Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Good the Bad and the Ugly 2018 -- Part 2

Bush Beans: This year has been a great year for bush beans.  I only bought Blue Lake 47.  I have planted some leftover Gold Mine bush beans.  I stayed away from the Purple Queen which has been my recent favorite because last year's late beans were tough and tasteless.  I don't know if it was the growing season or that packet of seeds.  But I'm not interested in a repeat right away.

I've always said if you are nice to your bean plants they will rally and give you a second season.  But I've never had any do this well.  I cleaned all of the beans off of the plants a week or more ago and this weekend noticed they are all putting out a second batch of flowers.

I've never seen a nicer row of bush beans.  I put worm castings around the tomatoes in the middle and the whole bed got Gardentone and Blood Meal and it looks like the bush beans took full advantage.  They look better now than they did early in the season.

This is the second row of Blue Lake.  They got worm castings and blood meal too and while the germination was spotty I now have a nice young row of beans just starting to flower.

These are the Gold Mine from leftover seed.  They were planted around the same time as the second planting of Blue Lake and they aren't doing much.  I think I will stop and get some more worm castings and see how that affects them.

Cantaloupes:  It looks like a good year for cantaloupes.  So far anyway.  I chose Hearts of Gold from Burpee.  These things were just so slow to take off.  I seeded them in the cold frame the first week of May.  Four weeks later they were still tiny and I had half as many plants as I'd wanted.  But I put them out anyway.

They looked like this for a long, long time.  No growth.

And then they took off.  I have 8 plants in there.  I have at least 16 melons growing and there are a few little ones started now that aren't in the official count.  These are a 90 day melon.  I don't know if I should start counting the day I sowed the seed or the day they decided to participate.  Several of the first melons are starting to develop a nice netting but it looks like it will still be a week or two before they start to slip. 

Carrots:  This is a great year for carrots.  I planted Sugarsnax back in April in large landscape pots full of potting mix.  It took a long time for any germination but now I have plenty of carrots whenever I want.  

Because they have such soft deep soil they have grown long and straight.  

You can see where this one has found the bottom of the pot and started off in another direction.

Potatoes:  These were an after thought this year.  I had some wrinkly, sprouted, spuds hanging about in the kitchen and I planted them rather than compost them.  There were a red variety and a russet.  I'm getting 6 to 8 smallish reds per plant.  Perfect for one meal for two people.  I haven't dug any of the russet, but the plants are gone so I'm going to have to look sooner or later

Ornamentals:  This year I came across a flat of the Strawberry Blonde Marigolds I've been admiring in catalogs so I bought a 6 pack.  They are supposed to be pastel shades.  I'm not sure I agree, but they are pretty.  The new blooms are deep terracotta and have a pinkish fade down to pale yellow when they are done.

Alaska Nasturtium:  It was a below average year for Nasturtium. They were nothing special but did OK.  Some years I have billowy mounds of beautiful plants.  Not this year

Sept 7, 2010  Mounds of Nasturtium
Black Cherry Supertunias and Silver Wave Petunias
This year I spent a lot of time on the Proven Winners website planning my planter combinations.
They did pretty well.  I have 5 large planters, and one I just filled with Marigolds.

Vista Silverberry, Vista Bubble Gun, Vista Fuschia
The combination planters take a fair bit of maintenance.  The only one that is maintenance free is the Vista Series Petunias up front.

I'm enjoying my zinnias very much.  The Dinner Plate Dahlias have juuuuuust started to bloom this week.

Cercis the Rising Sun Red Bud
I am really enjoying my Rising Sun Red Bud tree.  I've wanted one for several years.  This is the one I plopped into a pot of compost.  The other one I planted into the landscape and it is still basically a stick with small leaves.  I'm still not sure where this beauty is going to end up, but if the other one does not survive the winter I am replacing it with a Japanese Willow.

On the failure note.  I planted a lot of Vanilla and Yellow Inca II Dwarf marigolds around the landscape.  The Vanillas have done fine, but the Inca II got replaced early on with Hero Mix and have spent the remainder of the summer in sick bay where they continue to put out too large a bloom and break themselves down to the base.  I've decided not even to put them out for fall and will probably compost them this week.  If I can find the old standard Incas in transplants I might try again, but these dwarfs are no good for me.

Critters:  This has been a good year for critters.  The honey bees found my buckwheat and came in droves.  We have had a lot of butterflies, but almost no bumble bees.  The bumbles were present for the flowering of the horse chestnut tree, but I've barely seen one since.  They like to sleep on the marigolds over night so I always expect to see them in the mornings, but they're not here.

I planted a lot of dill, parsley and carrot, but only found this one black swallowtail caterpillar.  I've seen the butterflies around though.  And more Monarchs than usual.

The other day as I was walking back past the garden I noticed a little lump in the gravel.  It was a young mourning dove.  At first I thought it was injured them I remembered I had walked over that exact spot not five minutes earlier.  I looked around, and there was a second one.  They got nervous about the close scrutiny and eventually scurried off.  They've been here for days.  At one point I wondered if they were just too dumb to fly out of there, but that isn't the case.  They can both fly just fine and there are other doves in the trees next to the garden, but these two wind up right back in the garden.  I can get within a few feet of them, especially if they are roosting on the fence.

This isn't the first pair of doves I've had living in the garden.  Around 2012 I had a pair who for several days in a row pulled a dozen or so of my little white onion sets and made a nest out of them.  Apparently they thought half their work was done.  Not the smartest birds.

And finally Cover Crops.  This is the second time I've tried cover crops.  Previously I did red clover and I wouldn't recommend it for beds because the root system is impossible to dig out.  Buckwheat is great.  Its fast growing.  Can easily be pulled up.  And it draws a lot of pollinators.  In fact, I left my beds too long, and after I cut them down they reseeded thicker than before.  No problem though.  I just rake in the young plants.

Now when you first cut the plants down it looks like a real mess.  A jumble of stems.  Especially  if you let them grow to full height.  But not to worry.  If you leave it a few weeks until all of the leaves have dried and are breaking up, you can rake through and remove the worst of the woody stems, which can go in the compost pile.  After a couple of rakings, you get a nice smooth bed again with plenty of organic material still working in them.  Once they get to this point, I'm raking them every time the volunteer seedling get to about 4 inches high.  In fact they grow so fast, I'm using up my extra seed and not letting it go to bloom, but just raking it in each week.

So that is the mid-year synopsis.  Overall very good with no extreme failures.  The weather has been hot, cool, wet and dry by turns.  I've only seen one cucumber beetle, very few flea beetles and no squash bugs.  But you know, if nothing is munching on your garden then you're not part of the ecosystem.  Powdery Mildew has yet to show up.  I've learned the magical benefits of worm castings.  I'm enjoying farming buckwheat in my resting beds.  We've got a pantry full of pickles, and all we could want to eat of our favorite fresh veggies.  The fall lettuce is seeded and the garden goes on...

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