Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Lot'O PotatO

The potato bed is beginning to look disheveled, but it is full of potatoes.
 I decided today I would make some potato salad out of the new potatoes with the perfect, flawless skin.  All I have to do is reach into the soil and pull out as many large potatoes as I want.  They're HUGE.  Bigger than my fist.

Of course this got me feeling guilty about the 7 or 8 pounds of wrinkly sprouty ones I still have from last year.  We just don't use a lot of them in the summer.  But they can't wait much longer,,,,  So I decided to try freezing some.  

These won't win any beauty pageants but they are still useful.

The baby tubers on these roots look like jewelry.

I removed the sprouts and gave them a good scrub.  If you are freezing it is best to have the cutting done before you freeze so you are not handling the thawed product anymore than necessary.  I decided on steak fries although home fries for breakfast would work well too.

I blanched them for a little over a minute and then put them right away into an ice bath.

After they were cool I drained them and spread them on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer to flash freeze.  I now have a gallon bag of steak fries ready to use.  I'm sure, like most things, the sooner I use them the better they will turn out.

There are a lot of other things ready to eat in the garden.  The bush beans are ready to pick which is good because I've just about had enough of shelling peas.  The pea plants just won't quit.  I was expecting to have them all pulled out a week or two ago, but the last three rows just keep producing.   I have plenty in the freezer and we're eating them as often as we like.

I will pull at least one row of peas by the end of this week and put in three more rows of bush beans.

The Blue Beauty tomato is showing off it's unique coloring.  It is way more than blue.  The deep purple shoulders are spreading so that as it ripens the entire fruit is becoming deep purple.

We have lots of cantaloupes growing,

And I have seen at least half a dozen watermelon babies.  This one is masquerading as a lime.

We have been enjoying the early cucumbers one at a time but soon will have enough ripe at ones to make pickles.

I finally have eggplants making a show.  Each plant has one set.  A couple set in June but then dropped off in the cool damp weather.  It will be well into August before I have any eggplants ready.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Too Good to be True?

Last year's incursion of cucumber beetles was an absolute trial on my patience.  This year I've seen exactly three.  Three.  It was the third week of June on the cantaloupe blossoms.  I killed them.  And that was all.  I haven't seen one since.

In 2012 it was the flea beetles.  This year they are present but not extreme.  2011's plague was the Japanese Beetles.  This year they have arrived 2 weeks late and so far, have been moderate.  In 2010 it was the slugs.  This year I've seen, and destroyed..... two.

To what do we owe this much needed breather?  This year the asparagus beetles were a challenge, but the other pests are in abeyance.  Was it the extreme hard winter?  Years of diligent destruction?  Some magical combination of companion planting and soil management?  Was it the addition of beneficial nematodes and Milky Spore?  All of the above?

Garden happenings this week:

I have had just about enough of picking peas, and am looking forward to bush beans.
I have counted 20 cantaloupes larger than a kiwi.

The zucchini have already gotten away from me.  I've only eaten one.  The rest I've given to my mother who feeds them to my baby niece.   That's one little girl who loves her veggies.   The Dunja plants are large and beautiful.

The black beans are almost as high as my hip and beginning to bloom

the cucumbers are just about ready to eat
and I am anxiously awaiting the first Blue Beauty tomato.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Cluster of Cantaloupes

The melon patch is looking like a success.  I've found a cluster o' cantaloupes
And the watermelon have begun to bloom.  We're having a pretty good growing year.  
What a difference a year makes:

The melon patch this year

The melon patch last year (Aug 8th).
Different varieties, different location.

The black beans have outrun the fusarium root rot with the help of more Blood Meal.
Cucumbers are thriving on the right and beginning to set

Cukes last year refused to thrive and were battling root rot themselves.
The black beans were not yet planted

This year four beautiful Dunja zucchini plants

Just about ready to pick

The single zucchini plant last year.  Just before the Horned Squash Bugs found it.
And killed it.

Last year's tomato/eggplant/pepper bed on the fourth of July

This year's tomato/eggplant/pepper bed.
I've already had to go in there armed with scissors and tomato ties
We've had a very wet May and June and July is following suit.  There have been just enough hot sunny days.  So far no major pest infestations but I have begun to find Japanese Beetles.  The tidy lushness of June is beginning to give way to general dishevelment.

The Tater Patch
But to compensate for the jungleness, we are beginning to enjoy our harvest.  Peas are in full swing and I've already pulled one row.  The lettuce is bolting and will soon make way for more cucumbers and bush beans.  Carrots are ready to begin and we are teetering on the brink of a zucchini avalanche.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Linguine and Basil Pesto

I use Red Rubin Basil for extra color in the garden.

Every year I grow about 4 Basil plants.  I don't use a lot of it and generally, by the end of summer, I have four huge Basil "shrubs".  So Saturday when I trimmed back the Basil I brought it in the house and made some Pesto.  I just ran the leaves through the food processor along with a drizzle of olive oil.  Then, because it was 9am, I pressed the pesto into a small container, drizzled a tablespoon of oil onto the top to preserve it and popped it in the fridge.

This evening, I saute'ed a couple of the last cloves of last year's garlic, added the pesto to the frying pan and then tossed in some linguine noodles.  I seasoned it with some sea salt and herbs and Oh My Lord!  That was good!  It's just screaming for some chopped cherry tomatoes.  I can't wait until I have some to add to it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Color of Things

Photos from my evening stroll through the garden just ahead of thunderstorm #2.

I am so impressed with the early performance of the Blue Beauty tomato plant. The fruit have more than doubled in size and it has half a dozen fruit set.  This plant was the second seed to germinate and has been a monster at every stage out pacing all my other seedlings of all varieties.  But, the Absinthe and Barlow Jap plants next to it are nearly caught up.

... but not all of the Blue Beauties are showing blue color.  This is all on one plant.

After last year's Epic Fail in the squash department I am really enjoying these healthy Dunja zucchini plants.  And you can be sure I am checking every day for signs of stink bugs.  I have killed a handful of various stink bugs but have only seen one wicked Horned Squash Bug.  At least I think that was what it was.  It was on the wing just outside the back door.

My melons are growing well.  The Cantaloupe in the front are covered in blossoms.  The Moon and Stars watermelons in the back are growing well but have yet to bloom.

Now here's an interesting photo.  This is Black Bean Bed #2.  It has a row of transplanted Marketmore cucumbers along the right side.  Since cukes are a big deal around here and I should be making pickles this year, I worked some Blood Meal to the right edge of the bed before transplanting the cukes.  Now you can see to the left side I'm dealing with some Fusarium Root Rot.  And the beans in the middle have out run the Fusarium but are not really thriving, but the beans along the area where I put blood meal are dark, lush and unaffected.  As are the cucumbers.  I had a little trouble with Fusarium last year in one bed which this year seems totally fine and is growing a bumper crop of lettuce and peas.  Blood Meal is a quick organic source of Nitrogen and you can bet I will be using more of it in the future.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

This Week's Firsts

This week the first tomato fruit set.  The Blue Beauty.  I'm pleased that it is already displaying its unique blue-black coloring.  This week I also picked my first peas, found my first Cucumber Beetles and noticed my first female cantaloupe blossoms.

I am really enjoying the Nasturtiums this year.  They took right off and I have a nice range of brilliant colors.  Last year they didn't amount to much, in fact they haven't been this nice since 2010.  I plant them just to add color to the garden but the leaves add a nice peppery flavor to salads and the flowers make a nice edible garnish.  They are also said to repel squash bugs and serve as a catch crop for aphids.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Past Projects Update

For Throwback Thursday I think it's time for a Past Projects Update.

First is the Rain Barrel.  We have this garage downspout routed into a salvaged barrel with a refurbished oil barrel hand pump.  We use this to fill the watering can to water the landscaping on the far side of our property.  But this downspout with it's huge roof footage is under utilized. Tim had dreams of stockpiling water so if our main reclaimed water tank runs out we can refill it with more captured rain water.

My company was discarding this used water tank which needed a new lid and fitting, both available at Tractor Supply, so for $20 in replacement parts we tripled our water storage.  Tim put a pipe which takes the over flow off the top of the 55 gal drum and forces it over to the second tank through sheer hydraulic pressure.  Half an inch of rain more than fills these tanks.  Now if the big tank runs out, Tim can pick the tank up with the tractor and gravity feed the water into the underground tank that runs the garden hose.

Another successful project is  The Tree We Planted Twice.  This little London Plane Tree was one of three we planted two years ago.  The other two didn't take off and the Nursery replaced them with bigger better trees.  This one looked like the roots were going to rally so we re-planted it nearby.

The little tree has taken off and is beautifully shaped and growing fast.  Soon it will be nearly caught up to the larger Plane trees.

Speaking of trees... we cut an awful lot of them around here.  I lost count around 220.

This massive Larch tree (messy old thing) was part of the tree clearing for Tim's new garage.  It was on the edge of our front yard and it was much more picturesque after it was cut than before.  One thing we try to do when we're murdering large trees on a grand scale is try to put them to good use.  The hemlock logs were given away to be used in building a barn.  The Red Oak and Larch we are using here.  Larch is similar to Cedar.  Tim had it milled into wainscot.

This week it has finally made it to it's final destination.  Tim is using it for the ceiling of his garage.

We have a "thing" for bead board ceilings around here.  This beautiful Larch is making quite a dramatic effect.  A good use for a beautiful old tree.