Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Aug 27

This is more like it.  Beans, peppers, squash, tomatoes, okra and cucumbers.  And I’ve actually got enough fixings to make some refrigerator salsa.  The small patch of Provider beans gave me several pickings of snap beans. 

These beans got hit hard by beetles a few weeks ago, probably both bean leaf beetles and Japanese beetles.  It’s strange because I saw only a few of them, but over two days when I wasn’t paying attention they did a lot of damage.   I picked all the beans including small ones and sprayed with pyrethrin/rotenone.  That apparently did the trick but the damage was done. 

If there’s such a thing as a hard and fast gardening rule, it’s that disease follows insect attacks.  So I’m seeing a lot of rust and bean mosaic on these beans.  Some of the beans have pits on them and are unusable. 

I’m going to get one more picking out of this patch then pull up the plants and turn over the soil to expose any grubs.  I probably should have done this after the last picking.  The next patch of beans has two rows of Roma II beans and two rows of Dragon Langerie, a Dutch wax bean with purple spots.  I got the first picking of Roma beans on Sunday, along with burgundy okra, Carmen peppers, ancho peppers and Supersonic tomatoes. 

Also hot peppers.  The greenhouse where I bought the plant called it Hot Poppa but I think they also go by a different name.  Heat level is comparable to Jalapeno.  There’s also one Holy Mole pepper.  The first one I tried was surprisingly hot.  I did not think mole peppers were hot.  So now I’ve got enough fixings for a little fresh salsa. 

For the week:  Tomatoes 3 lb 10 oz, Cocozelle squash 3 lbs 1 oz, snap beans 1 lb 15 oz, okra 9 oz, cucumber 1 lb 9 oz, peppers 11 oz.  Total 9.6 lbs.  Fish filets 14 oz.  Produce for the year 118 lbs.  The updated spreadsheet is in the 2012 tab.   

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sunset August 24

A few minutes later. . .

Zooming in. . .

Later still. . .

Show's over. . .

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Making Plans, Homestead Maintenance

The garden just isn’t big enough.  I'd like to grow more okra and tomatoes but don't have the room without losing something else.  There’s no more suitable space for beds in the yard that gets adequate sunlight.  That leaves the area north of the beds that slopes down to the pond.  The builder scraped most of the topsoil off this area to build the pond, and to this day the ground doesn’t have a good stand of vegetation established. 

Is there a place on the downslope to the pond to add more space?  This spring I planted two apple trees north of the beds on the slope toward the pond.  It seemed that a wall on the downslope side could hold back enough soil to make a decent garden bed.  I walked around thinking about the sun angle and settled on a wall line about ten feet northwest of the line between the two apple trees.  Sure the trees will eventually shade out the beds, but that’s a few years away.  

The terrace wall is made from two 16 foot 2x4’s and wood stakes.  I may add another 2x4 to make the wall a little higher.  The center stake was set on the upslope side of the wall to give the terrace a slight bow.  I’ll build a sheet mulch and add in some dirt to build the bed up.  I made a sheet mulch several years ago to build a bed and was amazed at how well it worked.   

I plan to alternate potatoes and winter squash in this bed.  Neither plant needs especially fine soil, and I don’t need to access the plants frequently, just make sure they are healthy until ready to harvest.  Next spring I’ll put potatoes in this bed and squash in the trapezoidal bed, which is too wide to access well.  The following year they can trade places.  Then I can finally plant more tomatoes, okra, brussells sprouts in the space that is freed up.
We finally got enough rain to green up the grass and get it growing again.  This was the first time it was mowed since June.  I had decided earlier to cut the diagonal of the rectangle in the yard, leaving one triangle for the brush cutter and keeping the closer triangle at regular mowing height.  The high cut area can join the buffer area near the woods.  The tall grass is in the shade most of the day and will be a perfect place for rabbits or chickens if I go that route.  In this picture you can see the triangle that was left for the brush cutter. 
Who needs all that lawn?  I’m trying to get away from the suburban mentality of keeping vast expanses of manicured grass.  If the only time I physically place myself on the lawn is when I cut it then it’s nothing more than a vanity piece.  Makes me think of the old joke about suburbia – “big lawns, small minds.” 
The pond has really taken a beating in this drought.  It’s dropped about four feet below the overflow and exposed some large stumps that I’d prefer not to see.  I think it’s about half its normal size.  It’s also exposed hundreds of fish fry near the shore that the larger fish are hunting aggresively, and making a lot of ruckus when they do.
Since the pond is low it was time to cut the willows on the levee.  I wanted to do this last fall but the pond was atypically up to the overflow at that time due to some heavy rains.  Willows grow incredibly fast and some of them were two inches thick and ten feet high.  This was a job for a chain saw.  Down they came, leaving a bare looking levee.  I’m hoping that the cattails will establish themselves on more of the shoreline as the willows are removed.  At least they’re gone for another year. 
I also cut back the blackberry and rose thickets on the other side of the levee.  Now that’s a nasty job.  There was a tulip poplar and an ailanthus sapling on the banks right in the brambles and both had to come down.  I had to first cut through the blackberry canes just to get to them, then found that the ailanthus was trying to fall the wrong way and bring down the blackberry canes over my escape route.  I guess that’s the down side of having a pond – it’s a lot of work.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Aug 20

Visit to see what other growers around the world get from their gardens.  The beds are finally producing a typical summer harvest of vegetables.  After a hiatus of several weeks since the epic heat wave the tomatoes, beans and squash are now providing me with things to eat.  Not many peppers yet but soon. . .

I got several large Diva cucumbers early last week.  This is what I got midweek, not sure what day.  Since the Cocozelle squash recently started bearing I’ve been letting the squash get to a good size before picking them.  I’ve found these squash are still fine when they reach a pound or heavier. 

This was Friday. More Supersonic tomatoes and okra.  One of the okra plants has some kind of affliction that causes the okras and leaves to curl.  Probably bacterial or viral.  The cucumber is a Picolino, which has started to grow again.  It’s still a dwarf compared to the Diva plant, but it’s trying. 

Sunday.   More tomatoes, including a Black Krim.  Another squash. 

Monday.  Finally a nice mess of Provider snap beans.  More okra. 

For the week:  Cucumber 2 lbs, okra 9 oz, tomato 2 lb 10 oz, summer squash 2 lb 2 oz, pepper 4 oz, and beans 9 oz.  Total 7.8 lbs, for the year 109 lbs.     

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I haven’t seen many bees since the peak of the drought and heat.  Not surprising since very few plants had flowers, but still I was concerned that the extreme weather had killed many of them.  

Most of the bees around here are the native bumblebee.  Nothing draws the bees like squash flowers, which must look like a buffet to them.  The Cocozelle squash that I planted on July 1 has grown like kudzu and lately has been setting flowers.  With the recent rain and more temperate weather the okra, beans, and tomatoes have also set a lot of blossoms.  And the bees are back.  Here a bumblebee is hovering around a squash blossom. 

The Cocozelle squash, unlike the previous plant in this spot is the picture of vigor.  Yesterday I picked a one pounder from this plant. 
It’s unusual for sure for a garden in this area to produce summer vegetables then stop then start again but that’s what happened here.  I stopped getting tomatoes, beans and squash in mid-July and now they are producing again.  The front bed has beans, scallions and carrots.   The back bed has tomatoes and peppers. 

This is the center row of beds:  The front bed has a later planting of beans and carrots.  The center bed has the lone squash plant.   Fall green manure mix is growing where the winter squash were.  The back bed has cucumbers and cabbage crops.  I finally got a batch of cabbage crops started in cells indoors – kale, kohlrabi, tatsoi, cauliflower and chinese cabbage.  I should have started them at the beginning of August.  

In the back bed the brussell sprouts are filling out.  I’ve tried for several years and never had success with brussell sprouts.  This year they look really good.  I tried a new variety this year – Jade Cross.  Maybe that’s why they are doing well.  

The two beds on the west end:   One bed has the last planting of snap beans for the season.  The plan is to freeze most of these beans.  Beans are the one vegetable that tastes almost as good frozen as fresh.  The other bed has parsnip, okra and a planting of carrots. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Aug 13

There’s more variety this week as plants recover from the heat and drought.  We got more rain this week, about 1.5 inches, and things are greening up, although the yard has a ways to go before I need to start the mower.  The temperatures have become more seasonal, in fact at noon today it’s 70 degrees with more rain on the way. 

The tomatoes are back.  The Supersonic gave me a few small tomatoes – about 4 oz each.  I grow this variety nearly every year as it has been dependable, disease-resistant, bears a long time and tastes good, a good all around tomato.  This year the first Supersonic tomatoes had blossom end rot – probably due to inadequate watering.   Supersonics are somewhat heart-shaped.   

I picked the remaining scallions from an early planting.  They seem to grow very slow here and I don’t know if the later plantings will provide anything. 

The Diva cucumbers and okra have continued to produce.  I got a few Provider beans and some peppers.  This is a pic of an ancho pepper and an Italian sweet pepper.  I also got some hot peppers. 

The ancho pepper plant is the size of a small tree.  In fact it’s as large as the Black Krim tomato plant adjacent to it.  It looks like most of the ancho peppers will ripen at the same time.  When they are ready I’ll dry them and use them for chili powder. 

And this was dinner Sunday night – fried catfish.  One of the nicer fish I’ve caught in the pond this year. 

For the week:  Cucumber 3 lb 2 oz, tomato 18 oz, okra 5 oz, pepper 6 oz, snap beans 5 oz, and fish filets (two fish) 1 lb 10 oz.  For the year 101 lbs.   Summary under 2012 tab.
I got this picture of a blue heron at the edge of the pond.  There’s a large snapping turtle, partly submerged, just offhore a few feet away from the heron, its back visible.  I’m sure the heron was aware of the turtle and was more interested in getting a fish.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Aug 6, 2012

The vegetable beds are almost back to the norm.  This area actually got a real bonafide rain on Sunday morning.  One inch by my rain gauge.  That’s the heaviest rain seen in these parts since early June.  It will take more than that to bring things back.  Much of the corn around here looks like a total loss.  The soybeans seemed to handle it better, although the pods will not be full.  Where I live there’s a lot of pasture, and any rain will help green it up.

The tomatoes are nearly ready to make their comeback.  They should be ready tomorrow.  Green beans and some peppers should also produce next week.  But this week there’s not much variety.  Okra and cucumbers have been dependable through the drought and heat.  The Diva cucumber has gone hog wild and I keep putting extensions on the trellis.  Here’s a pic of two Diva’s and some okra that I picked on Sunday. 

I dug up the last cage of potatoes – Red Pontiacs.   

Something has been eating them and I suspect it’s a mole.  It’s been on a tear through the vegetable beds, eating every last earthworm in the beds.  Since the crazy spring weather must have put the kabosh on the Japanese beetle, it’s main food, it has been going through the beds like there’s no tomorrow.  I think it turned to eating potatoes out of hunger after all the worms were eaten.  I threw out several pounds of potatoes that were eaten up.  Here’s a few that I saved for pictures. 

For the week:  Cucumber 3 lbs, okra 8 oz, potatoes 7 lb 2 oz.  Yearly total 95 lb

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Update Aug 4 2012

In mid summer the plantings in the vegetable beds can look very different after a few weeks.  Since I’ve lost some plants to the heat and drought I am experimenting a little this summer.

The winter squash are history.  I hoped the butternut would pull through but last week it was obvious that it wouldn’t make it.  That’s the first time I’ve lost a butternut squash which have up to now been reliable producers.  I pulled it up and almost no roots came up.  The lower stem and main root were mushy and rotten.  No sign of the borer.  If it’s a wilt it’s different than the bacterial wilt that took out most of the cucurbits last year.  After removing the butternut I seeded some fall green manure mix in the bed.  I also had seeded a replacement butternut about two weeks ago, but it’s doubtful that it can make squash before the first frost.    

There’s still a Cocozelle summer squash at one end of the bed.  This squash was seeded on July 1, after I removed the previous squash.  At the rate it’s growing it should produce in about two weeks, that is unless it succumbs to disease.  It’s the third Cocozelle that’s been grown in that space this season.  Considering how fast a summer squash will grow, I see no reason why they cannot be seeded at intervals to work around the borer, at least until August.
I’ve got lots of snap beans growing now and can’t wait until I get some beans.  The front bed has a patch of Provider beans, some Parade scallions and Danvers carrots.  I had to put the cages back on since the rabbits had discovered the earlier patch of beans.  The bed in back has the tomatoes and peppers.  Finally some tomatoes are ripening.  I haven’t picked any tomatoes since mid-July after the heat and blossom end rot stopped them.  The pepper plants are thick with small peppers.  Looks like I’ll get to make some salsa before long.   
The front bed in this pic has more beans, Roma and Dragon Langerie.  They were seeded about three weeks after the beans in the above pic.  The middle bed is the squash bed, and the back bed is the brassica bed where brussell sprouts and cucumbers are growing.   I should start some kale and chinese cabbage soon if I could get motivated, but considering the weather it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  It’s still in the 90’s nearly every day. 

The parsnip and okra are doing great.  I tried Lancer parsnip this year instead of the old Harris Model.  The okra is Red Burgundy.  Beautiful plant but it doesn’t produce as well as the Clemson Spineless.  Carrots were planted at the end.  The back bed was the potato bed, and I just pulled up the last potatoes a few days ago.  I planted the entire bed in beans.  Since the Japanese beetle is scarce this year I thought I’d see if pole beans planted in late July could produce before the frost.  Can’t hurt, right?  So I took one of the cages and hung it on the fence posts for a six foot high cage and planted Kentucky Wonder beans at the base. 

And here’s a pic from the back side of the brassica bed.  The lone Diva cucumber plant is making lots of cukes now.  I’ve found the Diva’s are better if they are allowed to grow a little larger.