Tuesday, June 30, 2020

My Green Thumb(s)

Green Thumb: according to the Old Farmer's Almanac, it may have originated during the reign of King Edward I who was so fond of green peas that he kept half a dozen serfs to shell them.  The serf with the greenest thumb from shelling the most peas won a prize.  That seems like a very likely origin to me!

This has been a great season for peas.  I have peas as far as the eye can see.  I bring a stool to the garden and pick two handed as if I were milking cows (which I've done plenty of in my day).  I grab a handful of peas and use my index finger to pop the stem up and off.  Then there is the shelling.  The green has to be scrubbed off of my fingers with a pumice stone, and my thumbnail still has a faint green glow.

Three of four beds of peas.
The bin in our freezer allotted to peas is full to overflowing.  The remainder of the peas this week will have to be eaten not stored.  One bed is picked completely clean and needs to be removed right now to make way for bush beans.  

I planted both Penelope Peas and Garden Sweet Peas.  I probably won't bother with the Garden Sweet again.  They are very tall which makes them space-efficient, and they continue to produce over a longer time period as they continue to grow, but the pods are small having only about five peas each.  Penelope, however, has nine, ten or eleven peas in each slender pod (I found one with 12 last night) which makes them much easier to both pick and shell.

Sometimes you just have to move along.  My pole beans have been very sluggish.  The Monte Gusto were particularly stunted.  I pulled most of them out and replanted to see if that helps.  I think this week I will also try them in another bed on the tall peas trellis.

The cucumber plants are growing like crazy.  

Both rows are now in.

I love purple cabbage!

Potato grow bags with Dark Red Norland

The tomato plants have really hit their stride and 
I now have the expectation of some tomatoes

Black Brandywine Babies

This will definitely be a Vitaverde Cauliflower and not a Broccoli.
Many broccoli are now on their way to being ready
When I haven't been gardening I have been orcharding.
This is June Drop time for the apples, but almost nothing is dropping.  There are not many multiple apple clusters, so I have not had to thin them.  I use sandwich bags to keep the sooty blotch and insects away.  I have bagged 95 apples on the heavy producer, and more than 15 on the other tree.  I am not sure what I would do with that many 13 ounce apples!  Last year I bagged 36 and 13!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

New Potatoes and Peas

For dinner tonight:  Weed Potatoes and Fresh Peas.

Boil the new potatoes for 10-15 minutes in salt water
Add peas and boil for another 5
Drain the water
Melt some butter over them while they're still hot
Pour some milk (or cream if you have it) on them to cool and garnish with chopped parsley

Some people add some flour to thicken the sauce, but who needs flour?

We finally got our rain.  A quarter inch yesterday, and half an inch today.  
I swear my potatoes grew six inches.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Summer 2020

As a gardener, I cannot help but feel that it's all down hill from here.  Each day will be a little shorter.  The birds will leave the nests and not sing as early each morning.  The early plants will begin to produce then age.  But for the moment, we are right at the pinnacle.  It doesn't get any better than this.  And we have had "perfect" weather.  Over and over.  Blue skies.  Sunshine.  Heat.  Its exhausting!  The house hasn't been cleaned in weeks, but my suntan has never looked better.  And we have had no rain.  In the past 4 weeks, we have had just a smidgen under half an inch and three other half-hearted sprinkles.  The lawns have burned out but the annual flowers, as long as they have been cared for, will never look better as there is no rain to dampen their blooms.

Right in the middle of this, the 500 gallon rain water tank ran dry.  Which hasn't happened since 2015.  Well actually, it almost ran dry, so yesterday I watered everything twice, including the apple trees, to drain it down to nothing, and then my husband's least favorite chore started.  Water Tank Maintenance.

First we clean the screen on the stone box which filters all
of the seeds and twigs off of the roofs with a wire mesh.
This has to be done two or three times a year anyway.

Then he pulls the submersible water pump

Attach the shop vac to the vent stack to pull fresh air in from the manhole

And then you've just gotta get down in there.
Then we begin to bail.  He uses a Cool-Whip container to scoop the sludgy water left at the bottom of the tank into a pail on a rope which I haul up and dump.  Then he uses a large drywall taping knife to scrape down the sides.  A hose to rinse off the sides, and finally, a sponge to wipe down the sides and soak up the last of the sludgy water.

There is no way to stay clean through this process.  This muck will turn anything black.

In the sludge there are some rust particles from the walls of the tank, but the tank itself is still in really good condition.  I hope I'm long gone before it rusts out and has to be replaced or abandoned

When all is finished its clean as a whistle.  Just a little rust above the average water line.
Because there are only hit and miss showers forecast for this week, we filled the water tank with the hose.  Like I have said before.  I can buy water.  I can't buy sunshine.

Clean and ready for more water.
Elsewhere in the garden, things have been growing great (including the weeds) 

At first I thought this was Vitaverde cauliflower, but now I'm sure it is a
Castle Dome broccoli that I used to replace some of the failed Cauliflower plants.
I can't wait for my first fresh Broccoli Salad!
I've found another advantage to using insect netting instead of floating row covers.  It is well known that cole crops prefer cooler weather.  And our weather has been in the high eighties, and ninety for several weeks.  My garden is generally about 10 degrees warmer than the ambient temperature, so it has not been unusual to see temperatures 100 or above.  But whenever I lift the mesh and feel the leaves, they are cool and comfortable.  I think the shiny fabric reflects away enough of the sun to keep the inside cool.  This isn't necessarily the case with summer weight fabric.  While it does filter some sun it also acts like a greenhouse and holds heat.

The cauliflower and broccoli plants are huge and healthy.

"Knee High by the Fourth of July"
I finally got my first row of slicing cucumbers planted.  I should have done that a week ago.  They were so happy to be set free they almost doubled in size over night.

I had to do some extreme weeding to clear the Purslane
Next I will remove the bolting lettuce and plant bush beans

My Garden Sweet peas finally took off and reached the top of the double trellis
Last year I put them on regular trellis and they flopped over.

Pretty soon I will be over run with peas.

I just love the velvet texture of cabbage leaves

The cabbages are beginning to form heads
My potato grow bags are doing well.  I've filled another 3 inches of soil on top and then added a layer of leaf mulch to keep the soil from drying out so fast.

Speaking of leaf mulch and containers drying out:  I am so pleased with my tomato container set-up this year.  The containers are probably 20 gallon.  I have water reservoirs in each one and below the reservoirs, I put coco chips to also hold water.  I filled the pot with moisture control potting mix and then topped them with a layer of leaf mulch.  Then I went two weeks in this hot dry weather without watering them even once.  Each time I stuck my finger down in it the soil was moist and cool.  Yesterday I filled the reservoirs with fish emulsion fertilizer.  My eggplants on the patio have the same set up.

Barlow Jap Tomato

Black Brandywine Tomato

Store bought Pineapple Tomato
Because my tomato transplants looked so miserable, I was afraid to throw out any backups.  I stuck one Black Brandywine in the end of a raised bed and it has rallied and taken hold. All of the plants are flowering.

Spare Black Brandywine
Throughout all this heat and watering and sludgy tank cleaning, the Rebecca Clematis has lounged on the bank overlooking it all and brightened our day. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

If you can't beat 'em - join 'em

I am planning on using Purslane as a ground cover around my lettuces.
If you can't beat 'em - join 'em.

Yikes!  At this point I think the only solution to this is solarization.  
At least it is the only kind of weed in there.  I'm not a weeding fanatic.  I control my weeds and spend a lot of time in the of season cultivating the soil to keep weeds in check.  But every now and then I get over run with something.  This happened in 2018 in the Strawberry bed when black Oxalis took over.  I pulled the Strawberries, cultivated the soil over the winter, and planted cauliflower and broccoli last year which is an easier crop to weed around.  This year the Oxalis is gone.  So I'm not going to stress over this bed of Purslane.  I will cultivate the strip where I am transplanting the cucumbers, and leave the rest.

This is a nice time in the garden.  Its the Weed-Water-Wait time of year.  All major planting is done.  All major harvesting is yet to come.  The weather has been cool and sunny.  Daily highs about 80 degrees with a breeze and almost no clouds or humidity.  Perfect weather for making hay incidentally.  Night time has been even cooler with no dew.  I've been covering my tomatoes at night, and the lack of dew or rain is bothersome.  My rain water tank is at half full (250 gal).  Which means I can water the whole garden well twice, maybe three times, and then I will be out.  But I can still run hoses from the house so, given the choice, I'd rather have the sun.

I finally got all of my pots and trays washed out, sorted and stored away.  They had been accumulating in the wash tubs in the garden like a stack of dirty dishes!

Saturday we took the time to remove five large ash trees that had died in the wooded strip along the west side of our property.  For one thing were were tired of picking up sticks after every windstorm.  So what happens when you fell a large, very dead tree?  It shatters into a million pieces.  This was just number one of five.  After each one we cleaned up so we wouldn't be tripping over hazards while we worked around the next tree.  Now we won't have to pick up sticks after wind storms because we spent all day doing it at once.

Next to last crop to go in are the cucumbers.  I already have a half row of pickling cukes planted and growing well.  These are the slicing cucumbers.  Right on time compared to last year.  This variety can be rather moody about germinating.  You can see the one in the upper right corner germinated immediately and has been impatiently waiting for the others.  I think I may transplant the ones that are ready today.  I have a second tray a week behind this which is now popping up.

My sweet corn is looking really nice.  It should be "knee high by 4th of July"

Bed #1 Sweet Corn
Bed #2 Pole Beans, Pickling Cukes and Lettuce

You can see I have a bit of a Purslane problem around the pole beans too.  I've been half-heartedly cultivating this out while I still can.  But I don't want to disturb the bean roots too dramatically.

Bed #3 second planting of Lettuce and spare Tomato plant. 
Cucumbers to come.

Bed #4 First planting of Lettuce
Cucumbers to come
The Garden Sweet peas that I gave the double stacked trellis this year are finally making use of it.  This past week we had a line of storms coming with high winds expected.  All day the wind came directly from the south confusing the peas because they were used to west wind.  Some of them began to lose their grip so I ran two rows of twine along each side to support them and keep the wind from picking them apart.  This worked just fine and they weathered the 25 mph wind without coming apart into a jumbled mess.
Bed #5 Garden Sweet Peas.
The Penelope peas are thick and lush.  They are flowering heavily and already have a lot of pods started.  The Garden Sweet only have a few flowers turned to pods.  They began to bloom on the same day but the Penelope are 59 day pea and the Garden Sweet a 65 day pea so the Penelopes are jumping ahead.

Bed #6 first and second planting of Penelope Peas

Bed #7 Cauliflowers and Broccoli

First Cauliflower head of the season will be a Vitaverde

Bed #8 Brussels Sprouts in the middle, Broccoli this end

Bed #9 Third planting of Penelopes

Bed #10 second planting of Sweet Corn

Bed #11 fourth planting of Penelope Peas and Lettuce

Bed #12 Fordhook Lima Beans and Cabbages

Golden Acre and Red Acre Cabbages
The Tomato plants are doing great.  I have been wrapping them with garden fleece each night.  These containers, with their reservoirs and leaf mulch are very easy to water.  In fact, I haven't added water in a week and the soil is still moist.  They seem to be getting plenty of sun where they are so I have decided not to move them.
Container Tomatoes - Black Brandywine
My Grow-Bag Potatoes are beginning to sprout through the soil.
Grow-Bag Potatoes

Incidentally, this is the bed that had the horrible weed problem two seasons ago.

Container Eggplants and Portulaca
Along with weeds, you sometimes have to ignore a few pests.  Below is a picture of what I am calling "an acceptable level of damage"
Years past (including last year specifically) I have lost entire Eggplants to the flea beetles.  This year I decided to move them up on the patio where #1 the flea beetles were not hatching out right at their feet. And #2 I would walk by them dozens of times a day making it easier for me to keep an eye on things.  The flea beetles showed up on Thursday the 4th.  I sprayed with Neem Oil four days in a row, and now every few days depending on the presence of beetles.  Neem Oil is a topical insecticide but also works as a systemic insecticide which means once it absorbs into the plant any susceptible pest that munches on the plant will die.  So far so good.

Weed Potatoes and Summer Squash

Dunja Zucchini plant

Rebecca Clematis
June is also the most fun in the flower garden.  The annuals are getting established and the perennials are beginning to bloom.  Three years ago I ordered a bare root Itoh Peony.  They say when you transplant something the first year it sleeps, the second it creeps, and the third it leaps.  The peony flowered right on cue.  Thing is I am no longer sure what variety it is.  My notes say it is a Canary Billiants and the one I planted the next year in a different bed is a Callie's Memory.  But it hasn't finished fading to its advertised color yet.  Thing is, on Day 1 it was bright lipstick pink!  The same color as the Salmon Pink Geraniums around it.  Neither "creamy yellow with apricot hues" nor "yellow cream color with maroon flares".  I'm taking a photo each evening at the same time so I can document the color volution.  This photo is Day 2.
Callie's Memory(?) Itoh Peony
I know that there are variations in strains of plants, and that peonies are one flower that fade a lot through their life cycle.  But until next year when the second peony may bloom to compare it to, I'd say the jury is still out on this one.