Monday, July 29, 2013

Stick it to 'em!

Genius! Sheer Genius!
Taking the advice about how to remove Horned Squash Bug eggs from the leaves of cucurbits, I advanced on the enemy armed with a roll of duct tape.  This is so much nicer than squishing!  Here is an example of my daily death toll.

See you don't have to actually get them between your fingers, you just have to touch them.  In fact, you can distract them from one side with your free hand while you sneak up behind them with the taped hand.  Especially those wiley Asparagus Beetles. Then you can squish at leisure, seal them in a bag for disposal or burn them.  Whatever seems to you the most permanent form of destruction.And this has an advantage over lures with stick y traps in that you are targeting the bad pests and not risking killing other winged pollinators.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Squashing Those Stinking Squash Stink Bugs

What do you do when you turn over a squash leaf and find this?  What do you do when you turn over your neighbor's squash leaf and find this?  You pull up the plant, throw it in a garbage bag and leave it out in the sun to broil.  Sorry Mike and Shelly.  They were about to die anyway.

My single zucchini plant died.  I knew it was stink bugs.  More precisely Horned Squash Bugs.  I saw some eggs underneath the leaves.  I even saw a couple of them scurrying around.  I removed the eggs and the bugs.  The plant did not recover, probably due to the horrible wet cool weather coupled with having... well, only three leaves left.  After about a week, I gave up hope and removed the stunted plant.  I didn't think much more about it.  Zucchini are easy enough to come by.  Better luck next time.

This morning, while poking around the garden, I decided to investigate why one mound of Mike and Shelly's squash plants had died.  None of them were doing very well, but this group in particular looked really miserable.  I turned over one pitiful yellowed leaf and OMG!  Holy Cow!  Swoon!  Dead Faint!  The photo above is exactly what I saw.   Infestation is the only word for it.  Those nasty little buggers!  They're out of control.

Now I don't usually go around my neighbor's squash plants turning over leaves and nosing about, so I had no idea there were that many eggs, and I guess I timed it just right to witness a huge hatching of the nymphs. Wasting no time, I gathered up a garbage bag, removed the three heavily infected corpses of squash plants and dumped a bunch of Sevin Powder all over the area.  I came back a couple of hours later and scooped out a couple of inches of soil.  I want those things gone!

I don't know if they came in the soil of transplants from a greenhouse or if they just happened to find our garden this year and set up a productive breeding operation, but I can tell you we don't want to let those things set up camp around here.  I will be on the lookout for more eggs and snip the clusters off the leaves and destroy them before they hatch.  Add one more pestilence to my list of "things that are trying to eat my food before I do".  Some weeks it seems that gardening is really just one long killing spree.

For further reading, here is the University of Iowa site from which I borrowed the picture:

And here is a great blog on organic control of Horsed Squash Bugs:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Green (Bean) with Envy

It is bush bean season at last.  Mike and Shelly planted a bed of bush beans around Memorial Day and theirs are now ready to eat.  I, on the other hand, wait until later to plant mine.  I've had lousy luck planting them in May.   The later I plant them, the better they do.  Mid-June is plenty of time. In fact, anytime before the first of August will work just fine. Therefore, they end up being the second crop after the peas.  I've even planted them as a second crop after potatoes.  They will produce until they are frozen out.

My bush beans are sharing space with the second planting of cucumbers and both are doing very very well.  By the time I run out of frozen beans from last year, these will be producing.  Then I will enjoy bushels of beauteous beans.

A day's picking 2005

Also in the mid-summer planting are the black beans.  They are so easy to grow and these seed I bought for 2012 all germinated and are growing fabulously.

The Beauregard sweet potatoes I've put in my large pots are growing fabulously as well.  They took weeks to make so much as a start but now they are off and running, healthy as can be.

Cucumbers are coming along nicely.  We've been picking at least one a day for a week.

And here's a little surprise.  A week and a half ago we stopped at our good friend Sandy's greenhouse to pick up some half priced annuals for fill ins.  This time of year, greenhouses are planning to dump any unwanted bedding plants.  I got some Marigolds and Lantana to change out some tired Pansies and Nasturtium.  I felt so sorry for the scraggly, unwanted pots of watermelon, I grabbed two pots on a whim.  They were going to be thrown out anyway....  And LOOK!  A melon the size of a jawbreaker.

Something tells me this is not a good year for melons.  It's barely a good year for tomatoes and squash.  My zucchini plant died because of the wet weather and stink bug damage.  And my Sungold cherry tomato plant...

It barely has the will to live.  It looks like a Charlie Brown tomato plant. It consists of one miserable stem with no suckers and no new growth for over a week.

It should look like this...

All my other tomato plants are doing just fine, growing, blooming and setting fruit.  It's a mystery.  July has been every bit as wet as June.  We've had 5.75" of rain so far, and today's high was 69 degrees.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


It all started last Saturday.  It was late in the afternoon and I had completely finished my garden "to do" list (a rare event).  We sat down in the cool of the evening to enjoy our new chaise lounges on our new patio.  I had just started on my second Margarita when Tim said:  "Even though I cut that corner out, I still can't get in there with the mower.  I'm out of plastic edging, that was the last piece I had left.  How about if we put a walkway in here from the yard, put in an 8' x 8' planting bed so you can rotate your potatoes, and then we'll cut an edge from here, around the apple tree, and back to the barrel..."

After a very brief consideration, we were back on our feet, counting bricks and making broad sweeping motions with our arms defining the new curve.  Tim spent the hottest week of the year on his new creation.

I just love this brick walkway.  It slants up instead of having a step on at the end.
Pretty isn't it?
 We spent Friday tilling the soil, mixing in compost and laying down mulch.

And now we have a much more mower friendly curve around the apple tree.  So, what is going in there next to the apple tree??  Ideas danced though my head....  20 feet of grape arbor?  The tree will soon be mature and block out the sun...  A cutting garden full of zinnias?  80 square feet of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers?  Move the strawberries and expand the asparagus bed?

It has to be something simple.  We have more than enough garden to take care of already.  Really, an empty bed full of mulch sometimes sounds like the perfect solution.  In the end I decided on a grouping of large rocks and some herbs.  I have herbs tucked into the perennial bed out front, and I've been trying to think of a spot in the "vegetable area" that would be suitable.  Many times the sage, rosemary and thyme actually winter over so I want them in an undisturbed spot.  A warm outcropping of rocks will be just the thing for them.  To add texture and interest I will also put in my two easiest perennials, day lilies and Siberian irises to add some height and color.  Stay tuned for the finished version.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Thinking of Pickles

'Tis pickling season!  We are not putting up pickles this year for two reasons... too many pickles and not enough cucumbers.  And apparently, it's pickling season, because it's going to be above 90 today just as it was in 2011 when we had our "pickle madness" day.  

I've always had good luck with pickles, since my very first foray into preserving and I enjoy making them, but since we still have plenty of pickles to get us through to next year, I did not plant cucumbers on the scale to have plenty of leftovers to pickle.  We will find some other sweaty garden chores to do today and think fondly of pickles.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Exit The Peas

The last bed of peas is pulled and the black beans are planted

In the Lettuce Bed, the first planting of bush beans are making progress, and in the second has been planted, along with the second planting of cucumbers

The first planting of cucumbers is healthy and blooming nicely and were are waiting anxiously for our first harvest.

The eggplants are doing very nicely and looking like an eggplant should. 

They are setting glossy little aubergine fruit.  Mmmmmm... I can't wait.

After 19 days straight with at least a quarter of an inch of rain each day, the forecast is a sight for sore eyes.  June gave us over 7.5" of rain, and in July we are over 3.5" and pushing 4".  Now all we need is for this cloud cover to burn off and for things to dry out!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Farmstand Funny

A classmate of mine spent last week driving through New England.  He shot this photo in New Hampshire.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Apple Orchard Aftermath or Applemath

Sometimes you just need to start fresh.  Last weekend Tim, and I and my uncle removed the old barb wire fence from the orchard frontage.  The wire was still good, as were most of the posts, but there were rose bushes and other brush growing in it and we decided to make a clean sweep.  If we decide to put livestock in there (goats would be useful for eating the roses) then we can put in a new, sturdy fence.

My stepfather Richard brush hogged the fence lines.  It looks so wide open I keep thinking the trees are going to wander into the road!

And were are to expect some harvest this year.  This is the Greening tree next to the gate.  Well, where the gate was.

 And it looks like we will have a fair amount of plums again this year.

We will have apples at the house too.  The three older trees are full and need selective pruning.  My little sapling has held on to 3 of its 6 apples which is about the right amount for it to support.

I am working on shaping my second sapling using limb spreaders.   These get the limbs spaced properly when they are young and flexible providing a nice shape and eliminating cross branching and crowding.  You can make the same sort of tool with scrap wood if you are handy.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The First Tomatoes Are Set

I was watching closely to see which variety would be the first to set fruit..... and it's the teeny, tiny, cold frame Barlow Jap by a nose!
I noticed these little guys two days ago and by today they had tripled in size.

This is the "store bought" Absynthe plant that was 10 times bigger on Memorial Day.

So I guess that settles it.  No need to start a grow op on the dining room table in April.  

Friday, July 5, 2013

Life's Just a Bowl of Cherries

I couldn't resist these wonderful white Washington cherries today at the store.  And they taste even better than they look.  They are large and glossy and crunch when you bite into them.  Sweet as the summertime.

When I was a child, every summer my Grandmother would take us cherry picking.  We would drive up to fruit country, perhaps treating ourselves to a ferry ride across the lake instead of going the long way around.

My mother would usually come along.  My sister and I were good cheap child labor.  I don't ever remember complaining about going cherry picking.  Grandma always made it fun.  We would go to our favorite orchard, Walker's, and check in at the house to get directions to where the ripest picking was.  We would park next to the old red barn.  Up near the barn were the strawberry fields and the berries.  Red raspberries would probably be ripe as well and we would pick a few pints of them as a treat.  We had the best black raspberries at home (to be eaten at breakfast with cream and sugar) so no need to get those.

Then we would take our baskets and drive out into the cherry orchards.  On a good year the trees would be heavy laden with huge, black, sweet cherries.  There were ladders to put in the trees and we would shimmy up, our 4 quart baskets hung over our forearms.  To deter the birds, there were gas cannons going off intermittently in the distance.  "Crack" the cannon would peal like thunder and the birds would whir off in a flock over our heads.

The sour cherries fascinated me.  They were almost iridescent.  I was always disappointed that they were not as tasty as they looked.  We would pick some for pies, but mostly we picked the sweet black cherries.  There was always a tree or two of the beautiful white cherries.

Another memory I have of my Grandmother is a story she used to tell about picking peas with my little sister.  My sister would have been about Kindergarten age at the time.  She said as they picked along the rows she would say "Holly, look at all the peas you're missing."  And my sister replied "They are growing behind me!"

I can certainly relate to that this year.  As I pick along I look back over my shoulder and see some I missed.  Then I'll look from the other side...more.  I back track, seeing it all from the opposite direction... how could I have missed those?  And with all the rain we've had, the peas swell so fast as they reach the final stage of maturity.  What may have been a well picked row this morning now needs to be picked again.

My favorite garden activity is shelling peas.  Tim and I sit on the front porch, or back under the maple tree, and shell.  Its leisurely and shady, much nicer than making pickles or canning tomatoes.  This morning we shelled and froze two quarts which will make eight generous meals for two.  Then this evening we shelled and froze another quart.  I now have 31 meals put up and we can eat the remaining row fresh.  A banner year.

The good news is the first bed with it's three varieties is done.  And I need the space for later crops.  I pulled the plants and prepared the bed.  I had just set out a dozen cucumber transplants... when it began to pour rain.  Again.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Blue Tail Fly

I was sitting on the front porch in a rocker, watching it rain, shelling peas with my husband (life is good) and a big blue fly was after my wine (Mike and Shelly's Riesling vintage 2012).  It put me in mind of this.

I was really looking for the version he did in 1964 for the movie Smoky (Yes, the Will James story for you horse folks but you wouldn't recognize anything but the name).  It's here, if you would like that version, along with all his songs from that soundtrack  (Please excuse the makeup commercial)

If you like horses and/or folk songs it is well worth it.