Thursday, August 29, 2019

And Just Like That...

... Cucumber season was over

When I came home yesterday I found that in a day's time my gorgeous cucumber vines had succumbed to wilt.  I picked the last half dozen cucumbers and told my husband that they were done and needed to be pulled.

His response:  "Oh thank God!  I can't eat anymore cucumbers!"

So, until next year...

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Pick and Eat. Pick and Eat.

That's all that's going on this week.  
We pick and eat.  
Bush Beans, Sweet Corn, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Potatoes. Repeat.

One of our neighbors has released two dozen Monarch butterflies so it seems like at any point in the day you can go find a Monarch somewhere close by without too much trouble.  But this was the highlight of my day.

A Giant Swallowtail.
(on a Dinner Plate Dahlia)

It was very large (the Dahlia is at least six inches across) and unconcerned about me and my camera.  I regularly see Tiger Swallowtails, Black Spicebush Swallowtails and Painted Ladies.  I saw a Viceroy last week which is a pony-sized Monarch lookalike, and my most common are the tiny but brilliant Azure butterflies.  But I have never seen one of these big guys.  Luckily I had a camera in my pocket.

I've seeded fall lettuce and transplanted fall Cauliflower.  My Cauliflower plants have been outside all week against the north side of the garden shed so they get about two hours of late afternoon sun.  I wasn't sure they were ready for eight hours of direct sun so I placed these wire baskets I picked up at the Dollar Tree over each one to filter the sunlight for a few days.  Because yesterday when I looked at the weather forecast I knew I couldn't ask for much milder weather.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Green Bean Selfie

Jade Bush Beans
 I'm beginning to wonder if the Jade beans are related to the Yard Long Beans.

Blue Lake Bush Beans - a little shorter and stockier
The Blue Lake are a few days behind the Jade but coming on strong.

Sweet Corn is also in full swing

We have a lot of shredded zucchini in the freezer along with cauliflower and the spring peas.  
Now I have to go and snap the ends off of five pound of beans :)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Sweet Corn and First Bush Beans

An example of my "small" ears of sweet corn from the raised beds.
I hope they keep coming like this.  I'm going to keep count to see what kind
of yield I get from a bag of 100 seeds.

I also picked the first handful of Jade green beans for supper tonight.  There were three or four at their prime, and the choice was either eat them raw in the garden, or pick a few more that weren't quite ready to go with them.   They are longer than the Blue Lake beans that I always grow.  About 7 or 8 inches long.   And because they were so new they were EXCELLENT tender beans.
The Jade plants are so big and sturdy that their stems are thicker than pencils.  I'm pretty pleased with them

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

First Sweet Corn

Today I determined that the first ear of corn was ready, and the second ear was 98% ready so we went ahead and had sweet corn for supper.

The ears were well pollinated but slender.  Full length, but smaller in diameter than farmstand corn.  That may be a limitation of growing them in raised beds instead of deeper open soil.  We'll see.

Autumn Crown Pumpkins
I'm finally getting some pumpkins and Honey Nut squash.  They are so late that they probably won't amount to much but its still fun to watch them grow.

I pulled out the older row of SV4719CS cucumbers because I just didn't need them.  The second planting doesn't have a spot of disease on them.  Johnny's Seeds advertises their Bristol variety as having "high resistance to anthracnose, angular leaf spot, cucumber mosaic virus, scab, zucchini yellow mosaic virus; and intermediate resistance to downy mildew, powdery mildew, and papaya ringspot virus. NOTE: Not fully immune to downy mildew, Bristol has been shown to survive the disease significantly longer than non-resistant varieties".  I guess they're right!  This is the first year for this variety and I'm very pleased with it.

Another Johnny's variety that I'm a big fan of is their Dunja zucchini.   This variety has "Intermediate resistance to powdery mildew, papaya ringspot virus, watermelon mosaic virus, and zucchini yellow mosaic virus" and I've always had good luck with it.  Above is a plant that is the result of two seeds.  I always plant two seeds together because one "vine" grows left and the other grows right and you get a nice looking mound of leaves all season.  Zucchini plants can get pretty rough looking by the end of the season because the large, older leaves at the base die off leaving a bare stalk.  I have not yet had to remove a single leaf from these two plants.

My late planted bush beans are just about ready.  I probably could have rounded up enough for a meal tonight but they would have been real little.  

The plants look amazing.  I always have a little trouble with some sort of wilt in this bed.  Several plants will get some wilted looking leaves, but the overall health of the plant allows them to outgrow the problem by leaps and bounds.  See my army of watering cans along the fence?  I used to leave them all over the landscape but this year I didn't plant as many containers of annuals so less watering.  This little army makes fertilizer day go quicker.  I put fertilizer in all of them, fill them all at once and water until I run out.  It takes two rounds to feed all of the veggie plants

The second planting of bush beans (same varieties) was looking a little pale this week.  I don't consider this bed to be poor, but they obviously needed a nitrogen boost so I side dressed with blood meal and fed them with fish emulsion.

Speaking of poor soil.  In the above photo, there are two beds of buckwheat cover crop planted on the same day.  I knew that other bed was poor but I would not have guessed it was THAT bad.  Wow.  The bed was very compacted and have no earth worms in it.  It obviously needs a lot more work.

 That is one thing I really like about planting cover crops.  It allows you to observe the health of your soil.  This bed above is obviously the healthiest of them all.  The buckwheat is blooming and needs to be worked into the soil before it goes to seed and becomes a nuisance.  I planted two more beds in buckwheat tonight.

And now for the Mid-Summer Slump.  The tomato plants are looking rough.  Actually, this bed didn't do that great to begin with.  The container plants out paced them but once they got septorial spec and blight it moved really fast.  The plants are producing well but I have to remove the fruit before they are fully ripe and let them ripen in the house so they don't get sunburn.  You can see how bare the container plants are.  I thing its time for some green tomato relish and for these plants to go bye bye.

Friday, August 9, 2019

An Ounce of Prevention

Over the years I've learned a few simple gardening methods which make gardening so much more enjoyable.  They fall under "risk avoidance".  There are problems you can avoid with good planning and never have to deal with them at all.  When I see people searching for a solution for a problem I just want to tell them how they could have avoided it completely.  Some things cannot be fixed.  But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The answers that the Gardening Public usually throw at the poor people is "Try Epsom Salts"  or "Water more".  Well, I don't know what your gardening problem is, but unless it is a magnesium deficiency in your soil, Epsom Salts will probably not cure it.  Just sayin'.  Buying a good old fashioned real live paper gardening book wouldn't hurt.

Problem: Bitter Cucumbers
Solution: Choose varieties that are gynoecious (produces only female flowers) and/or parthenocarpic (produces fruit without fertilization).  My favorite variety is Bristol.  Apparently, bitter cucumbers come from male pollinated fruit.  And it seems to be made worse by inconsistent watering.  I buy my seeds from Johnny's Seeds and they always label their varieties well. Also, when in doubt - water.  Sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether you should water or not.  If you aren't sure - at least water the cucumbers.  And the bush beans.  More on that later.

Problem: Powdery Mildew on Squash
Pre-Emptive Solution: Choose varieties with high resistance.   This usually means planting F1 hybrids, not heirlooms or fancy foreign varieties, but at what price sanity?  My favorite variety many years running is Dunja.  You can also plant backups a week or two later and keep them in an isolated area.  Summer Squash and Cucumbers have a fairly short season.  Better to have two or even three short seasons in a row than to try to keep worn out vines going past their prime.

Problem: Squash Vine Borer and Cucumber Beetles
Pre-Emptive Solution: Plant later in the season.  A co-worker told me that his father taught him to never plant a cucumber plant before the first week of June.  That way when the Cucumber Beetles hatch in the spring, there are no yellow flowers to attract them.  This apparently works for Squash Vine Borer too.  I only see the SVB moths in May.  I don't seed zucchini until June.  By then the moths seem to have moved on.  And besides - good things come to those who wait

Problem: Bell Peppers not Ripening
Pre-Emptive Solution:  Plant them in large containers. Do yours take forever to ripen?  They do in my zone 5b.  If the plants are still going strong when frost is imminent, move the containers to the patio and/or cover them when frost threatens.  You can extend your season several weeks.

Problem: Stubby Carrots
Pre-Emptive Solution: Is your soil too hard and not tilled deeply enough to give you long, flawless carrots?  Containers and loose potting mix is the answer.  People who grow perfect carrots for fair exhibits actually use PVC tubes and sand.  THAT will give you a long straight carrot!

Problem: Curly Green Beans
Pre-Emptive Solution: Bush beans can be tricky.  For one thing, they aren't always bushy.  Know this in advance.  Some harbor secret ambitions to be pole beans.  And being broad leaved, they are susceptible to wilting in the afternoon heat.  These things combined mean that your bush beans may soon be sprawling all over the ground under their own weight and the abuse of the sun.  And all of this up and down business means that they will continually stub the bean ends into the ground.  The result is curly beans.  And I like straight beautiful beans.  And even worse, the tips touching the ground can lead to rot.  And then it's ruined. The way around this is to always plant your bush beans (or at least your new varieties until you know how they'll act) on pea trellis just in case they want to climb.  And keep them well watered.  Problem solved.

Problem: Cabbage Moths
Pre-Emptive Solution: Cover your crop.  Whether it is broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts or kale, your crop will be prettier and much more successful if you keep those little white butterflies out of it.  This means either covering it with a floating row cover or some kind of wire mesh.  Or both.  The wire above is just large enough to allow a moth through.  I know because I found one trapped in there.  But it will keep off 99% of them and discourage them from laying their eggs that turn into those little green worms you find in your broccoli.

Problem: Cold Soil Temperatures
Pre-Emptive Solution: Solarize your soil.  Many varieties require quite warm soil to germinate seeds.  In my case it's the Gotta Have It sweet corn.  If your soil is not warm enough you will have dismal germination rates.  Many people use black plastic, but if you can get your hands on some polycarbonate greenhouse panels, those things REALLY do the trick.  And they last longer than sheet plastic.  I don't know about you but I'm not real fond of folding up dirty, wet plastic.  It disintegrates after a couple of years anyway.

Problem: Losing fruit to insects, pests or fungus
Pre-Emptive Solution: Bagging Fruit.  I have learned to always bag my apples.  You don't have to bag them with plastic, you can bag them with paper bags, or mesh bags or even sections of pantyhose.  But the idea is to keep the bugs and the airborne disease and the deer noses off your apples.  Or any other round fruit you might be growing.  This make a HUGE difference in the appearance of my apple crop and so far has kept the deer and squirrels from eating them.

Problem: Bird Damaging Seedlings
Pre-Emptive Solution: Wire cloches.  I buy mine from and I find them useful for several problems.  Over the winter they stay over my Primroses to keep the rabbits from nibbling them down before they bloom in early spring.  I also use them for patches of crocuses which the deer always seem to eat just before they bloom.  Then they get used for any tender transplants such as sunflowers, pumpkins, zucchini or even beans.  There is something about these particular seedlings that makes the crows just want to snip them off.  You can also use dollar store wire wastebaskets. I like the aesthetics of the cloches, but if I had a lot of plants to cover I would have no problem using the wastebaskets.  If you are worried about pests knocking them over, pin them to the soil with two Easy-Out Earth Staples and they won't be going anywhere.

So those are some of the techniques I use every year to avoid problems.  I'm always learning new ones.  Maybe some of these will be helpful to you.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Art of the Vegetable

As gardeners we appreciate the beauty of a perfect white head of cauliflower or the deep purple of a Black Beauty eggplant.   We love to pile our harvest in a nice basket and admire it before we chop it up

I almost always have a camera with me when I go out to the garden

You have to pause and notice the beauty that is all around

Anyway, if you really like vegetable art, check out these galleries from Lynn Karlin

Here are a couple of examples

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Yesterday I gave away ten cucumbers

Yesterday I gave away ten cucumbers.  And these are not them.

These are from today.

 The sweet corn is being thoroughly pollinated

I don't know how I'm ever going to find the beans in this jungle.
I'm growing Jade bush beans this year and their leaves are HUGE.

Finally the tomatoes are beginning to ripen
This one will be pink but it is starting with a "mellow yellow"

I'm spotting cantaloupes and putting them in cradles.
These are designed to keep fruit from rotting.  This really isn't a problem right now.  
If nothing else it helps me keep track of them

After dozens and dozens of male flowers all of my pumpkin vines 
have finally begun to put out female flowers.  FINALLY.

A Flame Star Cauliflower.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The End of July

The first weekend of August approaches and the morning weather guy promises it will be another "Top Five" weekend.  Low humidity.  Warm temperatures.  And sunshine.
I prefer his version over the afternoon gal's "hot and humid".  Same station.  Different perspectives.

The only color showing in the tomato patch is this purple petunia.  
I find it interesting that my top annual volunteers are always petunias and portulaca.  
I would expect at least a few marigolds, since I plant at least 50 every year.

Plenty of large green tomatoes on all eight plants.
I hope they don't all ripen at once

The sweet corn is huge.  

The ears are developing but I am impatient.

The second planting (two weeks later) is catching up and putting out ears.

And what's this?  A cantaloupe?
Too good to be true.

Bush beans will be blooming soon.  

Second planting of bush beans

 The first planting of cucumbers (SV4719CS F1) is average
but healthy and holding its own.
Cucumbers are on the small size.  I have only seen one cucumber beetle this year.

I'm picking half a dozen large cucumbers a day from the later planting (Bristol F1)

The vines are loaded
Third planting Bristol
Half a row only

These three cauliflower (Flame Star) are my last hold outs.
The plants are really nice.  Overall, my cauliflower was late and small but none of it bolted despite plenty of HOT days.

The fall crop of cauliflower

Honeynut Winter Squash
I planted 10 seeds and got three plants This is the first one to set
That's what's happening.  Although the cucumbers were late, they are making up for it now.  The tomato plants in the bed have average growth and quite a bit of bacterial speck.  There is more blight than usual.  It started one of the potted plants so it must be airborne and not in the bed I used this year. This bed has never been great for tomatoes.  I may do only containers next year.

After a slow and frustrating start, the garden is as productive and well-maintained as it has ever been but the ugly mid-summer slump is probably right around the corner.  I'll enjoy it while it lasts.