Monday, July 13, 2020


Housekeeping:  From that title you may think that I actually took some time to clean my house.  How would that even be possible in July when the weather is so perfect?  What I'm referring to is housekeeping in the garden.  Sometimes there is a lot of it.  Right now I'm changing over from some spring crops to summer crops.  And even the summer crops needed a little sprucing up.

The thing about keeping the cabbage crops so tightly covered is that you have to set aside time to open them up and do some serious work.

Friday morning I got down on my hands and knees and trimmed a whole wheelbarrow full of dead or damaged leaves out from under the Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts.

I went easy on the Brussels Sprouts because I don't want to trigger their sprouting for a few more weeks.  Removing their leaves encourages the little dormant replacements along their stem to grow and unfurl.  But you don't really want to harvest them until cooler weather when they will be sweeter so you don't want to trigger the sprouts too early.

There are a lot of beautiful broccoli and cauliflowers in there.

Its like a treasure hunt.

Or like finding a jewel

It looks like it should taste like berries.
Hopefully not...

The Brussels Sprout stalks are standing nice and straight, but the leaves are still pushing against the insect netting.  I sort of had a plan for this.  That is why I put them in the middle so I could tent the center a bit higher.  But the six foot width is not enough to reach the ground on both sides.  Luckily I had one more length of netting so I doubled them up, overlapping at the top.

Next I tidied up the cabbages.  I think its time to try my hand at fresh cole slaw!
The lower cabbage leaves, especially those of the green cabbage,  were very large and lying on the ground, and every time it rained or they were watered, those big leaves just held puddles of water.

The biggest job in the garden was the lettuce and peas.
I started on one bed on Friday, but by 10:30 it was 90 degrees in the shade and over 100 in the garden.  So I moved on to other chores.

The big chore of the day was washing the house.  Our house is vinyl sided in sage green with white trim and white gutters.  And rain is nasty, dirty stuff.  It turns the gutters black and leaves grey speckling and green algae everywhere else. I try to get around and wash the whole house each year, starting with the front porch, and moving to the side entrance next which are the parts we see up close every day.  If I get to the other two sides its a bonus.  I also do the garden shed and chicken coop which is easier. 

This year it was so easy because we finally replaced our old deck and steps and my husband replaced the walkway to the bulkhead doors, and leveled the entire area which had been dug up repeatedly over the past few years for electrical changes and water projects.  Its so FLAT!  Wonderfully flat.  I can put an eight foot ladder anywhere and reach the eaves without worrying about tipping.  Somehow 90+ degrees didn't seem so bad when hosing and scrubbing the house.  A lot better than pulling up armloads of wet, soggy lettuce.

Later Friday afternoon, we tackled the last yucky part of the side entrance.  The corner of the driveway.  All of our driveways have historically been edged in railroad ties.  But those have tripled in cost over the past few years so we won't be replacing them.  We pulled out the rotted ones earlier this spring leaving an untidy edge and exposed road mat.  There were two options.  Either run the driveway gravel right up to the deck, or put in a planting bed.  We spent the afternoon cutting 40 some feet of fresh edge and stripping all of that hard sod out of there.  We did use the backhoe, but still, around 3:00 I began to realize we were working in extreme heat and humidity which could actually kill us if we weren't careful!  We would work for 10 minutes and then sit in the shade for 10 until it was done.  Later this summer I will divide the daylillies on the other side of the walkway and create a matching planting.

For the past month we have been praying for rain.  We got an inch last Wednesday night, and were looking forward to at least one rainy day this weekend.  The rain finally arrived on Saturday.  I did get some actual indoor housework done, and we spent some time on the front porch watching it.  We ended up with an inch and a half, and for awhile we had 40 mph wind gusts which were unwelcome.  My husband asked me if everything in my garden would be OK, and I told him I expected the one bed of sweet corn to be lying flat.  And guess what?  

The stalks still standing are the ones that went over in
Wednesday's rain which I stood back up and supported
I know, Right?

Now that looks like utter disaster, but its really just an inconvenient mess.  Only two stalks were actually broken.  The rest will be fine.  I have not had any trouble like this with the Gotta Have It corn, this year or last, but this SS3778R stuff lays over at the slightest suggestion.  Its like it was designed for making crop circles.  I won't be trying it again.  I'll find another variety.  

What I did was take two of the expanding pea trellises I'd pulled out of the peas the day before, and worked them in down each side.  Then I tied a piece of twine from one side to the other, stood up a row.  Tied another piece of twine.  Stood up a row.  Tied another piece of twine.  Before long I had restored order.  They're staying fenced.  Every stalk seemed completely unperturbed.  Their roots are undisturbed and they are just flexible as gymnasts.

The winds were still whipping around, and the ground was saturated, so out of an abundance of caution paranoia, I encircled two rows of twine around the entire batch of Gotta Have It and secured it to the fence at three points, against the prevailing winds.  When the ground hardens back up I can loosen it.

But the mid-season housekeeping was not done yet.
I have lettuce plants tucked all over and they were overgrown and bolting.

So whats the problem with that?  Air circulation.
My pickling cucumbers had one diseased leaf stuck in amongst its lettuce friends.

The vines will be much healthier with more air circulation.

I have little baby pickling cucumbers growing

The sluggish pole beans are beginning to send out climbing tendrils.  
I put a twine around them to keep them closer to the pole until they find it.

I pulled out two rows of peas leaving empty beds.
I'll spend the week raking these and picking at the remaining weeds and 
next weekend I will plant a cover crop of Buckwheat.

There was so much lettuce and pea vines to compost I had to set aside some of the pea vines for later.  They wouldn't fit into my composting tube.  But that lettuce will wilt down fast and in a couple of days there will be room for more.

I picked all of my vines pretty clean, but there were still a few overgrown pea pods left.
I snipped these off and hung them along the fence to dry.  
There's no telling what the state of the world will be next spring when it comes time to order more seed.  Better no to throw anything out.

I still have the Garden Sweet pea vines to pull.  I gave up on these early and concentrated on the Penelope peas which we liked better.  I will also save seed from these just in case.

But its not all work in the garden.  I'm enjoying colorful flowers.

Zinnias and Chard

Portulaca and Eggplants

Baby Bubba Okra

Sweet Potatoes

Slicing Cucumbers - first planting

Healthy tomato plants loaded with tomatoes.

Red Norland Potatoes

That flimsy sweet corn is beginning to tassle
Butter Beans flowering
I picked my first zucchinis yesterday.  
Besides a lot of housekeeping, there is a lot of food out there that has to be eaten!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

If at first you don't succeed - add more mulch

July is the time when the gardening honeymoon is over.  The bugs are showing up and need to be controlled or eliminated.  The weather is hot and dry and you have to keep an eye on everything so you don't let something dry out, or even worse, over water.  Spring plants are either producing or needing to be pulled and replaced.  Summer veggies are either beginning to produce or need to be planted in the spots where you removed the spring plants.

Black Brandywine Tomatoes
 But it is also the most rewarding time of year.  There is actual food out there.  The flowers are blooming.  Plants are at their prime.  If friends stop by to visit your garden there is something to see other than a mass of green or stretches of tilled soil.  I find it fun when someone asks me "how exactly does cauliflower grow?" and I can walk them over to a large healthy cauliflower ready to pick.

Barlow Jap Tomato plant
And to think I was worried about this one dying in May!
This year I have a big garden.  Of course the overall square footage doesn't change from year to year, but the range of plants does.  And this year I am growing some things I'm not real familiar with.  Nothing completely new, but there are a few things that I am not yet comfortable with and that takes more attention and brain power.  All of these things require attentiveness to equipment and supplies like row covers and supports and potting mix or soil additives.

"Mahon Yam" Sweet Potatoes in Grow Bags
 Each year I garden I hold myself to a higher standard. I say to myself "This year the Flea Beetles/Squash Vine Borers/Cabbage Moths will not leave my crops in desolation.  In fact, they won't even make them look ugly!  I will prevent it.  Somehow."  I WILL have giant cauliflower and broccoli and cabbage.  Even though I've never before grown a giant cauliflower or broccoli or cabbage. And if I ignore the cabbage for a week or two I might not get any results at all.  I've found myself editing my growing plan for next year a month earlier than I would usually begin.  I wouldn't say yet that I am tired of the garden, but reality is beginning to set in and I can not just go sit in the shade and sip sweet tea all day when it is becoming more and more tempting to do so.

Carminat Beans
60-65 day bean at 6 weeks of growth
I really do know how to grow pole beans -
Pole Beans 2012
Surprisingly (to me anyway) this year the biggest struggle seems to be with pole beans.  I'm trying two new (to me) varieties so I'm not sure exactly how to gauge their progress.  But they are much less vigorous than I would expect.  They are not growing as well or as rapidly as beans normally grow for me.  One variety is supposed to reach 6 feet tall and the other 8 feet tall but at this point their height can still be counted in inches. The leaves are small and show signs of sun stress although this week they are showing new growth for the first time in weeks.  I'm not worried about the soil because I have lettuce and cucumbers planted along with them and they are thriving.  They are on the same watering schedule of the Lima Beans.  So - when in doubt - Mulch!

I reseeded half of these a week ago and mulched with leaves
I put away a couple of bags of shredded leaves last fall and I've been using them to top off containers to keep them from drying out quickly which is working well.  I'm looking forward to having more to work with next year since they are easy to gather and store. This weekend I opened up the last bag, gave the potatoes in grow bags the first priority and then used up the last of the leaf mulch on the pole beans.  I also mulched between the neighboring cucumber and bush bean row.  My Bush Beans are happily growing.  Last year I tried Jade for the first time and this year I "upgraded" to Jade II.  I planted half a row of the leftover Jade seeds and half a row of the Jade II.

The first planting from a week ago is on the east side of the first cucumber trellis (with no support) along with some late lettuce transplants.  In general, I like to support bush beans, but it isn't always necessary.  The nicest row of bush beans I ever grew was unsupported.

Jade and Jade II beans

Second bed of beans
The second row is down the center of its own bed with double supports and some spare cucumber plants on the ends.  I sprinkled old lettuce seed down each side as ground cover.  I am not sure how well lettuce will germinate in this extreme summer heat without being tended in trays, but the execution of a similar plan this spring was a great success

Garden Sweet peas

I have three more beds of old peas to remove and plant.  There are still peas being produced, but in this heat they ripen fast and dry out even faster.  We've had a plethora of peas.  We don't want any more.

It is easy to see what is ready under the mesh Agfabric covers
I have as much broccoli and cauliflower as I want.  We don't eat it in large volume, but when I get in the mood for some I find the largest floret and pick that.  As I am relatively new to the broccoli/cauliflower game I would rather pick a head a little early and small than miss it and have it bolt.  The broccoli plants that I've harvested are sending out nice secondary side shoots.

My favorite broccoli dish is a fresh salad made of equal parts chopped raw broccoli and blanched peas with a home made dressing and craisens for flavor.  You can also add cheddar cheese and/or chopped bacon.  Here is a standard recipe. I don't know why none of the recipes include peas.  They're really missing out!

My one variety of sweet corn is putting out "Tillers".  I've read up on them a little and it doesn't seem that there is any proof that tillers reduce production (removing them may actually hurt production) so I'm just going to let them grow.  In fact, most agree that corn puts out tillers when the growing conditions are most favorable which is good yes?

So that's what's going on in the July garden.  The weather has been hot, and Buffalo (just to our north) is likely to break a record for the most 90 degree days in a row.  We haven't had this many 90 degree days in July since 1988, and I remember that heat wave well. We got a quarter inch of rain yesterday which helped immensely and it either sprinkled over night or the dew was extremely heavy because the ground was still soaked this morning.