First it was lettuce (I've actually stopped picking lettuce for a while - one can have too much of a good thing), and now it is peas. I've been filling bowls with peas from the vines every day for over a week now (even in the rain). While the pods fill the bowl to overflowing, the actual peas, once shelled, are fewer, but it has still been enough to put ten containers in the freezer so far! Another three or so may go in tonight after I get home and go over the vines again.

Yesterday also yielded the first real broccoli harvest. I picked one head about three weeks ago, but last night I harvested four. The variety I planted doesn't get massive heads, but it was enough to fill two bags for the freezer.

And let's just discuss for a moment here the whole "soak your broccoli in cold salt water for 30 minutes to remove the little green worms" strategy. It doesn't work. I filled the kettle with cold water, dumped in a fair quantity of salt, and added the broccoli. About an hour later I found about three LGWs floating in the water. I plucked out a head and started to look it over...LGWs were still clinging to it. I can't vouch for the amount of life they had left in them, but I don't think they were all deceased. So, I cut apart each head and looked over each floret carefully (removing LGWs) before putting it in a bowl for blanching afterwards. Make you wonder how the "big companies" remove the LGWs from their broccoli. HM.

The squash, pumpkins and cukes are growing well, thanks to all the rain. They are all starting to put out blossoms!

The runner beans are also blooming. I have found them disappointing. For some reason in my mind the flowers were much larger. Still, the colors are nice, and if the hummers can find them, they should be happy.

Purple flowers are appearing on the pole beans, although I'm not sure if the bush beans are blooming yet.

As I came up through Warrensburg this afternoon I saw corn already with tassels. corn is barely reaching knee high. I'm thinking I should've risked cool soil and planted it sooner. Too late now, of course, but something to consider for next year.

Also, note to self: don't mix up all the herb and beneficials seeds together and then plant with the buckwheat. Buckwheat grows faster and gets rather tall and dense - the other don't stand a chance. Might not want to plant the crimson clover with the buckwheat next year, either.

Sunflowers are doing great - some heads are already starting to form! I love it when they all burst into bloom! I was lucky last year and the bears were not a problem. The sunflowers are closer to the fence this year, though, so it should be interesting to see if the bears become a problem when the seedheads ripen.

The nasturtiums started blooming this last week. No cosmos yet, though, or marigolds. This is the difference between planting the seeds outside "after last frost" and staring the plants inside a month or more earlier. These flowers are planted as companions to the veggies, ostensibly as encouragement to pollinators, so I'm thinking next year we start them inside again; I should have plenty of room since I am giving up on starting onions and leeks from seeds.

Had the first monarch caterpillar of the season just before this last week of rain - it was munching on some butterflyweed (which does VERY well up here). It was pretty good-sized; I'd guess it was at least a week and a half old. It's the only one I've seen so far this year, though. Few monarchs overall this summer. And not a single red admiral butterfly! Hm. I wonder where they are.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Peas, Peas, Peas, Peas

Or, if you are in old England: Pease, Pease, Pease, Pease.

Yep, it's pea-harvesting time in the ol' garden. I must've picked four batches on Saturday (every time I went back out to dump empty pods into the compost, I found more that needed to be picked), and almost as many again yesterday after work! Lots more pods hang on the vines, and there are even some more flowers, which means even more pods as the summer progresses. The Laxton's Progress #9, however, seem to be about at the end of their production.

Pulled up several potato plants on Saturday. New potatoes are so tasty! Mostly, though, I pulled them up so that the onions could have more sun (and room). Hopefully this will help the onions grow bigger. My folks were up for the weekend so we made a potato salad from the harvest and I sent the rest home with them to enjoy...I have plenty more to come.

Broccoli is coming right along now, but there are no signs of any flowers on the cauliflower yet.

The tomatoes are starting to show signs of fruit, albeit small and green still. Maybe in a couple weeks there will be a tomato or two to pick.

The pumpkins have a blossom! As do some of the runner beans. It's hard to beat them for color! This must be where flourescent colors come from.

I borrowed Dad's camera to get some photos, so if they come out, I may have a few to publish here before too long.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dressing the Garden

I have a lot of books. Some folks would say I have too many books. There are those who ask if I've actually read all the books I own. The honest answer is no, but they are there just in case I want to. But most of them I have at least glanced through, with the exception of the really old books (many of which are poems by the likes of Byron) rescued from my grandparents' homes, and a good number of them I have even read in part.

So what does this have to do with gardening? Well, I have a goodly collection of gardening books, most of which are fairly new. When I get interested in a subject, I tend to read as much about it as I possibly can. Just to be sure I have all the information available, y'know. Still, this doesn't mean that I necessarily follow all the advise.

Take soil preparation in the garden. Every garden book worth its salt will tell you that the most important thing you can do for your garden, before you even get close to planting anything, is test the soil and then add soil amendments to make the soil the best it can possibly be for the plants you want to grow.

Add to this the fact that not every plant likes the same type of soil. Some prefer soil a bit more acidic, while others are piggies for nitrogen. Gardening and chemistry go hand in hand.

This can be a little overwhelming. Afterall, all you wanted to do was grow a few carrots and peas. So, it is easy to brush all this advice aside and just dig up the ground and throw in some seeds.

And yes, you might be lucky and your plants will grow. They may even produce flowers and food. BUT - will they have grown and produced to their fullest potential?

I discovered this last year. It was my first year with the veg garden. Space was limited. I had a great idea to save myself space and time: I would plant the pumpkins right in the lawn - when they grew (and we all know how pumpkins take over), they would cover the grass and I wouldn't have to mow! What a genius I was! It turned out to be a hot, dry summer, and even though I watered my piddling little pumpkin plants daily, they refused to grow. I had two or three flowers, but the plants never even reached the size of a dinner plate. You can forget any pumpkins.

So, this year I planted the pumpkins right in the manure pile. Pumpkins are what "they" call heavy feeders, which means they want a lot of nitrogen, and here we are a month and a half later and the leaves alone are larger than dinner plates! These pumpkins are happy plants. Lots of food and nitrogen right there at their root tips! The difference is amazing.

Last weekend I looked at the cukes and squashes that I planted in the garden. The same amount of time has passed for them as for the pumpkins, and the cukes were still just two leaves each, while the squash weren't doing much better. Hmm. I dug up a little manure and "dressed" the top of the soil around each plant. VOILA! Super Squash! Courageous Cucumbers! Well, it wasn't' quite that instantaneous, but the difference a little dressing of horse manure made is down right amazing!

And when the dripper hose company recommends drippers spaced 6" apart for veg gardens, and you try to save money by purchasing the 12" drippers in stead, thinking you will just wind them more closely together, you come to the conclusion that the company actually knew what it was talking about and next year you will order the 6" lines to replace the 12" lines you put in this year.

The moral of this story is, yes, you can do it yourself and try to figure things out on your own, or, you can save yourself some time, money and aggravation and actually follow the years and years of advice that other gardeners have put into print just for us!

The choice is yours, obviously. As for me, I may just start to read those books again and take some more of that advise to heart.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I am a Garden Geek

I have my first broccoli head! It is about 3-4" across and looks beautiful!!! Do I harvest now or wait for it to grow? Decisions, decisions!

Yes...I guess I've become a garden geek. I'm like the proud parent who wants to share all the potty training details with co-workers and friends. Not everyone is interested. Still, I figure that if someone is actually taking the time to read this blog, then that person is likely interested in gardening, too. So, I shall gush away about my growing produce!

Note for the Future: runner beans and pole beans do not have the repellent properties that bush beans have when it comes to companion planting with potatoes to control Colorado potato beetles. Stick with the bush beans. The potatoes that are with the runner and pole beans have been stripped of leaves and are covered with hundreds of CPB larvae! The other ones have some larvae, but nowhere near the same numbers. And the potatoes that volunteered themselves where I have onions planted this year are also sporting few CPB larvae. Onions seem to be the universal companion plant.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sharing the Harvest

We had a potluck dinner at work last night, so I raided the garden for part of my contribution.

Peas - I needed peas. Would there be enough to use? Sure enough - I picked and shelled close to two cups! And as I was palpating pods to be sure I only picked those that had large enough peas in them, I glanced around at the other varieties that hadn't produced pods yet - and they are loaded! Hundreds of pods dangled tantalizingly from their vines, only needing time, sunshine and rain to fill them out before I can add them to my larder! It's going to be a busy month once they start to ripen!

Radishes - I planted radishes this year mostly as sacrificial plants, but I know that there are people who enjoy eating them, so I pulled a few from the ground, hosed them off, and stuck them in a bowl for the radish-eaters.

Greens - someone else was bringing a salad, so I opted not to bring (more) greens (sigh - what a great opportunity to unload a few). Still, I've reached the overflow point with greens...will have to take the zucchini strategy and start leaving bags of greens on peoples' porches!!! Beware if you live nearby! The Stealth Salad Sneaker may be leaving a deposit at your door!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Veg Harvest Increases by 50%

The first peas of the season were picked and eaten on Friday. I had upwards of 20 pods, and a yield of almost an eighth of a cup of peas. Because there weren't enough to actually do anything with, and I'm not one who likes them raw, I let Toby enjoy them with his dinner that night. I, instead, enjoyed still more lettuce.

The spinach has started to bolt.

Little round green balls are growing away on the Glacier tomatoes, still, while about a quarter of the other tomato plants are now starting to bloom. I raided the garden supply shops on Friday in Glens Falls and stocked up on short stakes for tomato plants. Probably should've gotten the longer stakes, but we'll see how these do. Friday evening found me staking and tying about 80 tomato plants. Several needed another trimming, too, to remove secondary shoots and extra leaves.

The runner beans are starting to climb above the potatoes and are now seeking out their trellis strings.

I've been squishing CPB eggs, larvae and adults daily now. Just when you think you've gotten them all, you find a whole new batch have emerged.

Gray aphids have struck now, too. Not in the veggies, but in one of the flower beds. I discovered a couple plants simply coated with the things. At first I just removed infested parts out of the garden, but soon discovered that to be successful, I'd have to remove the entire plants. So, I found a squirt bottle, filled it with soapy water, and gave them all a bath. We'll see if that works.

Little cabbage whites (those pale white butterflies) have been fluttering around the broccoli and cauliflower. Hm...I may have to start little green worm patrols soon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Over-run with Lettuce

One day you are wondering if you planted enough lettuce, and the next you find yourself trying to give it away because there is more than you could possibly ever eat! And that's just the plants from the first planting!

The exciting news is that I now have pea pods! I suspect that by the end of the week I will be harvesting my first peas - huzzah!

A perusal of the garden last night also turned up potato beetle larvae! I've been squishing the eggs when I find them, but I've obviously missed some because there were the larvae - tiny little ones, larger blob-ish ones shedding their skins, and their frass all over the potato leaves. Those that I found are no more.

Meanwhile, leeks are not doing well at all. I thought that if I started them from sets that I would have better luck, but even these don't seem to be growing. Must be I just don't have the right conditions for leeks.