Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Now there are two

The litter of 5 rabbits that I brought home a month ago has been reduced to two.  The three brown rabbits have been sent off to 'freezer camp.'  I supplemented their diet of pellets with the leaves of cole crops that I harvested and with young shoots of blackgum, willow and sassafras, all of which they eagerly devoured.  The next step is to get a breeding pair and start producing them in-house. 

I wrote in an earlier post about the loss of the entire fish population in my pond after a brutal winter. I love this pond and all the wildlife it attracts.  I noticed that since the fish were gone the blue heron hasn't shown up and why would it, there's nothing for it to eat   There was a concern that mosquitoes might get bad with no fish to prey on them but it looks like the tadpoles and dragonflies have been up to the task.  I've noticed that the waters have been thick with bullfrog tadpoles since there haven't been any large fish to eat them. 

In the spring I restocked the pond with 100 bluegill fry, 20 largemouth bass and 20 channel catfish. The bluegill, which were very small, probably just under 2 inches, were released at one end of the pond and the bass and catfish at the other. Once released they just vanished and were not seen again.  A few days ago I was standing on the deck, peering into the waters, hoping to spot some fish, which up to now I haven't seen.  As if on cue two bluegill appeared, then two bass.  They've grown some, although still very small.  At least now I know that the fish are in there.

The onions are looking fantastic this year.  The main crop is Ruby Ring, one of the few red onions that is recommended for this latitude (38).  It's gratifying to see them doing well.  Sowing onions from seed is one of the more tedious tasks in gardening and it looks like there will be a reward.  The bed is filled out with parsnip and garlic.  Should be a very productive bed. 

The Teksukabotu squash has some really striking leaves.  This is a plant that can take over a space.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Before you know it

I was going to make this post a few days ago.  Took the pictures, then forgot.  Today I took a few more pictures, now I'll cobble together a post.  Since it's Harvest Monday, hosted by here's the weekly totals:  Cabbage 1 lb, kohlrabi 13 oz, broccoli 9 oz, cauliflower 10 oz, and one beet, 10 oz.  No pics though, it's still mostly cole crops:

I have a theory:  those of us who live in temperate climates are actually two people: winter people and summer people. There's also a transition time when we don't know who we are.   Summer people don't like to think about winter people because that's their problem.  After a particularly brutal winter and late spring, it's been a little hard to assume the summer persona, but now I'm fully engaged.  Winter person?  Can't say I know him at all, hope to never meet him again.

One way I know it's summer now is the garden is very close to producing real summer food, and while broccoli is OK it's not green beans or tomatoes.  As if overnight it seems like the summer crops are almost ready to pick.  There are some jalapeno peppers just about ready to go into some eggs:

The Pompeii sauce tomatoes are at the pale green stage, not far from ripening:

Matter of fact the tomato plants have achieved cage toppage, about 5 1/2 feet:

The Calypso cucumber plants are loaded with small cukes.  This is a pickling cuke but I'll use them fresh from the vine until the Diva's produce some slicing cukes:

The Cocozelle summer squash has one fruit.  This variety of squash tends to produce a small squash before the flower opens.  They are good at any stage but especially good with the flower on.

The two squash plants have gone from nearly nothing to large plants the past week.  Really amazing how fast these plants grow (and how quickly they can succumb to disease and insects):

The Provider beans should have a small picking ready tonight - the first:

It's time for the biweekly panorama of the garden.  This morning:

Two weeks ago:

4 weeks ago:

Friday, June 13, 2014

June 13 update

It's Friday the 13th although I don't put much stock in that.  If you believe that something terrible is about to happen then you make that outcome all the more probable, so don't believe it.   

If May is the month for planting, June is the month for growing.  The weather here this month has been moderate, even cooler than normal, with some long slow showers instead of deluges.  And things are growing, really growing.

The tomato plants are nearly chin high.  The rate of growth of a tomato plant always amazes me.  Maybe it's because they are more like a vine and don't have to invest in the wood to be self-supporting, the cage takes care of that.  This is where they are at now:

A few tomatoes are forming up.  These are Pompeii, a sauce tomato:

In the same bed the peppers are coming along well.  There's a mix of hot and sweet in there.  I'm growing chilis necessary for the makings of chili powder and salsa:

Two rows of Provider bush beans should "provide" me with snap beans by the end of the month.  A row of beets are nearly ready to pick.  How do you know when they should be harvested?  I think they are about ready, and I'm going to try grilling some.

Cucumbers are growing rapidly now, after a slow start.  This is Calypso, a hybrid pickling cucumber:

The summer squash are getting larger.  The sweet potatoes behind them are growing slowly, the weather not being hot enough for them.  The Fortex beans at the back are starting up the trellis strings now.

The onions and garlic plants won't grow much more, but the parsnip between them is growing rapidly.

And the potatoes are growing like potatoes.  I'm hoping the string supports will keep the storms from knocking them down.  If they are held upright they should last longer into the summer before succcumbing to disease, and that should mean more production.

The winter squash - Honey Bear Acorn, Metro Butternut and Teksukabotu - are just beginning their growth spurt.  They will likely cover the bed with foliage by the end of the month.  This bed was built last year after a tree stump decomposed enough to be removed.  Eventually it may get a structured perimeter but for now it's an open bed.

Lastly the perennial bed put in last year is growing new things that I like - asparagus, strawberries, and herbs. It's makes me wonder, how did I ever get by this long without a bed for perennial food plants?  There's something reassuring about food plants that come back every year that the annual crops just don't provide.  The fine foliage of the young asparagus is a little hard to see with the spot of morning sun on it, but it's there.  Next year I hope to steal a few shoots.

That's the garden in mid-June.  In July it will be time to reap the rewards.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cole crops

This week I got nothing but cole crops, but some new things were in the mix.  I picked a kohlrabi, a head of cauliflower, a small head of cabbage and a head of broccoli. 

This is the broccoli.  It's supposed to be Major, but it doesn't look like any I've grown in the past.  Could it be that I switched labels?  I've done it before.

And here's the cauliflower - Snow Crown.  The lines between the buds are purple, a nice effect, but it doesn't show up well in the photo.

The cabbage head was just too darn small to photograph.  The tally for the season so far is slightly under 18  pounds.  Next week some beets should be ready.  Can't wait, love those sweet earthy tasting roots. 

It's been a good spring for lettuce, not so much for the spinach.  I tried planting Tyee this spring, which is supposed to be very heat tolerant, and they bolted already.  It hasn't been all that warm. 

I going to try to take a panoramic photo of the garden from the same spot every two weeks to chart its progress.  The first photo was taken on May 26 and put in an earlier post but I'll include it here for comparison:

And this is the garden as of today:

The peppers and tomatoes have grown a lot.  Parsnip is coming up between the onions and garlic.  In two more weeks the squash should be filling up their beds in the upper left. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Suckering tomatoes

I'm not saying that tomatoes are gullible.  I'm saying that this time of year they need pruning.  Suckers are the little stems that grow at the junction of the leaf and stem, the node.  They are actually a complete little tomato plant and will produce fruit.  Problem is, if you don't remove some of them the plant becomes a mass of green foliage that won't produce much fruit, the fruit won't get enough sunlight to ripen quickly, and air movement is restricted leaving the plant vulnerable to microbial infections.

There are three tomato cages in my garden, large ones made from concrete remesh.  Each cage was planted with 2 tomato plants.  The Crimson Carmello plants shown in this picture are growing vigorously.  This cultivar is supposed to have great flavor and good disease resistance (it's the first year I've grown it).  The foliage is dense and many of the leaves that touch the ground were already spotted.

What is the pruning strategy?  You want to leave a few suckers that will produce an nice scaffold that will fill the cage then remove the rest.  Spindly suckers should be removed.  How do you know what suckers to leave?  Well the plant can help you decide that.  Most of these plants have already developed at least one sucker that is the equal of the central leader, in effect giving a forked "trunk."  This picture shows a sucker that is the equal of the leader.

Here the foliage hides the identifying leaf.  It's hard to tell the sucker from the main stem.  I left these on the plant to form the scaffold of the plant.

So I set to work removing unwanted suckers and any foliage in contact with the ground.  Here's the Carmello plants after pruning.

This much foliage was removed.

Picture of all three cages.  The center and right cages are planted with sauce tomatoes.  The plants now have lots of "breathing" room to allow air movement through them.  In this area even a disease resistant tomato plant will contract Fusarium or Verticillium wilt if the foliage is dense.  With a heirloom tomato the problem is even worse (actually hopeless), one reason I've given up on heirlooms.

I'll remove more suckers in a week or two.  Then the plant's structure will be set and they won't need much more pruning, at least until they spill out of the tops of their cages.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Post June 2

 A quick post today.  The usual things are coming in for this time of year.  Some kohlrabi, 2 bulbs, a little broccoli and a lot of lettuce, nearly 4 pounds, and some of it was fed to the bunnies.  I mentioned in an recent post that the Earthbox produces some really nice lettuce.  This lettuce is the second batch that was grown in the EB.  It reached picking size at the same time as the lettuce in the raised beds, which was started a few weeks earlier. 

Not only did this lettuce grow faster, it is milder and better in flavor, and this lettuce is quite clean, where the bed grown lettuce has to be washed several times. I located the box where it is in the shade during the afternoon, but the limited sunlight doesn't seem to slow it down.  So I was thinking, next year why plant any lettuce in the beds?  I'll get the homemade self-watering container out of storage and alternate lettuce plantings in the two SWC's.  That should provide all the lettuce I need.

Next post - suckering tomatoes.