Sunday, June 26, 2016

June Is Boring

Quick Question:  Will 2 packs of lettuce feed two people?   Mmmm.. yep.
These are now mostly ornamental.  Zucchini and weed potatoes in the background.
June in the garden is boring. Really it is.  All I have to do is weed and water. It has been exceptionally hot and dry so there has been a lot of watering and not much weeding.

We've eaten strawberries and lettuce until we are tired of strawberries and lettuce.  But of course there is a lot more lettuce.  Rows and rows of lettuce.  It is so cheap and they put so many seeds in a packet a person could easily go over board on lettuce. cucumber trellis gets two thumbs up
 The first planting of cucumbers is beginning to bloom and still no sign of the cucumber beetles.  I'm really tired of cucumber beetles since they killed the cantaloupes last year so good riddance.

The second planting of cucumbers is seeded

The pepper bed is thriving

Tomatoes are doing well.
I planted bush beans along them and those are just popping up today,
Cherry tomatoes are setting fruit

I only did potatoes in containers this year.
They appear to be a success,

And because June is so boring we've planted other things to take care of.
A whiskey barrel and the useless wheel barrow has replaced our dying birch tree.

We got tired of taking care of the perennials on two sides of the house so we dug them out and found them a new home.  Then we replaced them with six hundred ground cover plants.  That was a long day.  But they look very nice and we will not have to mulch around them or dead-head them or cut them back in the fall.

So that's about it.  Weed and water.  Lots of watering....

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Settling the Score

Don't you want to play any more?

Cat: 2
Traps: 2
Chipmunks: ZERO

As my long-term followers know, Chipmunks and Beetles are my arch enemies.  My husband is particularly good at killing Chippies.  And I have a long history of Chippy-angst.  Usually we can get them by setting rat traps along the foundation where they run, unbaited, catching them unaware.  If we can kill as many as 6 Chipmunks within a week, then we are blessed with more than our fair share and some need to go.  And over the years we have had high head counts on more than one occasion.  Well, they're back.

We have been in all out war with them for several weeks.  They're everywhere!  In the strawberry cages, under the rail road ties, up in the vinyl siding corners, digging in the landscape.  We've identified most of their holes and are in the process of foaming them up.  Whenever I find a hole, I tape it up or put a brick over it to cut off their escape routes and funnel them into our traps which we set around blind corners.

Even the cat has finally gotten into the act.  Mitey Mite is 16 years old and hasn't caught anything in over 10 years.  But this year we have so many darn Chipmunks that two of them have accidentally run around the corner and smack into her face.  At least that's what we guess happened since her hunting skills since her two miraculous catches have been very disappointing.  Very disappointing indeed.  The Chipmunk can be 3 feet from her looking at her and we can be pointing and she will be looking at us.

Us:  "Mitey!  Chippy!"
Mitey:  "Huh?"

And then the Chippy will "CHIP!" and run and Mitey will run right to where she saw it last.  And her eyes aren't all that good.

Sunday, June 12, 2016


So it worked.  I grew Strawberries.  Not that is any great accomplishment, I've grown Strawberries before.  It's just that sometimes it seems like you are chasing an impossible dream.  Sure things are growing.  You have more lettuce than you know what to do with and the tomatoes are making progress but the things you've got your heart set Cantaloupes....are looking like a failure.  Again.  Even after all these years I wait in suspense to see how things will turn out.  Because despite the fact that I've proven I can pretty much grow and store a year's supply of fruits and vegetables, I always suspect crop failure may be lurking on the horizon.

When we chose the spot for the strawberry bed,
  Tim thought up some excellent cages
to protect them from rabbits and deer.

I used to have a nice strawberry bed.  For two or three years I picked strawberries until they lost their allure.  I froze strawberries and made jam and bread and honestly got a bit tired of strawberries.  The crop doesn't always arrive when picking and storing is convenient.  But then for two years it quit on me. The plants burned out.  I didn't get a handful of berries.  I got frustrated.  I began to long for gallons of strawberries, more strawberries than I would know what to do with.  An excess of strawberries.  Enough strawberries to be ... well...inconvenient,

So I formed "The Plan".  You know, the plan to grown the biggest, best, most of whatever you can't get enough of.  And it worked.  I bought new plants and I fed them super grow tonic (Blood Meal) and I battled the Chipmunks for the berries (how do those little fff-Suckers get into the berry cage?) and what I thought were slugs but turned out to be tiny little green centimeter worms (smaller than inch worms) that haven't been identified yet and which I do not yet know how to kill...

My strawberries can't wait to get out of strawberry jail

So strawberries are on the menu.  Unlike most everyone else, I am not really into strawberry short cake.  And strawberry jam, while delicious, is pretty easy to come by.  But what I AM really into is fresh strawberries on salads.  And strawberry vinaigrette.  And Tim is into strawberry bread.  Which really isn't bread.  Let's face it folks, any one who has made both cake and actual bread knows that strawberry/banana/zucchini "bread" is cake.  Really.  Its cake disguised as bread.  But I like cake.  And it freezes well, so that is good for long term strawberry storage

Source and Recipe
So why would someone with a blog about tomatoes prefer strawberries on salad?  It's hard to say.  But I do.  Tomatoes are great of course, but they need salt, I guess, and I truly do not feel that they add much to a garden salad.  But some Sungold cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumbers with Italian dressing and maybe some chick peas... now that's a good salad .  But my very favorite garden salad contains spinach, strawberries, mushrooms and garden peas.  With balsamic vinaigrette.  Even I find that combination a little curious.  But it's true.  If you want to be really bold, sprinkle some feta cheese on that.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette Source and Recipe

So it worked.  I grew strawberries.  And now I am going to enjoy my strawberries.  And hope the cantaloupes work out just as well.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Abandoning Your Garden

It seems to happen at least once a year.  Your garden plans are running along smoothly and then you have to leave town.  Whether its for work, or a family emergency or (gasp) a vacation  (Do gardeners take summer vacations?) you have to be away for a few days and leave your garden to survive on its own or entrust its care to a virtual stranger.  Heaven forbid it happen the week your first tomatoes are expected to ripen.  Here are some tips for abandoning your garden and not losing everything:

Make it simple: Most gardeners tend to scatter their plants around.  Besides the established garden you may have planters or hanging baskets out and about.  Don't make your caretaker wander around and find them because something may be missed.  And you don't want to make things so complicated that your helper won't want to help you out next time.  Move as many as you can to a centralized location where they will be protected from wildlife and within reach of a hose.  Place more difficult planters in partial shade so they are not stressed by the heat and irregular watering.  If you are looking for one more reason to put in a drip irrigation system, here it is.  But even those need to be checked on now and then.

Get everything into a central location and put
shade loving plants in a sheltered spot.
Putting everything safely in a fenced area will prevent your helper having
to deal with a big mess.  When the cats away, the mice will play!
Do it Now: Get as many plants into the ground or larger containers where they will not dry out as quickly.  If you are waiting to see if something will survive or not - just go ahead and kill it.  I always do plant euthanasia when I'm abandoning my garden or seed bed so my helper does not feel responsible for the death of a struggling plant.  Plus you don't want to waste their valuable time on a bunch of plants you are going to throw out next week.  If something is scraggly and you're thinking of pinching it back, now is a good time so it won't be accidentally broken off either while being moved to your central location, or accidentally while watering..

Sometimes seedlings will survive better in the ground but if you suspect
they may go into transplant shock, or if very hot dry weather is forecast, it may be best
to wait and keep them in a shady place where they will not need water rescue several times a day.

Wait for It:  Some things are better left until later.  For instance your war on bugs and slugs.  Don't expect your helper to come in the evening and set out a dozen trays of beer or first thing in the morning and flick beetles into soapy water for half an hour.  Sometimes there are transplants that need some coddling for the first few days.  Make sure you know the forecast, and wait to put those in the ground because it is unlikely someone will be around to water 3 times a day.  They may be better off set in the shade under a bench.  On the other hand, if the forecast is rain and over cast for the next few days, it may be your best opportunity to get them in while the weather is mild,

Putting out trays of beer is a very efficient way of trapping and killing slugs.
But if left unattended, they also attract raccoons.  You don't need a bunch of drunken raccoons
rampaging through your garden while you are away.
Leave a List:  Verbal instructions only get you so far.  As with everything else in life - get it in writing.  Make a list of any outlying plantings that need attention and can't be moved,  Write down the location of any crops that may need harvesting.  Don't just say "help yourself to zucchini" when what you really mean is "keep an eye on those buggers and don't let them grow to the size of caveman clubs"  On the other hand, some people have no self-control and cannot be given free rein.  Be specific about the harvest unless you are OK with the chance of coming home to every carrot being pulled or every basil plant shorn to the ground.

Label Things:  Leaving a detailed list will not be enough if your helper doesn't know the difference between a bean plant and a beet.  If your helper is not a gardener themselves, don't be surprised if they are not experts at plant identification.  Remember, there are people left in the world who do not know that potatoes grow underground or that asparagus turns into a fern.  I rarely take the time to label my garden anymore so all my nifty markers end up sitting in the shed.

Photo Source:  Gardener's Edge 
With a little planning and experience, you can prep your garden for some away.  Each time it happens you will figure out more clever tricks so your plants and your garden-sitter will be none the worse for the experience.  Be sure to send them home with a little something from the garden.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

My Strawberry Problem

Last spring I ordered two dozen Honeoye Strawberry plants.  I had pulled out the old ever bearing odds and ends.  I'd decided I'd rather have a mass of strawberries in June.  Or did I say a Mess of Strawberries?   The first year you should pinch off the blooms and runners so the plant can put more energy into establishing roots.  I did not.  I enjoyed the light crop of new berries.

The strawberry patch last August after Renovation
Last August, I "renovated" the bed which involves trimming back the foliage and runners and organizing what is left into neat rows.  I suppose at this point I should add that before I planted my new plants, I amended the bed with compost and blood meal.  

And now look.

The strawberry patch is literally bursting at the seams.
The plants are loaded with berries and they simply cannot contain themselves. 
I'm looking forward to seeing some red berries