Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Just an evening walk through the garden

The pickle bed.  I'm always amazed every night when
I pull out half a dozen cucumbers that weren't there yesterday.

A view of the garden from the garden shed

Supertunias.  These things need to be watered every day and fed several times a week. 
No exceptions  But after I figured that out they are looking really nice.

It's Tomato Time

State Fair and Hot Crayons zinnias.
I'm still waiting on the dinner plate dahlias to pop.

Cantaloupes sprawling all over

What a lovely bunch of cantaloupes

Blue Beauty tomatoes.
I don't know why they didn't name them purple
because they are the purplest things I've ever seen

More Supertunias.
For some reason this whiskey barrel requires much less work than the planters by the garden
These are watered only if we haven't had rain in a week, and fed once a month

Daylilies Coneflowers Sunpatiens and Begonias
This is the veiew that greets me every afternoon when I come home

Purple Fountain Grass in the barrel rings

More Daylilies out back

And back to the garden shed...

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Dill Pickle Day 2018

It's been awhile since we made pickles and we're out of everything.  Dill, sweet, relish, sweet dill.  The pickling cucumbers are producing well and I had a whole refrigerator hydrator full of pickles.  I always enjoy pickle day because I get to use a lot of my enamelware all at once...

First I slice the cucumbers and soak them in a pickling lime solution for a couple of hours.  This is supposed to make them stay crisp.  Then I rinse them well and soak them in ice water for several hours, also supposed to help them stay crisp.  Tim couldn't stay out  of the cucumber slices because they were truly very, very crisp.

Now the thing about making pickles is that you have to have a strategic plan.  There is really no way to heat all the pots you need to AND have the canning bath at a rolling boil and ready to use.  Especially if you are doing more than one canner full so everything has to stay hot for round two.  Maybe if you had a helper whose sole job is to boil stuff.  This is why we put the canning bath on the turkey fryer out in the driveway.  This works out really well.  Tim can keep an eye on it while I stuff jars.

These are all of the pots it requires.
1. Sterilized jars waiting in hot water
2. Sterilized bands waiting in hot water
3. Sterilized lids waiting in hot water
4. Dill pickle solution staying hot
5. Emergency extra sweet pickle solution

So that's 4 required pots of hot water on the stove... plus the canning bath.  
Which goes on the fifth burner?  Not possible.  Especially with its ginormous girth.  Its really hard to get that much water to a rolling boil on a glass top stove.  The pot is bigger than the burner.  Open flame is just the ticket.

So now I have a tray of a dozen pints of dill pickles.

I was very pleased with how well I stuffed the jars this time.

The last time I made dill pickles with this recipe I ended up running short on dill solution.  So this time I made half a batch of bread and butter solution as an emergency backup.  As it turned out I had exactly the right amount of dill for 12 pints (practice makes perfect - and so does good jar stuffing) so while the second batch of jars cooked in the water bath I used the leftover cucumber slices and the emergency sweet pickle solution to make refrigerator pickles.  I wasn't going to prolong the day by sterilizing the jars and running another canning bath.  So I just plopped them in the jar and tucked them away in the fridge.  Easy peasy.

 This is my third ripe tomato of the year.  All of them Barlow Jap.  The first two were pretty gnarly looking because they were from fused blooms, and I do pinch those off later in the season.  But not when they are the first fruit to set!   I could be waiting forever for a perfect round tomato to set.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How to become a good gardener

I've been pondering what it is that makes a good gardener.  You know, it isn't having great luck and beautiful plants.  What makes a good gardener is failure.  Mistakes.  Pest infestations.  Bad weather.  Poor choices. 

How do you know what is causing your squash vines to wilt?  

How do you identify a bad bug?  

How do you know how to avoid cucumber beetles?  

How do you recognize blossom end rot?  

How do you know what varieties of zucchini are mildew resistant?  

I have a little plaque on my bookshelf.  It says:
Good Judgement comes from Experience
Experience comes from poor Judgement.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Odds and Ends

Arrow is pointing to the break in the stem
This Dill plant is a volunteer which I left to grow when the new seeds were so slow to germinate.  One day it got caught in that ladder and grew so fast it snapped itself off.  But I let it be because I know how resilient plants can be.  How "snapped off" is it?

Pretty much all the way through.  But that was weeks ago and that thin strand of stem holding it together is allowing it to grow and flower.  It doesn't even wilt in this hot, hot weather we've had.  We finally got an inch of rain yesterday which was good because it had been 10 days and my water tank was half empty.  The temperatures have been in the high 80s to low 90s and I've been watering well every three days.

The Blue Lake bush beans

I have half a dozen little cantaloupes set.  Last night's rain gave them a boost.

The Big Drain in the front yard is a lush oasis.  The Chameleon plant ground cover is amazing.

Summer is in full swing.

And the Day Lilies are in full bloom

Monday, July 16, 2018

Not Tomorrow

Not tomorrow but maybe the day after!

Blue Beauty Tomatoes

** I also picked my first Blue Lake bush beans.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Give Peas a Chance

I have a new favorite garden pea variety.  I really haven't tried all that many because I was pretty happy with what I had been growing year after year.  But sometimes you have to branch out and try new things or you may miss out on something.

Up until now my favorite was probably Wando.  But I didn't grow them at all this year.
Reason being, they are very very tall and have relatively small pods.  They average 7 peas in each pod.  So even though there are a lot of pods per plant, the are more work to pick and shell.

There are not too many vegetable that you have to pick UP.  I would have to reach up for the later peas.  They require an extra tall stacking pea fence.  And if you get a stiff wind they turn into a sail.  Last year I had to anchor down the pea fence against the wind to keep it from leaning over.

The first year I grew Wando, they were two to three feet taller than the trellis and the tops leaned over in the wind.  This didn't hurt the plants but it made picking peas a challenge.  You just couldn't see or get to half of the pods.
Wando and Maestro 2011
I've grown Maestro peas every year back to the beginning of my gardening endeavors.  I started with Survivor (a self supporting "leafless" variety) which is now rarely available and Maestro.  And the Maestro are a nice average pea.  A garden staple you might say.  They are reliable growers and only 24"-36" tall but they have a couple of drawbacks.  Their pod shells are thick and spongy which makes them a little hard to open, because the shell is resilient and doesn't yield right away.  And the pod will expand and round out  before the peas inside are fully developed which makes for a lot of "false positives" when you're out there picking unless you have the sun shining through the row at the right angle.  Also once they are even a day too old, they get starchy and bitter right away.  

So - Penelope Pea.  Similar growth habit to Maestro.  Maybe a little shorter.  Seems like more pods per plant than Maestro.  And they are just great to shell.  They average 9 peas per slender pod.  It's not uncommon to get 10 peas.  The pod is thin and well shaped.  It is much easier to feel the size of the peas through the pod so you are not picking too early (giving a smaller yield).  And if you are a day late and you open up a pod just crammed full of over developed peas, they are not as starchy or bitter as Maestro.

Next year I will be back to growing some Wando but Maestro will be replaced by Penelope.  And I might try one new variety.  This year my third variety was Burpeanna which just didn't grow well for me at all.  I don't know if it was the timing of the weather when I planted them or the soil or what but they had a poor germination rate, and the vines were mostly stunted and small.  The Penelope were planted in the same bed right along side of them and did much much better.

Burpeanna from Burpee

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Side Yard - Before and After

Sometimes you just have to pause and compare the Before and After of a project.  
The other day I was flipping through old photos looking for 
something and I came across the before photo above. 
What a striking difference today!

The side yard now has tall London Plane trees and a dry creek bed. and the dying red oaks are gone and converted into wainscotting.  The drainage problem has been dealt with.

 The Dry Creek Bed handles the drainage in a pretty satisfactory way.

The many clumps of day lilies along the creek bed are just now beginning to bloom.
The deep red come first but we will have several weeks of color.