Sunday, August 30, 2020

August - On The Way Out

When the garden is past its prime and things are coming out and beds are emptying I start to feel as though I should get started on all of the cutting and dividing to be done before leaf season starts.  There are still plenty of things growing and many weeks to enjoy good weather.  I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. 

I have some nice Buckwheat going and the pole beans 
and third planting of bush beans are thriving.  While we have been eating fresh beans for weeks from earlier plantings I'm looking forward to getting a good harvest from these to fill the freezer.  

The tomato plants are still going strong.  Every few weeks I have to trim out diseased leaves and spent stems but these plants look pretty darn good for the end of August

This weekend we got one chore done that was weighing heavy on my mind.  The first two beds of Buckwheat were going to seed and starting to flop over in the wind and rain.  I cut them back and covered the bed with several inches of compost made from last year's perennial cut back.  I didn't bother to sift it because it was quite light and fluffy and I know I will be getting buckwheat volunteers over the next few weeks so I will rake those in as they come up and the additional raking will break up whatever clumps are left in the compost.

We also cut the corn stalks from both beds.  Now I have to pull the roots out before I add compost.  At least the beds aren't in need of weeding.

We put both the buckwheat stalks and corn stalks through the chipper shredder which worked just great.  I now have compost in several stages.  Far left is the pile from the day lilies four weeks ago, the small pile just to the left of the wheelbarrow is what is left of the finished compost from last fall and the fresh green pile is from the corn and buckwheat.

I don't really like canning tomatoes.  Pickles - yes, I actually kind of enjoy that.  But tomatoes are a lot of work for something I don't use a lot of.  I planted only four tomato plants.  Two of them aren't really producing much at the moment, but the two that are producing buried me in tomatoes this past week.  Almost a dozen one and a half pound fruit from the Pineapple plant alone. If it weren't for the fact that my husband is enthusiastic about canning things, I wouldn't have bothered.  I would have hid the extra tomatoes.  I mixed the yellow and red together since there is no circumstance where I would want to make chili out of yellow tomatoes alone.

Four quart jars is what fits in the turkey fryer.  I canned the perfect tomatoes, and that left me with too many cracked or under ripe tomatoes which I picked this weekend to keep them from splitting even more in the rain.

Tomato season is far from over.
There are still a dozen or more large fruit in various stages

 As a parting shot, here is a picture of my Clematis Shrub.  This is the first year in about five years running that I've successfully defended it from the deer which usually nibble back the earliest buds.  So it is big and beautiful and starting to smother the primroses on either side.  So I will cut some root divisions out from the edges and add this to the new planting area by the deck.

Speaking of Clematis.  
The vine I cut back a few weeks ago is back and even had buds on it.
  Time for a second season

Monday, August 17, 2020


There is still a lot going on in Mid-August and I have stayed on top of watering and cleaning so everything still looks alive and producing.

More than half of the raised beds are still producing and cover crops fill the rest

The Summer Squash bed is still neat and tidy.
But I spotted a spot!
Powdery mildew.

That little round spot dead center in the above photo is the precursor to total annihilation. Not to be confused with leaf silvering shown below.  I see that a lot on the Facebook forums.  New gardeners on the lookout for potential problems often misdiagnose the silvering (below) as mildew.  It actually seems to be some sort of mildew protection.  Varieties with leaf silvering seem much more resistant than those with tender green leaves.  So I got out my Safer Grow Mildew Cure.  I tried this last year at the first sign of mildew and it really seemed to stop the progression.

This is going to be a good year for apples.  I currently have 71 on one tree and about 15 on the other.  And these are 13 to 16 ounce apples!  A little goes a long way.  Every time one falls I have a pang of disappointment.  Then I ask myself - "what would you do with a hundred pounds of apples?"
I am currently shopping for a dehydrator because there will be more than I need for pies and sauce.  But I do love dried apples.

The strawberries I planted this spring are growing well.  About every two weeks I have to get in there and cut the runners.  I have let some babies take hold to fill in for wimpy plants.

The sweet potato vine... well, it has left the garden.

Dinner Plate Dahlias are beginning to bloom.  I've sort of neglected them this year.  They are on the slope where they are difficult to water, so they are just in a holding pattern this year to keep them alive and next year I will put them in fertile ground and add to them.

My clematis vines, while beautiful in June, always end up getting over grown and mildewed.  So I cut them to the ground and in a few weeks they are back and much more manageable.  At this point I can begin training them up their trellis in an organized fashion and these branches will be the basis for next spring's growth.

Potato pots are so ugly in August!  I've been cutting them back and then moving them to the shade on the north side of the garden shed so they don't continue to bake on the hot gravel.  They look like a pile of Christmas presents waiting to be opened.  You sort of know what might be in them but you never know until you actually dump them out.

Tomato season has only just begun.  I have so many nice fruit waiting to ripen.

Brussels Sprouts are sprouting.  This is my first time growing them so I am learning how best to prune them to give a good harvest.

Butterfly Bush

Buckwheat flowers

There are a lot of busy little bees on the buckwheat

Sweet Corn Time! Our farm stands have had corn for a month but it doesn't taste like this!

 I have enough to freeze this year.  My method for cooking sweet corn has changed over the years.  I use the microwave which is a great solution in the hot summer.  I snip off the hair with a scissors and then husk down to the white husk so there are about two layers left.  Microwave at least a minute per ear and let it cool for five minutes or more.  Then the hairs and husks come off easily although I use rubber dish gloves to avoid burning my hands.

Now we just need rain.  We haven't had a drop since the 3rd.  That's a two week total dry spell in hot sunny weather.  My tank is almost out of water again and I've begun emptying containers of nasturtium and eggplants because I can't keep them watered.  The water priorities are tomatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and beans and not only does it use up the water, but it takes a lot of time to go around with the hose and/or cans and get to everything that needs it.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

What's Growing? - Fordhook 242 Lima Beans


I am a complete newbie at growing lima beans.  It has been at least 30 years since I even ate limas.  I've never grown them, never picked them, never shelled them and never cooked them.  I have a big learning curve when it comes to shells to yield, maturity and cooking.

The plants themselves are growing just great.  At this point in the year, each plant had half a dozen mature pods down close to the ground.  

And they are still blooming and still setting pods.  There are no in between sized pods.  Its like they took a break during the hot weather and the blooms from that time period came to nothing and fell off.  The past two weeks they are back in production.

They are supposed to be ready to eat when the pods begins to yellow.  Once it begins to yellow there is a subtle change in the bulge as the bean grows, and the dryness of the shell.  That's where the learning curve comes in.  You don't want to miss that mid-size sweet yet plump stage and move on to the starchy dry stage.  Another thing I wasn't sure of is - what does a double portion of beans look like in the shell?  I took a guess and erred on the side of leftovers.

The wonderful internet full of knowledge came up short on how to shell baby limas.  All of the narratives and YouTube videos pertained to mature beans in dried pods.  The only instruction I found was to press along the inner curve and pop the shell open.  This doesn't work and I knew from my garden experiments one pod at a time that this doesn't work.  Maybe on just the right stage of maturity, but I am not experienced enough to know what just the right stage of maturity is.  In my mind I decided the best route was a sharp pointed paring knife and a wooden cutting board.

This turned out to be a good solution.  I just sliced the outer curve off and used that opening to wedge the shell open.

I followed this Recipe as a benchmark, because you reach a certain age where recipes are merely a suggestion.  Unless you're baking fine pastries, then you listen to the voice of experience.  I cooked my Limas for 12 minutes.  OK, 11 and a half because I'm impatient.  And I like my veggies to taste fresh.  Because honestly - 30 minutes?  Are you people crrrrrazy?  Yes, I know my MaMaw cooked her Kentucky Wonder string beans all day but...
I added a good dollop of butter and some coarse ground black pepper.  I didn't try the ketchup as I was raised to do.

And I thought they turned out really good.  My husband ate them despite prefacing it by saying "Don't give me much because I don't like limas."  At least he didn't take a bite and then offload his portion onto my plate like he does with broccoli.  I always take that as a vote of approval. He is game to at least try anything I've grown at least once. He told me over supper that his mother combined limas with ham and made a casserole. So it is not ironic that I chose to serve ham as our main course.  When adding up the components of lima beans, potato salad and fresh sweet corn, a slice of ham seemed like the logical choice.  I guess I was right

Friday, August 14, 2020

Was it Worth It?

 Now I'm not saying our local farm stands don't have good Sweet Corn, but back in 2018 every one was raving about our local sweet corn and we didn't find any to be very good at all.  Tough.  Bland.  Despite the great convenience of having someone else do the growing and figuring out when to pick, I decided I had to grow my own.  

Last year I tried the Gotta Have It which I had previous experience with.  This year I also tried this SS3778R (F1) sh2 that's a lot of numbers and letters!  A month ago this whole bed went flat in a burst of wind and I began to question my sanity.  Was it worth it? Trying to grow a crop like sweet corn in raised beds?  


  This corn was awesome!

I have a nice full bed of it and there are a lot of ears.

Nice big ears.  Two to a stalk in most cases.

The other bed which has Gotta Have It is not doing anywhere near as well.  It has about a third of the ears and they aren't developing very fast.  The stalks are awesome.  And I make sure I water the bed (along with the other) at least every three days because it has been so hot and dry.  We'll see how it turns out.

The fact that I didn't write a blog entry last weekend is indicative of my general malaise and lack of enthusiasm.  Not just with gardening, but life in general.   I spent a couple of days this past week trying to remember what "fun" was. Since Covid-19 has wrung all of the fun out of this summer.  But then I decided this is fun. I got past my summer burn out. 

I work in an essential industry (gas and oil) and have my own private office (nearest coworkers are hours away) so my work routine has been completely uninterrupted.  I take every Friday off from May through July.  I am now down to every other Friday through the end of the year.  That's how I burn up vacation time without being missed and having work pile up.  Everyone gets used to me not being available Fridays.  

I didn't have last Friday off so I was looking forward to today.  Yesterday at the office I wrote up a long list of heavy duty chores like weed whacking and pulling out cucumbers.  When I looked at my list this morning I knew this would be one of those days where you sweat all the way through your clothes and at the end of the day you barely have the energy to get out of them and into the shower.  And I love days like that.

I've finally gotten past the point where all of the cauliflower and cucumbers and cabbages were sitting in the fridge demanding to be eaten.  Things are much more manageable now.  I've been keeping up with my garden housekeeping very well.  I've cleaned 4 beds out and planted them with buckwheat.

The earliest buckwheat has gotten quite tall.  Last year the buckwheat crop in this bed below was very yellow and sparse.  I've taken special care with the soil and it is now doing as well as the other beds.  That is an unsung advantage of planting cover crops.  You can compare the health and fertility of different beds against each other.

It is finally tomato season.  I've been eating mid-sized Black Brandywine tomatoes since the first of August, but my Barlow Jap Tomatoes have finally begun and they are the best they have ever been.  

Four big, beautiful Barlow Japs all ripe at once.

The Barlow Jap plant is healthy as can be.  I've only done some structural pruning on branches that were not in a spot where I could support them.  It has barely shown any sign of Septorial Speck or Blight. The Pineapple tomato (below) on the other hand has had a big problem with Septorial and I pulled two Black Brandywine I had in beds because they were blighting out faster than the tomatoes could ripen.

The Black Brandywine plant in the container (below) is still healthy and producing well.  Just a little bit of leaf curl.  This is my first year for this variety and I have to say the taste is very good.  For black or brown tomatoes I still prefer the Paul Robeson overall.  But I'm enjoying them this year.  They are a little on the small side for a beefstake.  It takes two slices to fill a sandwich.  They are the perfect size for topping a hamburger.

Well that catches me up on my garden blogging.  Tomorrow I am actually going to clean the house! And learn how to shell baby Lima Beans.  I've been experimenting one pod at a time in the garden but its time to pick a bunch and I still haven't worked out a good method.  Luckily, if I fail at shelling babies, I can always let them mature on the vine and store them dry.  But its the baby limas I'm interested in.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Summer Burn-out

This summer has been a hot one.  Around our area in western NY the average July temperature is the mid to upper 70s.  That'd be around 25*C for those of you using celsius.  This year we are always in the high 80s (30*C).  That can increase your garden fatigue.  I usually begin next year's garden plan in August when I am tired and unusually realistic and sick of zucchini.  I started next year's plan mid-July!  This year's plan was pretty darn good, but it did create a glut of work now and then.  And that is what I try to avoid.

The garden still looks healthy and tidy and the daily and weekly chores are manageable, but I have reached to part of the growing season where I wonder "what was I thinking?!?"  This is the time of year when a lot of gardeners feel overwhelmed.  In my case, it is usually more about the food than the work.  And of course, like most of us, I planted a little extra.  I now have a virtually unlimited supply of cauliflower, zucchini, and cucumber.  Corn to follow.  Tomatoes are looking like a bumper crop (if they ever start to ripen).  Thank goodness we survived the onslaught of peas and lettuce!  

Pineapple Tomatoes

Besides mapping out next year's beds and making shopping lists for seeds, I keep a list of observational dos and don'ts:
  • Don't: plant more than six cucumber vines at a time.
  • Do: buy two gallons of fertilizer
You get the idea.  The Garden Plan tends to ebb and flow over the years.  You will have a disappointing year for something so next year you over compensate and plant too much.  A lot of this is driven by sloppy shopping.  So I am very specific when I draw up my layout and lists.  But I am sure I will buy SOMETHING that isn't in the plan.  And it will happen in January when my immunity to bad choices is most compromised by glossy catalogs.

Next year:

Fewer Cauliflower plants and only Flame Star (unless I find a source for Mulberry)
Its not so much that the bed was over-crowded, because it did fine, but we just don't use that many cauliflower.  I am tempted to leave them to grow as large as possible when I should be employing the same strategy as zucchini and picking them small.  The deep purple Graffiti cauliflower were a lot of fun to grow, but the orange Flame Star is still our favorite so I'll stick with that.

Cue Ball Zucchini

Only two Clue Ball summer squash and only two plants of that.
The "single serving" size of the round Cue Ball squash is perfect for me.  And the size of the slices are easy to flip on the grill.  So now I have all of this "extra" regular zucchini.  A person can only eat so many zoodles.  And I still have some shredded zucchini in the freezer from last year for making bread.

Two spare cucumber plants planted late at the end of the bean row
Will extend the season when the main rows burn out

Fewer slicing cucumbers and no pickling cucumbers.
A dozen pints of dill and a dozen pints of sweet just lasted us two years.  So when my pickling escapades are done for the season, we will have enough pickles to get us to 2022.  And each year I get better and better at growing slicing cucumbers and I'm going to have to learn to scale back production!  I could easily grow cukes by the bushel.  I used to be that way with bush beans but I've learned to moderate.

Try Pole Beans from a different source.
I still like the idea of having yellow and purple pole beans because I want to be able to see the beans against the foliage and have them more at eye level to avoid crouching down to pick.  But I still haven't found the right varieties.  I've tried before with Renee's Tri-color Pole Beans.  The vines were great but the beans themselves were ho-hum.  This year, I like the beans but the vines are absolutely pitiful.  I've tried them in a second bed hoping completely different growing conditions will do the trick, but if not, I will try the same varieties next year from a different source.  These came from Territorial and I don't have any history with them so it is possible the seeds aren't the very best.  I can get both Carminat and Monte Gusto from either Johnny's or Burpee's, and Johnny's and Burpee's seeds have never disappointed me yet. I like to try new sources as much as new varieties, but sometimes the old favorites are the best.

Things to remember when critiquing your garden during July Overwhelm:

Potatoes Flop Over
This is an ugly time of year for potato plants.  They inevitably flop over and turn brown, dying off as they complete their life cycle.  That's really hard to watch especially when they have been so beautiful up to now.  But it will be one less thing to water!  The grow bags were high maintenance through that hot dry period, and the Sweet Potatoes still are.

Tomatoes get bacterial disease
Certain varieties are more resistant, and containers are easier to keep healthy than in the ground, but there will come a day when your tomato plants will have to be pruned a bit.  This time the first to show signs is the store bought Pineapple plant.  Again- really hard to watch when they have been so beautiful up to now.

All good things come to an end (cauliflower)
It is hard to say good bye to a spring crop.  And these were so much fun to watch.  I am used to the dying back of pea plants, and I've even come to accept the aging of tomato and potatoes, but I am still coming to terms with the bare spots in my cauliflower bed.  I've found the best way to harvest cauliflower is with a large by-pass lopper tool.  I cut the plant down to the ground and remove it out into the open where I can lop it a second time to remove the head.

Sometimes a little Ugly is OK (Brussels Sprouts)
The Agfabric did a fine job of keeping the insects out of the cole crops.  But yes, now and then one does get through.  You just have to pay attention and pick them off before it gets too bad.  And fortunately I am finding the worms one or two at a time, not dozens at a time like last year.

But not everything is on its way out.  The Sweet Corn will be ready in a few days.
This is the bed of corn that blew down in the rain.