Monday, August 7, 2017

The Mid-Summer Slump (not)

The mid-summer slump is late.  My garden looks far from slumpy.  In fact, it looks pretty fresh and new.  Maybe not June-new, but still pretty good.  Despite the fact that in July we went almost three weeks on only 1/4 inch of rain.

Shabby old vines
 The first planting of cucumbers was dwindling off and beginning to show signs of age.  Instead of letting the leaves deteriorate and foster diseases, I pulled them out.  I  have a row of Goldmine Bush beans planted there.

Cucumber bed before removing old vines

The Goldmine Bush Beans now have the bed to themselves
The second planting of cukes is just coming on.  This plant was a spare from the first planting which I kept in a pot until the peas were out and the second planting was ready to go in.  It has already been a great producer and will bridge the gap between the first and second plantings.

A perfect Cucumber

Second Cucumbers and Bush Beans
I am still waiting on my first ripe tomato.  It is WEEKS late.  I have been getting one or two ripe Sungold cherry tomatoes each day from each of my two plants.  Which is barely enough to garnish a salad.  I am waiting for the time when I have handfuls to make tomato, cucumber and feta salads.

The tomato bed is NOT a jungle this year.
It is also not blighted yet

Celebrity Tomatoes
The bell peppers that were setting as I planted them this spring are beginning to ripen.  The plants that I pinched back pretty vigorously in June are setting a good amount of fruit.  Luckily these are in containers so if it takes them forever to mature, I can protect them from frost.

Baby bell peppers

Powdery Mildew
We have had dry weather, hot weather, cool weather, damp weather and still the garden is weathering it all.  There is a little mildew showing up on one of the yellow summer squash plants, but nothing to be alarmed about.  As I've often noticed, it is the varieties with plain green leaves that succumb first, and squash with lighter lacing running through their leaves hold out the longest.  If it gets too bad I will just pull it out.  We've had very few bad bugs this year.  So all in all it has been an easy year so far.

The Dunja squash has lighter lacing in the leaves
and will be the last thing affected by mildew

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The thing about bush beans...

The thing about bush beans is that you always get one smart-alec in the group who thinks he's a pole bean.  These are the neighbor's green beans this week.  I think they may be Burpee's Tenderpick.  I've had bush beans do that every year, but it is usually the Purple Queen.  It is interesting to see that I am not the only person who has run into this.

Purple Queen "bush" beans on pea-fence.
Goldmine beans to their left
The plant specs say that they should grow to 15"-20" but taint so.  They will be 24"-36".  So I always plant them around pea-fence, and the neighbors also planned wisely this year and did the same.  Normally, my Goldmine bush beans do not get as tall, but this year they are also getting way too tall and flopping over.

The reason this is undesirable is that the plants cannot support a heavy load of beans and they will stub the beans against the ground giving you curly, unattractive beans instead of long straight bundles of beans.  That will be particularly true if you have enough dry heat to cause your plants to wilt each afternoon.

See, that's the thing about bush beans.  They don't know they're supposed to bush.  They would always prefer to climb.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Not My Broccolli

We have a friend who grows the most perfect broccoli I've ever seen.

Most years he will call and offer us broccoli and/or cauliflower 
(which will be even bigger)

This broccoli was a work of art
I think it is a point of pride.  
The only way he can show off his awesome produce is to bring me some.
Tim sent him home with some equally nice zucchini.

It was beautiful from every angle

Next week the cauliflower should be ready.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pinch Me

I mentioned in one of my recent posts that my annuals are getting a bit tired.  July is the time when things begin to get a little over grown and lanky.  The first push of blooms is done and the plant may be covered in seed pods.  Having achieved its purpose, it may just give up and die.

  Heat or excessive rain will also take it's toll, as will pests.  Now if you are super organized and ambitious, you could replace the spent plants with fresh backups you've been coddling in the wings.  Or, you can do some maintenance.  It gets to the point where you can't make it look any worse, so just go in there and cut.

Last week this planter full of Nasturtium was yellowing and fading.
 I considered dumping out and replacing it

You can do this with surgical precision, taking just a little bit off the ends.  Or you can take drastic measures and whack them off at the knees.

A dose of fertilizer and a trim and this week the plant has
perked up and put out some fresh new growth an blooms

Black Aphids
If you have pests, it is best to take drastic measures, cut as much out as you can, and destroy the infected foliage or wrap it up and put it in the garbage.  Don't try composting it and don't cross contaminate it with your healthy plants.  

One week you are perky and in your prime

And a week later you are worn out and bedraggled
Some things should be pinched back right when they are planted.  Often, a pack of annuals will have one or more weedy inferior plant.  I pinch these way back, re-pot them in a gallon pot and store them in the garden where they will catch up and be available to replace failed plantings or add color to an area where the perennials are past their bloom time.

This row of Portulaca was looking pretty pitiful before I pinched it

Sometimes the whole pack of plants is a bit too weedy and lanky.  This year I bought Portulaca from two different sources.  The first variety was Sunseeker and a week later I saw some really nice Happy Hour and I decided I need more.  When I planted the Happy Hours, they immediately made the Sunseekers look like crap by comparison.  I carefully pinched back all the Sun Seeker plants to the point of new growth,  They were left as tiny little nubs that pretty much disappeared into the background.  And now they are bushy, compact and blooming almost as prolifically as the Happy Hours.  

I love Portulaca.  I never plant enough.  The blooms are so iridescent and intensely colorful.  Because they have succulent leaves, they withstand heat and dryness.  And they volunteer.  I am always finding cheerful little Portulaca volunteers popping up in odd corners.  Maybe next year I will plant them in large groups instead if neat little soldier rows.

This plant started out with three long bare stems and hardly
 any leaves and now it is round and full of buds.

But not everything is tired out and needing maintenance.  The Coleus are looking great.  They will begin to bloom now, and if I want them to stay compact and bushy I will need to pinch back the growing tips to prevent the tall blooms from forming.  Coleus is grown for its lovely foliage, not its sparse spikey flowers

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Japanese Beetles

This year is a comparatively bad year for Japanese Beetles.  Not catastrophic by any means, but fairly annoying.  Over the years we've put down Milky Spore over pretty much the whole property which has cut down a lot over the years.  These days they concentrate around the porcelain vine next to the side door.  It's sort of like a beetle round-up.  They don't bother the beans and rarely even the raspberries but they still love this vine.  I keep a Bag-A-Bug nearby which draws them to that side of the house and then they spot the party vine!

This is what a Beetle Party looks like
This makes them sitting ducks.  Every day I collect them up in a cup of soapy water.  It's easier to catch them in the morning when they are cold and dewy and sluggish.

In five minutes I can clean the vine of 4 or 5 dozen beetles.  A few will startle and decamp but if I wait 5 or 10 minutes they'll be back.  There's not much fun stuff to do away from the party vine.

I put Castile soap in the water which kills them almost immediately.  

I leave them for a bit then I pour it out on the pavers of the compost area and crush them with a shovel to make sure they're very dead.  Beetles are controllable but like most pests, you have to do it every day every year to keep them in check.  You are never really rid of them.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Ups and Downs of Home Improvement

The two car garage is up in the air and scheduled to come down in a matter of days.

This has been a matter of great discussion in the neighborhood.
Our elder statesman stops by each evening to check on the progress.
 I won't do a play by play of all the ridiculous challenges we've faced getting this thing up in the air and the walls poured, because I think at some point, my husband would prefer to forget the pain of childbirth and just enjoy the results.  No Amish were killed in the raising of this garage, although one came close (twice)  Thank you GFCI!  Amish and electric just don't mix.

After the garage is set back down, the center "post" will be removed and the two narrow doors will be replaced with one wide door.  This will require relocating the electric panel around to the side and jack-hammering out the floor and replacing it with a new floor.  Then, a drain line must be dug to take gutter water away.  Which brings us to project #2, which is the house foundation.

For weeks now one wall of the office has been held up by a bottle jack.  Which, honestly, is a lot more than was holding it up before.  The dry fit blocks will be replaced with poured concrete.  And if possible, a sort of dry well under the new deck will be created allowing access to the crawlspace through a mini-door.  But that is contingent on the amount of fall (grade) we have from here to the woods behind the garage.  Because the "dry well" will not be very dry unless we put a drainline in. The house sat about a foot higher than the garage as it was.  Now we've elevated the garage over a foot but the surrounding surface still slopes away from the house.  Although we have not gotten the transit out yet, it looks like there is plenty of slope.

Then we will be replacing our side steps with a nice wide deck and some decent landscaping.  Because right now it's a construction zone.

So what is happening in the garden?  We are in the heat of July, which isn't all that hot this year.  Regardless, some of my decorative annuals are past their prime and looking tired, but other things, like the Portulaca, are just coming into their prime.  It is hard to get rid of something that is past it's season.  I've found if you cut them back and ignore them for awhile, you may get a second season in the fall.

My garden routine every evening is this:
 Water any wilty pots.  I cut out over half a dozen container plantings for just this reason.
 Kill 5 dozen Japanese Beetles.  At least.
 Pick up the windfall apples so the deer won't have a reason to stop by
 Do at least one chore that is bothering me most

These day lillies are doing their best to dress up our side entrance
No matter what routine I have in the garden, there will always be one thing that is picking at my brain.  Something that needs to be done but I don't want to do.  I make myself do one thing each evening.  It may be grubbing the purslane out of the beans, trimming the dead stems on the tiger lillies, or harvesting a tub of potatoes.  But one dirty sweaty chore must be done every day.  I save really big jobs like renovating the strawberries for weekends.  I can't spend every evening just strolling around with a glass of wine picking dried lily blossoms.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Change Over

July 9th, the last of the peas and lettuce came out and the bush beans and second planting of cucumbers went in.

Baby Marketmore cucumbers

The cucumbers are doing awesome this year and I'm pretty proud of them.  I've been snipping off any poorly pollinated or curled fruit leaving the plants to put more energy into the nice ones.

The first cucumbers and a new row of bush beans

I love cucumber season.  

The tomatoes are doing well.  It feels a little weird not to allow the jungle to take over.

Very orderly tomato plants around the monster zucchini.
 Fruit the size of cherries

Celebrity Tomatoes now about the size of baseballs
  This is a good year for apples.  The tree kept over 30 fruit this year.  Today I bagged them and removed five inferior or damaged apples.  And oops, knocked one nice one off in the process of bagging.  I watched several YouTube videos on it and went with zip lock plastic bags instead of paper.  This is to keep insect damage to a minimum.  But actually, I'm hoping they just turn out cleaner than usually.  Our rain carries so much dirt with it, by harvest time the apples will be grey.  Also, it should discourage the deer from trying to pick them and knocking them down.  This Northern Spy is about as deer-proof as you can get.  Now and then I will find a fallen apple with all kinds of tooth marks on it, but they are evidently too hard to chew.

A previous year's harvest.  See what I mean about the dirt?  That grey all rubs off.
That is also the color our white shed doors always turned.
Once they're bagged, it is easier to see how many there are.  I bagged 25 and there are two, maybe three, I did not get bagged because I ran out of bags.   If there is a brand name on the bag, or if you write on the bag with marker, that will block the sunlight and supposedly, you will get a pale mark on the apple.  So you could personalize apples if you wanted to.

The apples bagged with plastic zip bags
We are still enjoying Daylillies

The Dry Creek Bed
Last year's project "the Big Drain"