Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday September 29

It's the end of September and the beans are still going strong.  I don't expect that to last much longer though.  The duration of sunlight on the vegetable beds is shrinking rapidly as the trees to the south and west come into play.  This is the garden in mid-afternoon and it's already in shade.  Most of the shade comes from an oak tree southwest of the beds.  Next spring I intend to take it down.

Still I'm getting beans, peppers, and summer squash.  Over 4 pounds of beans for the week, most of them Fortex.  Guess I'll have to freeze more beans.  The pepper is a Round of Hungary, very sweet pepper.

The winter squash have been curing in the sun over two weeks and are ready for storage.  The Teksukabotu doubled the yield of the butternuts.   Many of the Teksukabotu weighed in at over 4 pounds while the largest butternut weighed 3 pounds 11 oz.  Over 11 pounds of butternuts and not quite 23 pounds of the Teks.

I've wondered how the Teksukabotu could sustain such long vines from a central root system.  Here they are running amok down the slope toward the pond.  It's looking pretty unkempt in this area.  I need to build a trellis for the raspberry plants soon.

The vines set down now roots as they grow.  Here's a vine that was pulled up.  It puts down a root every foot or so.

The weather here has been very warm and sunny for the last two weeks, but all that will change by week's end when the temperatures drop.  Then the yields fresh vegetables will plummet, but until then I'll enjoy the bounty.  I'm hoping to pick another batch of chilis before the weather turns - they are nearly ready.

For the week I got 41 pounds, most of that winter squash.  I had to remove the last picking of Acorn squash from the totals.  Turned out they weren't any good, just rotting in the cupboard.  They didn't look right but I thought that was just they way they looked.  Not so.  Still I'm easily on track to make 300 pounds.  There's still sweet potatoes, parsnip and a second batch of winter squash to harvest.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The New Deck - The Floor

I've been meaning to update the progress on the deck for days and something always comes up.  Better late then never as they say, so here goes.  In the last post on the deck most of the deck frame was complete, ready for installation of the deck boards, which are 1 1/8 inch thick and 5 1/2 inches wide.  I purposely left a part of the frame unfinished to make the work area more accessible. Here is the first section of flooring installed:

Some of the old deckboards, the dark ones, were re-used.  Originally I wanted to leave the existing deck in place, but when I looked at the workmanship, or lack of, it was clear that the old deck had to come out.  I saved as much of the old wood as possible.

This is a detail of the interior post with the beam on one side and header to the ledger board.  I prefer using a beam to support the joists, it's a much stronger method, but a beam cannot extend all the way to the house.  Basically the beam is supporting all but one of the joists.

Here's another view of the deck from a different angle.  It's starting to look like a deck at this point.

At this point it was necessary to finish the frame.  After this it became even more difficult to move between ground and deck, at least for this old carpenter.  The red milk crate is my step stool. 

There are some more details on the frame in this area that have to be worked out before the rest of the deck boards can be installed.  The stairs and dummy posts (posts that are attached to the deck frame but not to earth) must first be installed.  I also put in the one and only diagonal brace on the deck, the only one that I felt was necessary as this end can potentially be subject to racking stresses since it is not attached to the house. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday September 22

My computer died last week.  The screen went blank and a little wisp of smoke came out of a corner of the laptop, never a good sign.  The machine was 4 years old and attempting a repair was pointless, certain to cost much more than its worth.  So I bought a basic laptop.  It's taken days to get the thing working for me, downloading programs, learning my way around Windows 8 (not a fan), and getting updates installed.  One thing I like about this computer is the improved battery performance.  It will run on battery power for hours and hours, unlike the old one.

Even though it's late September the garden is producing well.  The Fortex pole beans are once again pumping out foot long beans like they did in July and August, almost.  The squash plant that replaced the first one makes a new squash once or twice a week.  This is what I picked last Thursday.

Most of the bean production comes from the pole beans, but the patches of Provider and Roma II bush beans are giving me some beans.  Those are the last tomatoes.  The tomato plants this year were hit hard by leaf blight.  The plants were taken out and the cages dismantled.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are finished for the year.

Shade from the woods to the south is creeping closer every day and the duration of sunlight on the garden is diminishing quickly.  I'll get fresh goodies for a few more weeks before it ends.  I picked just over 3 pounds of beans last week and 27 pounds for the year, most of them from a single row of pole beans. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday September 15

It's mid-September but the last few weeks have been more like late October.  The cool and cloudy weather has markedly slowed down production.  On the 'bright' side the last few days have been sunny and more vegetables are sizing up. 

The pepper plants have established enough to produce well even through this unfavorable weather.  The Serrano and Jalapeno plants are setting another flush of hot peppers. After picking a batch of Joe Parker New Mexico peppers a few weeks ago for chili powder, there's another set of peppers that are nearly ripe.  For some reason the Anchos are not doing much.  The sweet peppers continue to produce.  These sweet peppers are Round of Hungary and Marconi.  In the Fall the sweet peppers seem to attain their best flavor.

The beans have resumed production, most of it from the Fortex pole beans.  There's some Roma II beans mixed in.

The Cocozelle squash that was planted in July produced its first squash.  The first plant gave me over 30 pounds of squash, yes, one plant, and I was getting a little tired of squash by the time I pulled it out to make room for the sweet potatoes.  I picked this squash yesterday, along with a small eggplant and more beans.  And the cauliflower that had been growing since May was finally ready to pick.  The squash, cauliflower, eggplant, basil and tomatoes went into a vegetable stir fry. 

It was not a great week in terms of total yield, only 6.6 pounds, but I got a little of everything so I'm not complaining. To see the goodies that come from people's gardens head on over to

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The New Deck - Finishing the Frame (Almost)

I'm making good progress on the new deck.  I was eager to start putting in the floor joists but first a layer of stones was needed over the plastic sheeting.  The inside corner where the sunroom joins the house gets almost no sun and it seemed that moving any rain water away from the house in this area would relieve the damp conditions, which is what the plastic does.  Friday I went into town, bought some stone and spread it out.

With the stone down the joists could be set in.  This is where the beam in post and beam construction is really handy.  With one or both ends of the joist setting on top of the beam there is no need to make an exact cut, the joist simply has to pass over the beam by a few inches. 

The above picture shows two sections with the joists set in place.  A header was set between the first beam and the house to carry the last two joists, since the beam could not extend all the way to the house.  The joists attaching to the header required an exact cut to fit between the header and ledger board.  Here's a view of the joists from the existing deck.  Some planks were set across the joists to give access to the sunroom until the flooring goes down.

Today was the day to put the vinyl siding back on.   Last week I located a match for the siding with a local supplier and bought two sheets.  The remaining damaged sheets were cut and spliced to fill in the space.  I don't much like vinyl siding but that's what is on the house and this wasn't the time to reinvent the wheel.  The joists were set into the third section.  This took a while to do with cutting a 52 degree bevel on one end (there's a trick for this which I'll try to go into later).

Next I'll set the floor boards into the first section near the sunroom.  I won't set in the joists near the house until the floor is complete in that section.  It makes it a lot easier go from saw to workspace if I can walk on solid ground most of the trip. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

End of Summer Chores

I don't know if this is late Summer or early Fall. Technically it's still Summer.  It feels more like Fall today after a front with its storm clouds moved through last night.  This morning I walked around the yard looking for downed limbs and seeing what needs cleaning up.  A few plants needed re-staking but mostly things were in good shape.  It seemed like a good time to do some housecleaning.

The cucumbers have been overtaken by disease.  It was time for them to go.  I cut the vines and pulled them out, then removed the trellis, which is a 4' x 8' concrete remesh, and pulled out the metal fence posts.  The tomatoes are nearly finished and those supports are next to go.

It was past time to pick the winter squash.  These are Teksukabotu and Metro Butternut, from two plants of each variety.  These squash set in June and have had plenty of time to mature (most winter squash take about 45 to 60 days to ripen fully).   Each plant produced 3 squash, but the Teksukabotu's are quite a bit larger than the Butternuts.  I'll let them cure in the sun for a week or two then weigh them. 

The Teksukabotu are a cross between C. maxima (kabocha) and C. moschata (butternut) and are resistant to the borer.  They are also incredibly vigourous.  Some of the vines are over 30 feet long.  I tried to capture it with this picture showing the bed on the left and the vines trailing down the hill.

A little closer and you can see the vines surrounding the okra plants and approaching the raspberry bed.  There are several more squash that set in late August/early September that I'm hoping will ripen before the first frost.  There's one in the foreground in this picture.  I went throught the vines with pruning shears and removed any new fruit that set recently.  I also removed spent foliage and cut off the growing tips of the vines.  Enough!

The squash has had powdery mildew since midsummer.  I spray with Neem about once a week.  It suppresses the mildew quite well I've found.   Neem won't completely remove the mildew but it will keep it manageable.

Another late season project that needs to be done is building a trellis system for the raspberries.  They have really taken off now and the Autumn Bliss is providing snacks nearly every day.  The vines have multiplied and the stakes are just not up to the task.  Even the Carolines are needing some support.

And here's my late season Zucchini, planted in July.  It was nice to get a break from the summer squash after I pulled up the first plant, but a few more are certainly welcome at this point.

Any day now this cauliflower is going to be ready to pick.  It's been growing here all summer.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The New Deck - Building the Frame

Since the last post on removing the old deck I've been setting up the posts, beams and the perimeter joists.  Typically in this area the posts are set in a hole and the space is filled with concrete.  Even a treated post rated for ground contact will eventually rot if it is continually in a wet environment.  I used the concrete forming tubes to make cylindrical concrete footers.  The tubes save a lot of concrete since the holes are dug as wide as the base pad, which for the interior footers was 18 inches in diameter. Once the pad is poured the tube is set in the pad and it is filled with concrete.

The tube is plumbed before filling with concrete.  After filling a post anchor is set into the wet concrete.

The first step of framing is installation of the ledger board.  First the vinyl siding had to be cut just above where the floor boards will go.  The bottom course of siding was cut so it would fit just underneath the ledger board then reinstalled.  The ledger board was attached to the house with 4 inch lag screws, long enough to anchor to the house's sill joist. 

The ledger board extends past the house.  That's where the stairs will go.

Next the 2x10 beams and perimeter joists were added.  The support beam does not extend all the way to the house, it would run into the ground, but it will carry all but one of the joists.  A simple header between the beam and the ledger board will carry the remaining joist.

Then the next section was built on.  This footer is not in line with the first section, it is moved in about ten inches.  I wanted to make this straight, but there's a large oak tree nearby and I had to move the hole toward the house to avoid the roots.  I ended up digging a large hole.  Just like the previous post, the outer post was plumbed and braced, and the beam was attached.

This morning I set in the post at the end of the ledger board.  This is the only post that was not set on a concrete footer.  There is a concrete pad at the bottom of the hole.  I added a single layer of river rock and filled the pores with sand, put sealent on the end of the post and set it in the hole, plumbed it and attached it to the ledger board. then filled in with soil.  This post supports the least weight of any of the posts, my excuse for not making another concrete footer.
The post on the right was plumbed and braced (I braced it in one direction by attaching it at the top to the nearby post, easier than bracing to the ground).  The final task for the day was attaching the perimeter joist to the posts.  I used wood that was removed from the first deck, that's why it is stained. 

Here's a detail of how the perimeter joists are attached to the posts.  Since the perimeter changes angles at each post only one could be attached to the outer face of the post.  The remaining joist sets on the beam so it is well supported.  Lag screws were added to the unsupported joist today.

You can see that one last perimeter joist remains to be installed.  First I need to put down a sheet of plastic near the house.  This inside corner is in near perpetual shade and I want to make sure that water drains away from it.  Then I need to get some crushed stone to cover the plastic and I need access for the wheelbarrow.  Then I can put on the last perimeter joist and start filling in the floor joists.  That should be an easy job.  After that the floorboards and railings.  It's coming along.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday September 8

Good news, for me anyway, the green beans are back from vacation.  I guess it was the string of sunless days that did it, they just stopped producing. On Saturday I picked a small mess of Fortex beans along with a few Romas.  It looks like many more are on the way.  No they won't be producing like they did in July and August, but I'll get more for eating and probably extra to freeze.  Yes green beans are the one vegetable I can eat nearly every day.

I'm getting a little more okra now, but still not nearly as much as last year.  There was enough to make a quart of refrigerator pickles, with some Serrano peppers thrown in.  These are Silver Queen and Millionaire.

These Honeybear Acorn squash are from the plant that did not succumb to the borer.  None of them darkened like this cultivar normally does, but I believe they are fully ripe since they set in June.

It's chili pepper time.  I picked these this morning, a little over two pounds.  From left to right they are Holy Mole, Joe Parker New Mexico, and San Luis Ancho the last two from Renee's seeds.  I tried this Ancho last week and it is surprisingly hot, much hotter than the anchos I grew last year..  The peppers were put on a screen to dry in the sun today,  then this evening I'll put them on the dehydrator to finish.  With oregano and toasted cumin seeds they will make a batch of chili powder.

I'll say right here that in my opinion the Ancho is the finest pepper in all creation.

The two Teksukabotu squash are still growing and flowering.  They make huge flowers.  At this point I remove any new squash that form.  I like to leave them flower first because they provide a real banquet for the bees.  I recently saw one flower with 4 bumblebees in it.  They seem to get drunk in there, or just very sated.  There are 3 bees in this one.

For the week 8.4 pounds, and 235 pounds for the year.  Tomatoes and cucumbers are nearly finished, but the bulk of the winter squash, sweet potatoes and parsnip are yet to be harvested.  There's a good chance to exceed 300 pounds for the first time this year.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tuesday September 2

Well I couldn't get online on Monday to publish the weekly harvest totals, but there is not much to talk about anyway.  Production from the garden is in a bit of a lull, thanks or no thanks to a shortage of sunshine the past two weeks.  Most days have been gray and cloudy, and the area has seen plenty of rain for this time of year.  The slowdown is unusual for this time of year, but there is still another month of decent production remaining.

Snap beans gave me nothing.  It's a temporary thing.  The Fortex pole beans have set a lot of new flowers and foliage and should be back up to speed soon.  No squash either.  I pulled out the lone summer squash plant about 10 days ago to give the sweet potatoes more room.  That single plant has been extremely productive this year and to be honest I was getting tired of squash.  A replacement squash plant has been growing quickly and already has set some female flowers, so more squash are coming.

Tomatoes on the other hand are just about done, victims of leaf blight.  I'll get a few more but expect that the plants will come out in a week or so.  Next year I plan to put more space between the cages to allow more air flow.

I did get cucumbers.  The Diva cucumbers just don't stop.  The Silver Queen okra plants have finally sized up enough to make some okra.  And I'm getting a few Tribute strawberries nearly every day, something I didn't expect in their first year.

It hasn't been a good year for eggplant but a few are now maturing.  That's a Round of Hungary pepper.  It was an impulse buy at the farmer's market.  It's a really good pepper, sweet and mild, but needs to be staked.

Also some Honeybear Acorn squash.  These came off the plant that was lost to the borer about a month ago.  I didn't know if the squash had matured enough for the table, but it turns out that they were fine so I weighed them and added them to the tally.  Not as sweet as they could be, they tasted more like a Spaghetti squash, but nothing wrong with them, except the one in the center which went soft and had to be tossed.

A total of just over 5 pounds for the week, the lowest tally since June, and 227 pounds for the year.  I'm still hoping for over 300 pounds for the year, about a pound per square foot.  There will be more squash, beans, carrots, and okra.  The heavy lifting will be done by winter squash, sweet potatoes and parsnip.