Thursday, August 23, 2018

Japanese Honeysuckle, or The Invasive from Hell

I haven't posted much lately since there hasn't been much reason to post.  Tomatoes succumbed to blight, a product of the sustained wet, overcast weather, and they have all been removed.  It's also been a bad year for snap beans.  First rabbits, then Japanese beetles, then lately bean beetles, have all taken their toll.  I've been working on the lot adjacent to my property, and one project is the suppression of the Japanese honeysuckle which has taken over a large area across the pond, where it forms a dense mat that has crowded out nearly everything else.  In this picture, some of the honeysuckle is dying or dead from applications of glyphosate.

If it was just another weed I really wouldn't care.  When I moved here 10 years ago the lot was an overgrown pasture, with weeds taller than I am, with some saplings growing among the weeds.  Since then the trees have established themselves on most of the lot and many of them have reached a nice size.  But where the honeysuckle has taken over the trees are small and stunted looking.

Japanese honeysuckle will circle around a small tree and literally strangle it.  The vines are very tough and prevent the tree from growing.  The vines were embedded in the trunk of this small dogwood.  I removed them but I don't think it will make it, the damage is too great and the leaves are looking droopy.

The first thing I did was remove any dead trees or saplings that looked like they had no chance of making it.  I cut down the trees with a chain saw or loppers, then tried to pull out as much honeysuckle as I could along with the tree.  Fortunately the vine uproots well, at least the smaller ones.

The next step was to pick the trees that looked like they could be saved and clear them of the vines.  Then I lopped off the lower branches so the vines would not have an easy way up, and pulled up as much honeysuckle as I could around the tree, which is hard work, to say the least.

The next step was to spray glyphosate (Roundup) on the areas that I had cleared.  I used a generic product which does not have any additional chemicals, since I want to avoid any residual effects.  Glyphosate itself is derived from the amino acid glycine, and it decomposes quickly upon exposure to air and sunlight.  After the initial clearing around the trees I kept expanding the area to be cleared, once I realized that the best approach was to kill as much of the honeysuckle as possible.  In this photo there is still a lot of honeysuckle that is not quite dead.

When at least some of the honeysuckle has been pulled up, the remaining vines died quickly from the glyphosate.  Sprays have been less effective on healthy plants that weren't assualted.  Yesterday I went over the area with a brush cutter to knock the remaining vines back some more. The mats of dead vines also present a fire hazard in dry weather, and I've been taking large balls of uprooted vines to a burn spot and burning them.

This is the view from the deck at the area that's been cleared, cut and sprayed.  Next week I plan to make one more application of glyphosate, then in a few weeks I will dig up some saplings from the woods next to my house and transplant them into this area.  The best weapon against this plant is shade.  Once the trees are large enough to throw some shade, growth of the honeysuckle is slowed substantially.  Until then, it's a battle.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Monday August 6

A lot of plants aren't doing so great this year, like green beans.  Between the rabbits and the Japanese beetles, the beans are having a rough go of it.  But the Green Tiger zucchini is doing great, in fact I've had to throw a few oversize squash into the compost bin.  Just can't keep up, and it's only one plant.  Eggplant and okra aren't all that healthy this year, but I'm still getting enough to make an omelette every few days.  Eggplant in eggs.  Who knew?

This area got 3 to 4 days of rain/drizzle/cloudy weather, and blight spread through the tomatoes like wild fire.  I removed the Big Beef and Granny Smith (no great loss) tomato plants and trimmed the rest aggressively.  Even the Mountain Magic and Plum Regal plants, which are blight resistant, look bad.  I don't know how much longer tomatoes will be available.

Today I made the second batch of salsa this year.  I picked about 15 pounds of Plum Regal and Health Kick tomatoes.  The Plum Regal seem like they never want to ripen, and they retain a substantial green core that has to be dug out, or more accurately, I prefer to dig out, since I'm picky about my salsa.  I prefer the Health Kick tomatoes for flavor and quality, and they don't seem to have blight any worse than the Plum Regal.

The sweet peppers, Carmen and Senise, were roasted on the grill for the salsa.  After removing the skin and seeds, the peppers are blended into the tomato base.

Heat came from Bulgarian Carrot and Chenzo peppers.  I used more this time, as the last batch was deemed insufficiently hot.  The Bulgarian Carrot peppers have a fantastic flavor if I can get past the heat.  The one knock on them is that they have a tough skin.

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

Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday July 30

Harvests of okra, eggplant and beans have been trickling in.  I usually eat the small Mountain Magic tomatoes on the spot so they never get their picture taken.  What I'm showing here are the ingredients for a batch of salsa.  First, about 9 pounds of Health Kick sauce tomatoes.  I'm really liking these tomatoes, they are productive and early.

That's not enough tomatoes to make 7 pints of salsa, what my canner will hold, so I picked about 5 pounds of Big Beef tomatoes.  I probably won't grow Big Beef next year.  It has excellent flavor, but the variety seems more susceptible than most to blight, always a problem here.

I like to fire-roast sweet peppers and add the pulp to the salsa.  These are Carmen on the right and a new variety for me, Italian Senise peppers.  I got the plants at May's greenhouse in Bloomington.  It's a very productive pepper and I like it a lot.

Finally, time to bring on the heat.  The small red peppers are Chenzo, the orange peppers are Bulgarian Carrot.  The Chenzo peppers are supposed to come in at 50,000 Scoville units, and I'm not going to test that rating out.  The Bulgarian Carrot is supposed to be a bit milder, but still much hotter than a Jalapeno.  I approached this cautiously, not wanting to make the salsa overly hot, but I think it could have been a little hotter.  Next time I'll add more heat.

The Chenzo plants would do well in a pot.  They are very ornamental, with small leaves, purple stems and a compact shape.  I'll have to try overwintering the plant indoors.  To see what other people are growing, head on over to Our Happy Acres and check it out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Digging up the potatoes

Last year I did not grow potatoes.  The rodents had chewed up so many of them the year before that it seemed wise to take a break from growing them.  I grew sweet corn instead, which I'm not growing this year.  Sweet corn is a pain, and I can buy good sweet corn anywhere around here. 

I planted the potatoes at one end of the squash bed.  Not much, just two rows of Red Pontiac and one row of Kennebec.   I probably could have left them grow another week, but the winter squash is demanding more space, and anyway I was worred that if the voles were active then they would do more damage than the potatoes would grow in that time.

After they were dug up and put in buckets the ground was lightly hoed and raked.  I wasn't real fussy because the squash were going to be trained over this patch of ground.  It looks like the squash are chomping at the bit to expand territory.  In fact I had to pull vines off the potatoes before digging them up.  It's looking like it will be a fantastic year for winter squash.

I attached a trellis to the two corner posts and carefully laid the squash vines over the ground.  They look a little ragged because their stems have been turned but in a week's time they should completely cover this area. 

As for the potatoes - no rodent damage!  These are some of the nicest potatoes I've ever grown.  The Kennebecs weighed 13 pounds.  Assuming that the Red Pontiacs weighed at least twice that much, I call it a 40 pound potato harvest.  Can't wait to make a green bean and potato stew.

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.