Sunday, July 27, 2014

Solarization

As it turned out, there were two meals left in the pea patch. They are now in the freezer.  In fact, had I left the rows in I may have gotten two more as the cool summer is allowing them to keep producing.  But I had plans for that bed so out they came.

The plan is Solarization.  I have bacterial and fungal issues in almost every bed.  The only solution I know of for that, save replacing the soil, is solarization.  Soil solarization is a non-chemical method for controlling soilborne pests using high temperatures produced by capturing radiant energy from the sun.


In order to do this, you must put plastic over the area for 4 to 6 weeks during the hottest time if the year.  That time is fading fast.  UC Davis has a good article on soil solarization for gardens.  Link,  I have two greenhouse panels that will work just great.  I know they trap heat because the lid of the cold frame is made of them and it gets hot enough in there to melt plastic pots!



So I removed the peas, raked the soil, gave it a good soaking and covered it up.  I'll let that cook until we put the garden away in the fall and we'll see if it helps next year.  I have tweaked my garden rotation to get all the beds solarized for half a season within the next two years.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Mid-Summer Slump

I saw that phrase, "the mid-summer slump" on another garden blog and thought is was a good description of my feelings this week.  My garden is far from done, but it sure looks like heck.  This is when you start to see how well you chose your varieties.  Careful selection of resistant hybrids can mean the difference between This:

A lot of mildew

And This:

Vigorous, mostly healthy Dunja zuchini
 I am very happy with the Dunja variety from Johnny's Seeds which is said to be resistant to powdery mildew, papaya ringspot virus, watermelon mosaic virus, and zucchini yellow mosaic virus.  So far, so good.  Just a little mildew but not too bad.  Tis the season.  Tis also the season for everything else to begin to succumb to old age and disease.


The last row of peas is tumbled down and ready to be pulled.  I think there is one more meal left in there.


The potato patch is blighting out and dying back, but that won't affect the plentiful tubers beneath the soil.


The Black Beans are beginning to lay over and split down the middle.  A few of them are a bit chewed up from Japanese Beetles.  Not pretty to look at like the lush jungle of June.


The Melon Patch has stopped blooming and is showing a little yellow around the edges.  That's OK.  I'll settle for two dozen cantaloupe!  I'm anxious for them to begin ripening.  I have at least half a dozen watermelons too.

Elsewhere in the garden.  The first row of cucumbers is fighting wilt as the second row just begins to bloom.  One planting of bush beans is fighting root rot which is getting the seedlings just as they make it through the soil.  About a third are surviving.  I have planted more in another bed.

Despite the challenges and the circle of life drama going on, we still have plenty to eat.  Tonight we had beans, carrots and cucumbers.  I have just begun picking cherry tomatoes and I am anxiously awaiting the ripening of slicing tomatoes and eggplants.  The onions and garlic are ready to pull.  I have enough zucchini to make a batch of bread for the freezer.  All is well after all.

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.
Pitiful

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.