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Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday July 16

Harvests are definitely picking up here.  The Green Tiger zucchini finally made a squash that did not rot, and once the first one was ready they just kept coming.  The zucchini, eggplant and okra went into a stir fry, also the Health Kick sauce tomato.  This is the first time growing this tomato, and it's a winner, productive, tasty, and early.

A few days later, another squash, another Health Kick tomato, a Jimmy Nardello sweet pepper and a few Provider bush beans.

Later in the week I pulled up the onions and put them on a screen to dry.  Most of the onions are Pontiac, a storage onion from Johnny's, with a few Ruby Ring and red cippolini onions.  The Ruby Ring seed was 4 years old, proven that onion seed can last a while if kept in the refrigerator.   The onions are small this year.  Normally I would expect 25 pounds of onion from a 4' x 6' patch, but I doubt if there is half of that amount this year.

Over the weekend, more cucumbers.  They look like they are about done from fungal disease, but still keep sending new shoots and producing a few more cucumbers.  I think cucumbers are the most variable producers of any vegetable, you never know if it will be a glut or nothing from one year to the next.  Also, another zucchini.  Time to grate and freeze.

Sunday, at long last, a nice picking of Provider bush beans, over a pound.  The pole beans are not looking good this year.  After the initial decimation by the rabbits, I had to buy Kentucky Wonder beans off the rack at the lumber store to replace the Fortex beans that were lost to the bunnies, and they just aren't doing that well.  It looks like the bean production will come mostly from planting of bush beans.

To see what other growers are getting out of their gardens, head on over to Our Happy Acres and check it out.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Monday July 9

Despite the poor weather at the start of the season, it's shaping up to be a good year for summer crops.  Tomatoes and peppers are looking great, as well as the winter squash.  After harvesting the last broccoli and cabbage, I decided to pull up the two remaining cauliflower, even though they will be ready in about 10 days.  I need that space for shell beans. 

Speaking of beans, the first Musica pole beans were picked a few days ago.  It's unusual to get pole beans before the first bush beans but these beans were from a few plants that were not eaten by the rabbits.  The remaining beans are all from a second planting, and the first Provider bush beans should be ready for planting later this week.  There's also more Vertina picklers and the first tomatoes - Mountain Magic.  I've been pulling up the red cippolini onions on an as needed basis, and this one was needed for some green bean stew.

Yesterday I picked another Swing slicer and a Jimmy Nardello sweet pepper.  The pepper plants are loaded with peppers this year.  I'm really liking this cucumber, it's as good as Diva, and very healthy.  The pickling cucumbers, sad to say, don't look like they are going to last much longer. 

The beets were pulled up.  They look pretty lame, but I'll try them on the grill.  At least the cage over the bed kept the bunnies from getting them.

To see what other people are growing, head on over to Our Happy Acres and check it out.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Monday July 2

A bit more this week.  Garlic is out and drying in the pole barn.   In its place I seeded another Green Tiger summer squash.  I still haven't gotten the first summer squash from the plant that was seeded in May.  Most summer squash don't last the season, and I like to plant a new one every month or so. 

Late last week I harvested more cucumbers, both picklers and a slicer,  the first eggplant and a few okra.

Still no beans, as the rabbits leveled the first seeding.  They have been a real problem this year, and are still nibbling on the beans in spite of Neem oil sprays.  Since they also got the lettuce in the Earthbox, I raised the stand about a foot and a half above ground level.  Then I seeded okra at each end of the Earthbox.  It's Jambalya, a smallish okra that should do well in a container.  Now let's see them reach that.

The last of the cabbage was picked over the weekend, Point One and Gonzalez.  Also a small head of broccoli.  I had my first success with making sauerkraut and I'll make another batch from this cabbage.  Until this my fermenting attempts have always failed, even after adding starter culture.  This time I added some yogurt water and the cabbage started bubbling the first day.  It's delicious, very sour with a fresh cabbage taste.  I never knew what I was missing.

To see what other people are getting from their gardens, head on over to Our Happy Acres.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Cucumbers

Most of the summer crops are still in a holding pattern, but I did get cucumbers.  Last week I picked enough Vertina picklers to make a jar of refrigerator pickles.  There's enough volunteer dill in the beds, maybe too much, to make lots of pickles as long as the vines stay healthy.  I used fresh dill, including the flower, dill seeds, mustard seeds, coriander and peppercorns in a 50/50 mix of Bragg's vinegar and water, with some salt.  Refrigerator pickles are quick and easy, and they are always good and crunchy.

Later in the week I picked the first slicing cucumber, Swing.  This is the first time I've grown it, having grown Diva for years.  Like Diva, it's an all female cucumber, very robust and disease resistant.  It's got good flavor too, a winner for sure.  There happened to be a bottle of beer nearby and I set it next to the cuke for a size comparison.

Not shown are two small heads of Gonzalez cabbage, which were shredded for sauerkraut.  It's been bubbling away for almost a week and appears to be about ready.  This may be my first successful fermentation, keeping my fingers crossed.  To see what other people are growing, head on over to Our Happy Acres and check it out.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Emerald ash borer

There are a lot of ash trees on my property and I've always been concerned that the emerald ash borer would reach this area.  A few years ago I read that it was identified in Morgan-Monroe state forest, about 25 miles from here.  I had hoped that it would take it a while to make the jump over farmland to this area, which is about 50% forested.  Maybe I just haven't noticed the damage, but recently it became very evident.  It's here.

There are two kinds of ash trees around my house.  A large white ash tree grows between the house and the pond.  The rest of the ash trees are green ash, a smaller ash tree that is definitely another species (I compared the leaves and twigs a few years ago and there are, even to my eye, obvious differences).  To me, the green ash is the perfect yard tree, nice shape, not messy, and it doesn't get as large as the white ash.  This one, about 40 feet tall, is in the driveway circle.

These trees are also in a buffer area between the yard and the woods, an area that I mow with a brush cutter about once a month.  Four of the five trees are green ash.  There are several more small to medium ash trees growing at the edge of the woods.

Three of these trees look fairly healthy, although I have no doubt that they have already been infested.  One of the trees is near its end.  The crown is nearly barren, there is woodpecker damage to the bark everywhere, and the base of the tree is sending up shoots because its vascular system is too damaged to move nutrients higher in the tree.

A closer look shows the bark stripped off by woodpeckers trying to get at the borers, and the telltale D-shaped exit hole where the adult beetle emerges from the tree.

Yesterday I cut down a green ash that was a few feet in the woods.  It took all day to fell it, carefully remove the poison ivy from the trunk, remove the limbs, cut it up into logs, then split, move and stack the logs.  On the positive side I got a face cord of wood from one tree, which I will burn this winter.  The adults have already emerged from the trees and larva are actively feeding in the phloem at this time, so cutting the trees should kill most of the larva.  I expect to cut several more trees in the coming week, including the one in the photo above. 

The tree that really worries me is the large white ash behind the house.  It's over two feet in diameter and felling it is beyond my capabilities, so I'm looking at some expense here.  Still it looks healthy so far.  It's thicker bark may slow the beetles somewhat.  I've read that treatments are effective but a tree must be re-treated every year.  I'm leaning more toward removal, since there is a very nice black gum tree just a few feet from this ash, which is on the left in this picture.  Before this tree can be dropped, I will have to remove the raised bed frames.  A winter job for sure.

It's a shame this had to happen, but it's something that looked inevitable, a matter of when not if.  The woodlot has a number of American elms growing in it.  They get large enough to reproduce, but never survive to any size, another iconic tree, along with the chestnut,  that's been mostly lost to an imported biological agent.  Asian ashes have evolved mechanisms to fight off the borer, and one can only hope that a few resistant trees will survive and reproduce here.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday June 18

It seems like this area went from winter to summer without stopping for spring.  Yesterday I was reading an article in the Bloomington paper that noted that April was the 3rd coldest April on record while May was the hottest May on record.  That's quite an abrupt transition.  It's been a real heat wave for several days.  I took this picture at sunset on Saturday evening, while it was still nearly 90 degrees.  The sky was mostly cloudless but this one cloud boiled up like a storm cloud. Nothing ever came of it.

The weather has had it's effect on the vegetable garden for sure.  I usually begin harvesting cole crops in May, but this year I picked the first cabbage a week ago.  The cutworms did not help in that regard.  Yesterday I picked the first broccoli and kohlrabi.  The kohlrabi should have been picked earlier.   

At least the summer crops are moving right along.  This slicing cucumber should be ready in a few days, and it looks like enough pickling cucumbers will be ready shortly to make a quart of refrigerator pickles. 

An unidentified bug has been attacking the cucumbers and causing the growing tips to turn brown.  Fortunately the plants are healthy enough to start new vines and I'm hoping the bugs can be kept under control.  The first Japanese beetles appeared yesterday.  I was hoping that the hard winter had killed most of them, but they seem to be abundant. 

The tomatoes are looking good, with no sign of disease to this point.  I planted two determinate sauce tomatoes - Health Kick and Plum Regal.  I didn't think a tomato could be more vigorous than Plum Regal but Health Kick is actually setting more tomatoes. 

To see what other growers are harvesting, head on over to http://www.ourhappyacres.com/and have a look.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Pest control and prevention

Early in the growing season, it's critical to establish some sort of spraying program to control insects and fungal infestations.   Cultural methods for protection - rotation, removal of debris, pruning - are also critical and something that is done year 'round, but that is for another post.  Here are the chemicals that I use that I consider safe when used properly and get the job done.  

Thuricide, or Bt, is a bacterium that targets caterpillars only.  I've found it to be the best control of the cabbage worm.  I also spray it on the stems of squash plants to prevent the vine borer, which is a moth. Once a caterpillar comes into contact with Bt it stops feeding and dies within a day or two.  The cabbage worms had already done some damage to the cole crops by the time I sprayed them with Bt, but I haven't seen any further damage.  I just try to avoid using it on a brassica shortly before harvest.

The first sets of brassicas that I planted were mowed down by the cutworms.  That's another control that I will have to develop next year.  I've read that Bt sprayed on corn flakes around the base of the plants will stop them but haven't tried that yet.

Last year my two apple trees were beset by some sort of scale and aphids at the same time.  I found that a combination of insecticidal soap and Neem extract was very effective in killing them, or any small soft-bodied insect such as thrips.  I use 2.5 oz of soap and 1 oz of Neem per gallon of water, first adding the soap since it helps disperse the oil.  The soap kills by dessicating, or sucking the water out of the insect, while the Neem disrupts cell membranes.  It may not kill a full grown squash bug but it will make them come to the top of the leaf where they can be picked off.   As an added bonus, I've found that Neem is effective in controlling powdery mildew on squash.

I noticed that a commercial maker of pesticides is using the same combination, with added pyrethrins, as an organic insecticide.  I tried adding some pyrethrins to the first mix that I prepared and can say that it is deadly to flea beetles, but the pyrethrins may not have been necessary.  It's important to avoid pyrethrins in the morning when bees are about.   I also used this combination on the cucumber vines which were under attack by a bug that looks like a squash bug but has a harder shell (bugs are actually an insect family that has mouthparts that penetrate a leaf and suck the juices from the plant).  It killed the bugs but I'm concerned that they may have already transferred a fungus or bacterium into the plants.  The growing tips look bad.

The newest addition for fungal control is Liqui-Cop, for liquid copper.   This is basically copper in a chemical form that is soluble in water, specifically copper diammonia diacetate complex, which sounds more exotic than it is.  An alternative soluble copper is copper octanoate, or copper soap, which is found at Lowe's.  I went with the Liqui-Cop, which I bought online, because it appears to be more effective.  It's easy to mix and use.   At a copper equivalent of 8%, the amount of copper in a gallon of mix at 4 teaspoons per gallon is actually very small.

The Liqui-Cop is mainly for the tomatoes, where it is supposed to be effective against bacterial spot, bacterial speck, early blight and late blight.  As a preventive I have been spraying the tomatoes weekly, as well as the cucumbers, raspberries, and potatoes.  So far the tomatoes look good, about 4 feet tall, but it's really too early to tell if it works.

One pesticide not shown is a deer and rabbit repellent.  The bunnies have been a real problem this year.  They ate most of the bean seedlings, some of the carrots, then got into the Earthbox and ate the lettuce.  I reseeded the beans and once up, applied the repellent.  The first ingredient is putrefied egg whites, and it smells kind of bad.  It seems to work though and may keep them off the beans until they are big enough to be unpalatable.