Sunday, August 19, 2018


Have you ever turned your back on your garden for a day and come back to total disorderliness?  What was trim and tidy is suddenly all damp and disheveled?

We've had a quarter inch of rain two mornings in a row, and yesterday, we took all day to go out and play.  I had a list of things I needed to get done today and when I did my morning walk through in the damp and fog it looked a little yucky and overwhelming.  The buckwheat bed I planned on cutting this weekend was beaten down by the rain and a real mess.  There were tomato branches to remove or tie up, and cucumbers to pick.  Lettuce to transplant.  Marigolds to deadhead.  It seemed like a lot.

The later reseeded bed of buckwheat is in full bloom, so I wanted to deal with the other one as it is going to seed.  Since that was the biggest ugliest project I did that first.

Before long it was all tidy again.  I pulled all of the plants, raked the bed, then chopped the tops back into the bed.  I put the tougher bottom stems and little root balls into the compost pile.  We'll see if that makes the task of tidying up a bed full of composting buckwheat a little quicker and easier.

The old cucumber vines are still healthy and putting out a fresh batch of blooms.  Some bumble bees have turned up and they are working on those.

The old vines are putting out huge straight cucumbers.

The new vines direct sowed the second weekend of July have produced their first cucumber.  I picked it today.  The vines are vigorous and full of blooms.  I just looked up the growing information, and the SV4719CS averages 56 days to maturity.  This one did it in under 35 days.  Not bad.  not bad at all!

 Pretty nice looking vines.  I'm sort of glad they took so long to start up.  I think we will have the longest cucumber season ever.

The old Blue Lake Bush Beans are putting out their second crop.

The new Gold Mine beans are full of flowers now.

The younger Lenny and Gracie heirloom plant is producing like mad.
The tomato plants in general are looking a little ragged.

I seeded two flats of lettuce.  I am using the strawberry bed for the fall lettuce again.  This will let me rest the big 8x8 bed where I usually put them after it's busy pickling cucumber season.

I obviously have a LOT of transplants to deal with.  I'm going to put some in 4"x 4" pots for later planting.  I am putting some in pots to bring into the cold frame.  I've got lettuce everywhere!

To keep the young lettuce cooler in the August weather I'm trying the 50% shade cloth.
The only thing I didn't get to today was wrapping up the dill crop and planting a cover crop in that bed.  But when I walked away the garden was again trim and tidy.

"Mooch" the semi-feral neighborhood cat says Hello.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Good the Bad and the Ugly 2018 -- Part 2

Bush Beans: This year has been a great year for bush beans.  I only bought Blue Lake 47.  I have planted some leftover Gold Mine bush beans.  I stayed away from the Purple Queen which has been my recent favorite because last year's late beans were tough and tasteless.  I don't know if it was the growing season or that packet of seeds.  But I'm not interested in a repeat right away.

I've always said if you are nice to your bean plants they will rally and give you a second season.  But I've never had any do this well.  I cleaned all of the beans off of the plants a week or more ago and this weekend noticed they are all putting out a second batch of flowers.

I've never seen a nicer row of bush beans.  I put worm castings around the tomatoes in the middle and the whole bed got Gardentone and Blood Meal and it looks like the bush beans took full advantage.  They look better now than they did early in the season.

This is the second row of Blue Lake.  They got worm castings and blood meal too and while the germination was spotty I now have a nice young row of beans just starting to flower.

These are the Gold Mine from leftover seed.  They were planted around the same time as the second planting of Blue Lake and they aren't doing much.  I think I will stop and get some more worm castings and see how that affects them.

Cantaloupes:  It looks like a good year for cantaloupes.  So far anyway.  I chose Hearts of Gold from Burpee.  These things were just so slow to take off.  I seeded them in the cold frame the first week of May.  Four weeks later they were still tiny and I had half as many plants as I'd wanted.  But I put them out anyway.

They looked like this for a long, long time.  No growth.

And then they took off.  I have 8 plants in there.  I have at least 16 melons growing and there are a few little ones started now that aren't in the official count.  These are a 90 day melon.  I don't know if I should start counting the day I sowed the seed or the day they decided to participate.  Several of the first melons are starting to develop a nice netting but it looks like it will still be a week or two before they start to slip. 

Carrots:  This is a great year for carrots.  I planted Sugarsnax back in April in large landscape pots full of potting mix.  It took a long time for any germination but now I have plenty of carrots whenever I want.  

Because they have such soft deep soil they have grown long and straight.  

You can see where this one has found the bottom of the pot and started off in another direction.

Potatoes:  These were an after thought this year.  I had some wrinkly, sprouted, spuds hanging about in the kitchen and I planted them rather than compost them.  There were a red variety and a russet.  I'm getting 6 to 8 smallish reds per plant.  Perfect for one meal for two people.  I haven't dug any of the russet, but the plants are gone so I'm going to have to look sooner or later

Ornamentals:  This year I came across a flat of the Strawberry Blonde Marigolds I've been admiring in catalogs so I bought a 6 pack.  They are supposed to be pastel shades.  I'm not sure I agree, but they are pretty.  The new blooms are deep terracotta and have a pinkish fade down to pale yellow when they are done.

Alaska Nasturtium:  It was a below average year for Nasturtium. They were nothing special but did OK.  Some years I have billowy mounds of beautiful plants.  Not this year

Sept 7, 2010  Mounds of Nasturtium
Black Cherry Supertunias and Silver Wave Petunias
This year I spent a lot of time on the Proven Winners website planning my planter combinations.
They did pretty well.  I have 5 large planters, and one I just filled with Marigolds.

Vista Silverberry, Vista Bubble Gun, Vista Fuschia
The combination planters take a fair bit of maintenance.  The only one that is maintenance free is the Vista Series Petunias up front.

I'm enjoying my zinnias very much.  The Dinner Plate Dahlias have juuuuuust started to bloom this week.

Cercis the Rising Sun Red Bud
I am really enjoying my Rising Sun Red Bud tree.  I've wanted one for several years.  This is the one I plopped into a pot of compost.  The other one I planted into the landscape and it is still basically a stick with small leaves.  I'm still not sure where this beauty is going to end up, but if the other one does not survive the winter I am replacing it with a Japanese Willow.

On the failure note.  I planted a lot of Vanilla and Yellow Inca II Dwarf marigolds around the landscape.  The Vanillas have done fine, but the Inca II got replaced early on with Hero Mix and have spent the remainder of the summer in sick bay where they continue to put out too large a bloom and break themselves down to the base.  I've decided not even to put them out for fall and will probably compost them this week.  If I can find the old standard Incas in transplants I might try again, but these dwarfs are no good for me.

Critters:  This has been a good year for critters.  The honey bees found my buckwheat and came in droves.  We have had a lot of butterflies, but almost no bumble bees.  The bumbles were present for the flowering of the horse chestnut tree, but I've barely seen one since.  They like to sleep on the marigolds over night so I always expect to see them in the mornings, but they're not here.

I planted a lot of dill, parsley and carrot, but only found this one black swallowtail caterpillar.  I've seen the butterflies around though.  And more Monarchs than usual.

The other day as I was walking back past the garden I noticed a little lump in the gravel.  It was a young mourning dove.  At first I thought it was injured them I remembered I had walked over that exact spot not five minutes earlier.  I looked around, and there was a second one.  They got nervous about the close scrutiny and eventually scurried off.  They've been here for days.  At one point I wondered if they were just too dumb to fly out of there, but that isn't the case.  They can both fly just fine and there are other doves in the trees next to the garden, but these two wind up right back in the garden.  I can get within a few feet of them, especially if they are roosting on the fence.

This isn't the first pair of doves I've had living in the garden.  Around 2012 I had a pair who for several days in a row pulled a dozen or so of my little white onion sets and made a nest out of them.  Apparently they thought half their work was done.  Not the smartest birds.

And finally Cover Crops.  This is the second time I've tried cover crops.  Previously I did red clover and I wouldn't recommend it for beds because the root system is impossible to dig out.  Buckwheat is great.  Its fast growing.  Can easily be pulled up.  And it draws a lot of pollinators.  In fact, I left my beds too long, and after I cut them down they reseeded thicker than before.  No problem though.  I just rake in the young plants.

Now when you first cut the plants down it looks like a real mess.  A jumble of stems.  Especially  if you let them grow to full height.  But not to worry.  If you leave it a few weeks until all of the leaves have dried and are breaking up, you can rake through and remove the worst of the woody stems, which can go in the compost pile.  After a couple of rakings, you get a nice smooth bed again with plenty of organic material still working in them.  Once they get to this point, I'm raking them every time the volunteer seedling get to about 4 inches high.  In fact they grow so fast, I'm using up my extra seed and not letting it go to bloom, but just raking it in each week.

So that is the mid-year synopsis.  Overall very good with no extreme failures.  The weather has been hot, cool, wet and dry by turns.  I've only seen one cucumber beetle, very few flea beetles and no squash bugs.  But you know, if nothing is munching on your garden then you're not part of the ecosystem.  Powdery Mildew has yet to show up.  I've learned the magical benefits of worm castings.  I'm enjoying farming buckwheat in my resting beds.  We've got a pantry full of pickles, and all we could want to eat of our favorite fresh veggies.  The fall lettuce is seeded and the garden goes on...

Monday, August 13, 2018

Today's Cucumbers

As previously mentioned, half of one row of my cucumbers didn't germinate well, came down with anthracnose early on and were pulled out last week. The other end of the row which remains is doing this....

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Good the Bad and the Ugly 2018 -- Part 1

This year's report needs two parts.  I've found these posts really useful for going back over and comparing season to season.  I really meant to plant less stuff, but it seems like I ended up with a whole lot going on.  These are the crops I chose to plant this year:

Green Beans
Cutting Flowers
Cover Crops (Buckwheat)

I think I've gotten pretty good at planting the right amount for us to use and store and I've got my succession planting down pat so that we have our favorites for the longest time period possible.

Lettuce:  It was an average year for lettuce.  I under planted this year.  I did not have one huge, gorgeous, lush bed full of way too much lettuce.  Instead I had three separate plantings of single rows in different beds.  I picked as much as I could store just before it bolted at the end of our hot hot June and we ate lettuce until the third week of July.  It was not amazing but it was useful.

Strawberries:  It was a bad year for strawberries, as it turned out.  I really thought I had these all figured out.  Until I lost them.  I'm tired of strawberries.  They require year 'round supervision and I don't really love strawberries anyway.  Next year I'm just going to have some potted plants.  That's about how many berries I really want.

Peas: It was an average year for peas.  I did a detailed post on the peas HERE
March and April were cold and miserable.  I planted the first row on Good Friday.  They took three weeks to come up and got snowed on at least once.

One of the second planting rows, the Burpeanna, can be considered a failure.

Penelope Pea
The other second planting row, the Penelope Peas from Johnny's seed were a success.

The first nice Barlow Jap
Tomatoes:  It is a very good year for tomatoes.  This year the purpose for the tomatoes was to replenish my stock of Barlow Jap seeds.  I haven't saved seeds for several years and even though they still have a great germination rate, I know I need to get a fresh batch put away.  I started seeds the  3rd of April and I transplanted the weekend before Memorial Day.  The plants had been put into gallon pots and had been living in the cold frame for three weeks.  They were about a foot tall when they went into the garden.

Blue Beauty Tomatoes
As always I ended up with more plants than I needed.  I did destroy a few spares this year but I also put three extra plants in the bush bean bed.  In the past I've tried planting the bush beans flanking the tomato row.  This doesn't always work out well for the beans.  With only three plants though, there wasn't too much shading or water competition and everything went well.

Lenny and Gracie's Kentucky Heirloom
A couple of years ago I planted all Kentucky Heirlooms.  One variety I chose was Lenny and Gracie's Yellow Kentucky Heirloom.  The seeds didn't do well, the transplants were sluggish and they never got as far as the garden.  I tried them again this year from the same seed packet and had great luck.  This is a lovely little beefsteak.  Low acid, with a delicate sweetness.  They are a little tender and accident prone though.  Best picked a day or two before full ripeness and coddled in the house.  Otherwise they can bruise themselves against their own stems.  They are such a pale yellow that by the time you decide they are fully ripe you are a day too late.

My tomatoes plants have not gotten any significant blight yet and Gracie is at least 8 feet tall.  All of the plants have begun a second round of blooms.  If frost is late this year I may have a second late crop.

The Pickle Bed
Cucumbers:  This was a good year for cucumbers.  I planned to make several batches of pickles and relish.  I chose Burpee's Supremo Hybrid for pickling and also planted a pack of jumbo Dill.  It all worked out as planned.  The pickle bed thrived and I picked a hydrator full three weeks in a row.  Each Sunday we made a batch, dill slices, bread and butter slices and sweet pickle relish

I'm still getting a few cucumbers off of the vines but they look like heck.  Tomorrow I plan to make a few quarts of sweet dill spears and then the vines are coming out.

Last year I did two rows of  Johnny's SV4719CS slicing cukes.
They were awesome!  It was a tough act to follow.  This spring cucurbits were very sluggish to germinate.  Instead of having a dozen nice transplants I had two and I direct sowed the rest of the row.  

The direct sowed plants never really took off.  They got anthracnose early on and didn't produce much.  I pulled them out last week.

This leaves me with three or four really nice plants at the one end of the row and I really can't complain about their production.  They are putting out a few large, straight cucumbers each week.  And I don't need extras for pickles, because I've got that covered.  So we're getting by.

...come on
The second weekend in July I seeded the second row of SV4719CS.  Again the sluggish germination and waiting.  The next weekend I filled in the spaces with more seeds and again the wait.

I also planted a second row of bush beans at the same time with similar results.  I did everything I could think of to get a great second crop of cucumbers.  I added blood meal and worm castings.  Finally...

Terrific growth in both the cucumbers and bush beans.

Next year I think I ought to get a 50# bag of those worm castings!  Not only do I have vigorous deep green growth with huge leaves on both the cucumbers and bush beans. The first cuke plant to come up has two female flowers and you'd better bet I made sure those were pollinated!  I was out there this morning with my paint brush making sure...

Next Post - what's going on with Bush Beans, Cantaloupes, Carrots, Cover Crops, Critters and other Odds and Ends.