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.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Good Bug, Bad Bug

So much of gardening is about bugs.  I spend a lot of time killing bad ones and a lot of time writing about it!  But I don't kill all bugs. I was thinking today at what a busy buggy garden I have.  There are a lot of dragon flies, lightening bugs, lady beetles, various and sundry flies and bees.  It's a pretty active place.  And you have to know your bugs.  Reader MatthewB recently commented about how the earwigs left off eating the cilantro and went to eating the aphids.  Perfect!  That's what we want.  Good bugs eating Bad bugs.

Asparagus Beetles are narrow and start off orange, darkening as they mature

So... know your bugs.  This morning I found a Lady Bug hanging out in the asparagus.  She came really close to being exterminated with the Asparagus Beetles.  In fact, I had her stuck before I went "wait, that's too round for an Asparagus Beetle!" and carefully picked her off.

Lady Beetles come in many patterns but are very round and hard shelled.
If you want a garden eco system balanced in your favor you need more good bugs than bad bugs.  Good bugs eat the bad ones and pollinate your flowers.  You have to know what you're doing when you start killing things.  Mac's Field Guide comes in handy.

Mac's Field Guide Good Bugs and Bad Bugs of the Northeast

You can get these on Amazon.  They are available by geographical area and are laminated with a little hole for hanging in the garden shed.  You just compare your bug to the pictures.  If there is any doubt, take you clues and go to for confirmation.  There you can get lots of photos of Asparagus Beetles or Lady Bugs.  Then you can go to  and figure out who eats who.

If that doesn't solve it, you can start Googleing other gardener's solutions for your bad bug.  There are some really clever people out there.  I will forever be grateful to Quinn from the Reformation Acres Blog for the Duct Tape solution to squash bugs (and flea beetles, cucumber beetles and asparagus beetles).  She turned me into a Bad Bug Killing Machine!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Coincidence or Environmental Influence?

The first bloom on each of my tomato plants is a double bloom which will result in a fused fruit.  I rarely get a double bloom but now I have plenty.  The secondary blooms are all singles.

The Absinthe Plant

Blue Beauty

Barlow Jap

This is what I mean by a fused fruit.
June is a peaceful time in a vegetable garden.  All the hard work has been done.  The weather is still fairly mild and the plants are lush and full of promise.  The insect either haven't arrived yet or haven't had enough time to do catastrophic damage.   None of the big harvests are breathing down your neck demanding to be picked, cooked, shared or preserved.  June is the deep breath before the plunge.

The potatoes have never looked better.  Not a bit of blight or flea beetle damage.
They are just beginning to bloom.
The edge of the Black Bean Forest.

Over two weeks of vigorous thinning has not made much of a dent in the lush rows of leaf lettuce.
I've picked between 3 and 5 pounds each week.   Cool weather is helping to keep them from bolting early.

Last year my Burpee Iceberg lettuce never formed heads.
This Crispino head lettuce  from Johnny's seeds is just beginning to.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Early June Garden Update

It's amazing how fast Black Beans come up.  I planted this bed in two sections two days apart.  Sunday we got 2 inches of rain and the next day I had a little army of bean plants.  A row of Cucumbers runs down one edge.  Beans and cukes do well together in this bed.  I have just started a flat of cucumbers which will be planted with bush beans when the lettuce bolts in a couple of weeks.

This bed of Black Beans is a week ahead of the other.  I have a row of Bush Beans down one side.

The peas are beginning to set pods and I love my neat row of Butter Head and Romaine lettuce.
The large bed is for picking.  This row is for admiring.

The vigorous Blue Beauty tomato plant is the first to bloom.  This double bloom will produce fused fruit.

Five Good Reasons Not to Turn Your Soil

I was reading a recent blog about ways to save time in the garden, and one of the points was on not tilling or turning over you soil. 
Turning and tilling the soil:
  • Brings weed seeds to the surface which means – yup – more weeding for you later.
  • Increases the rate at which nitrogen is lost, which means more fertilizing for you later.
  • Screws with the natural capillary action of the soil, which hinders moisture movement up from deep moisture reservoirs and means more watering for you later.
  • Disturbs natural sub-soil/top-soil divisions which can actually lower soil tilth in the long-run which means more tilling for you later.
  • Makes a whole lot of soil-critters temporarily homeless by destroying the natural tunnels and micro-burrows those animals have created underground. This also lowers soil tilth in the long run which also means more turning and digging and fluffing and tilling for you.
Source: Northwest Edible Life Blog

The thing I love most about raised bed gardening is not disturbing my soil.  I am a Lasagna Gardener.   I even feel bad when I have to dig a hole to place a seedling because no matter how careful I am I always end up with a couple of stunned and injured earth worms who have just had their tunnel system bombed beyond recognition.  And you can't just bury them back in the dirt and expect them to be able to dig themselves out.  I leave them on the surface in a protected spot so they can recover and find a door. Also, if you destroy the earth worm tunnels you remove the capillary system for the transfer of water to your deeper roots and increase water run off.  Not good.  When I water I never get ponding or run off.  The water disappears immediately into the soil, and I'm happy to say, down my earth worm tunnels.

I have also noticed that the less I till, the fewer weeds I have.  Sure, some come in with the compost each year, but by not turning my soil I am not bringing old seeds up to the surface where they can grow.  In the spring I just rake any non-decomposing material (usually chunks of corn cob and peanut shells) off the top of each bed and throw it back in the compost heap.  I don't even worry much about pebbles and rocks.  These chunks of material are what hold the soil together and prevent it from floating away when we get two inches of rain in an hour.

Now this one was a new one to me: Increases the rate of Nitrogen Loss.
"This is because the top 6 inches of soil contains microorganisms that break down the compost and release nitrogen, a valuable plant nutrient important for growth. Additional tilling turns over the top layer of soil, exposing the decaying compost and the beneficial organisms to air and sunlight. This releases the accumulated nitrogen in the soil and kills the beneficial microorganisms breaking down the organic matter, so more fertilizer and other nutrients must be applied."  Whoops.
Source: Negative Effects of Tilling

Well, not tilling sure saves a lot of work both in the short term and long term.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cabbage Loopers

This morning I found half a dozen of these devouring one of my romaine lettuce plants.

They're supposed to turn into this.

But I turned them into this...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Grow Vol 11

Taunton Press

Yay!  The latest issue of Grow is available.  I wonder if Fine Gardening has ever thought of a supplement called "Kill".  It would really be handy.

Morning Aphid Update

First thing this morning I grabbed a breakfast banana and headed out to the garden.  I distributed the peel throughout the aphid bed, even draping them on the lower rungs of the tomato supports.  In my usual hunt for flea beetles I came across a few aphids but not an alarming number.  It looks like sticking them with tape and repelling them with peels does make headway.  Then I went down to Mike and Shelly's end and make sure I haven't merely driven them down there.  They could have be having breakfast with the stink bugs!

Coat a yellow cup with Vaseline or other sticky substance.  The yellow attracts bugs, and the Vaseline traps them.  But this will also trap non-target species that are good pollinators.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

So this year it's Aphids

This evening as I was making the rounds with Duct Tape removing Flea Beetles from the eggplants and checking for stink bugs (I've seen two and killed one)...  I noticed aphids.  Hmmm.. quite a few aphids.  No... make that LOTS of aphids.  Ggggrrrrrr....  it's always something.  Like most pests, you see a few now and then for a year or two and then Hey Presto... they take over your garden by the millions.

Duct Tape is quite effective.  It made short work of the Asparagus Beetle Population Explosion of 2014.  Duct Tape is managing the Flea Beetles quite nicely the second year in a row.  There is a roll ready and waiting for the arrival of the Cucumber Beetles and Stick Bugs.  But.  How many leaves are there in my garden?  If I have to clean the underside of each leaf with Duct Tape once or twice a day...  Sigh.

Banana Peels repel aphids.  I dug two banana peels out of the counter composter and put a strip of peel under each eggplant and tomato plant.  Lemon Juice is a great repellent.  We'll do that tomorrow.  They are also supposed to be attracted to yellow.  So this week I will be looking for cheap yellow bowls plates or cups to hold soapy water or to be smeared with Vaseline.  This whole War on Bugs just never ends.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Gardening Goals

I was thinking the other day about my gardening goals for this year.  And then I began to wonder if it is even worthwhile to have gardening goals.  So much depends on circumstances beyond our control.  But I guess I do make goals each year.  Of course there is the obvious one:  To Do Better.  And then the universal goal of vegetable gardening: To Feed Ourselves.  But that second one is pretty basic and easy.  I don't remember the last time I bought a bean, pea, pepper,asparagus, potato, onion, garlic, cucumber or pickle but I do know it is a matter of years, not weeks or months.  And there are a lot of other things I buy only as a treat out of season like lettuce, apples and strawberries and a few things I have to supplement because we eat more than we grow such as black beans and horse radish.  But then there are the odd ball things that I have yet to master. I guess my basic goal is to learn more and expand my production in both quality and quantity.

This year my gardening goal is to grow a melon.  It can be either a watermelon or a cantaloupe.  I have plenty of plants started and they're doing well.  But this will be my first serious attempt.  Last year I made a half-hearted attempt with two or three plants of each.  This year I have planted sixteen cantaloupe plants and almost two dozen Moon and Stars watermelon plants

Moon and Stars Watermelon

I think more than goals, gardeners have hopes.  I hope this year is a good tomato year and that the stink bugs don't kill all my squash plants.  I hope the powdery mildew doesn't get out of hand.  Same goes for blight.  I hope the Okra plants produce something this year.  Anything.  Even a flower.  I hope the rainfall pattern is such that I don't have to spend four weeks straight getting up half an hour early to water seven days a week.  I hope I don't tire of the sport of exterminating Japanese Beetles, Asparagus Beetles, Flea Beetles, Cucumber Beetles ...and Slugs.

Burgundy Okra

As I have read back through several years of blog entries I have noticed a few things.  #1 we are happily not under siege by dozens of destructive raccoons.  #2 the deer are keeping a respectful distance.  #3 the slugs are virtually non-existent. #4 we have not yet had a full force invasion of any particular beetle.  This is an amazing luxury.  I have not had to go out each morning to repair damage and deal with trapped/dead vermin.

Another thing is that I've had pretty good year for germination on everything from Eggplants to Zinnias.  The direct sow plants are doing as well as the pampered and coddled indoor starts.  Extra plants have been distributed and delivered.  I have a flat of cucumbers to transplant after the second black bean bed is planted (they go along one side) and then we're done until we start picking peas.

Romaine and Butter Crunch Lettuce beside the peas