Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday July 27

July closes out with another big cucumber harvest. The four Calypso plants are actually ramping up production.  It's getting hard to keep up.  Last week began slowly, with two cucumbers and the first Alma paprika.  When this pepper was set in the ground I thought it was a more typical cone-shaped paprika, just like the picture on the tag.  Nope, it's an Alma, which hasn't done that well here in the past.  This is the second time I've bought a paprika seedling from the greenhouse and it's turned out to be an Alma (you'd think I would learn).  This one had a lot of blemishes on it.

Midweek a really good harvest - Fortex and Marengo Romano beans, Calypso cucumbers, Millionaire and Silver Queen okra, Genovese summer squash and the first Super San Marzano sauce tomato.  I made a vegetable stir-fry with the squash, okra, tomato, basil and an eggplant picked earlier.  I'm impressed with these tomatoes, large for a sauce tomato and very thick-walled with small seed cavity.  The pole Romano's are incredibly productive.  They nearly double the output of Fortex, although I like the Fortex a little more.

Then on Friday it was a cucumber jackpot, one Diva and many Calypso's.  The Calypso cuke in the foreground got by me and should have been picked earlier, and is not included in the harvest tally.  They get huge.  This one was too advanced for pickling and was a treat for the rabbits.  

The very next day more cucumbers were ripe for picking.  I made more refrigerator pickles and canned 7 pints of pickles.   The first batch of canned pickles was surprisingly crunchy, not as crunchy as refrigerator pickles but still nice.  There will be another picking of cucumbers today.  Help!  I'm setting up a camp stove on the deck so they can be canned outdoors.   Too much of a good thing? 

There were also more beans that weren't photographed.  The Tribute strawberries have resumed production of decent sized berries, although I'm only getting about half of them.

All in all, a decent week.  Three and a half pounds of snap beans, over eight pounds of cucumbers and a pound of strawberries.  The garden's output just passed 100 pounds, with the most productive month just ahead.  To see what other people are getting from their plots, go to

Here's the totals for the year so far.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Onion harvest

It's been a weird growing season.  Overall a productive season so far, although some tomato plants have taken a hit.   Since it hasn't rained for nearly a week, which is notable, the garlic was dug out early this week.   Today it was time to dig up the onions, which were flattened by a passing storm about 10 days ago.  The onion patch, about 20 square feet, was a weedy mess:

A pitchfork was brought to the battle scene, but it turned out that most of the onions had 'popped out' of the ground and could be removed with a twist of the hand.  Some of them needed a little assist with a hand digger, but the job was easy enough.  Amazingly, after nearly a week of abundant sunshine the soil is still very damp, although no longer saturated.  These are Ruby Ring onions, a variety I really like, which means Johnny's will no longer carry them next year.  In the left of the picture are a few Red Tropea onions.

The onions are very nice sized this year, and mostly uniform.  I'm very happy with this, it looks like about 20 pounds.  Onions from seed are very labor intensive at the start - the seeding is tedious - but once in the ground don't need much attention. 

Around the garden, the slicing tomatoes look awful.  After weeks of cloudy, rainy weather they just never resumed growth.  Usually the cages would be full of foliage at this point.  Still they will give me some tomatoes, although I don't expect them to produce for long.  At least the sauce tomatoes are doing well.  I don't know if these plants are afflicted with early blight or bacterial spot, but whatever it is it is taking its toll.

This bed is a hodgepodge of plants.  It began as an overwintering bed for spinach, with a plastic cover through the winter months, and it grew the first set of cole crops.  As the spring crops came out other crops were put in.  Of course it needed, and got, more fertilizer, spinach and brassicas are heavy feeders.  Starting from the left there is a row of beets, a row of Tropea onions (now on the drying rack), a Genovese summer squash, two Millionaire okra plants, and a row of Provider beans.

Summer squash are considered bushes but they always tend to fall over and grow in one direction a bit.  I directed this one towards the onions, now out.  I'm hoping the beets will mature before the squash grows to them.

The Calypso cucumbers are still producing an amazing amount of cucumbers.  For some reason I made the trellis out of garden fence with 2" x 3" openings.  It's not enough to reach through so I have to set a board across the bed and put one foot on the board in order to pick most of them.  This one grew through the trellis and got stuck.  I was just able to push it back through.  In a few more hours it would have been ruined.

It's getting easy to overlook a cucumber now that the trellis is covered in leaves.  I should have gotten this one yesterday.  No loss though, it was still green enough to pickle.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday July 20

The downpours are less frequent now.  Last weekend, after three consecutive days without any rain, a new record, we got about two inches.  The forecast looks better this week, but the soil is just saturated.  At least they re-opened the bridge on Sunday and I can take the short route to town.  

I finally got the garlic out.  I was waiting for the soil to dry sufficiently so I could dig up the garlic and just brush off the soil, but that isn't going to happen soon and it needed to come out, so I dug it up, broke off the clods of wet soil, put it on a screen and gave it a good hosing. 

Well it was a very productive week.  In spite of weeks of cloudy sunless weather the plants are really coming on.  Except for the slicing tomatoes, which have never really resumed growth.  The first harvest was mainly beans, Provider and Marengo Romano, and some Silver Queen okra.  With improved weather the Provider beans are now nice and plump, real beauties.

Then came the cucumbers, more like an invasion. This batch of Calypso's was canned.  That's a lot more work than refrigerator pickles.  I'll open a jar in a week and see if they are soft.  They likely won't have the crunch of a refrigerator pickle. 

There were also Fortex green beans, Millionaire okra and the first Jimmy Nardello pepper.  Note that there are also a few strawberries in the photo.  The strawberry plants have been producing lots of blooms and white berries, but not many ripe ones.  I suspect foul play.

After picking this I found another Calypso cucumber and noticed that an eggplant was ripe.

A few days passed before more cucumbers were ready, this time including a Diva.  Another batch of Romano beans means more to freeze.  I like these beans but it looks like they are getting a little rust.  Also some Tropea onions and a Bride eggplant.  This batch of pickling cucumbers was made into refrigerator pickles.  Soon I'll be throwing jars of pickles into open car windows.

Finally the first summer squash, a variety called Genovese. 

Overall a productive week.  Over 8 pounds of pickling cucumbers, nearly 5 pounds of beans.  From 4 plants I've picked almost 20 pounds of pickling cucumbers so far.  Either my strategy of removing the early blooms while the plants established a vegetative mass has paid off or it's just a very good year for cucumber plants. 
To see what other people are growing, head on over to

Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday July 13

Midday a very strong storm passed through the area.  Yesterday was actually nice after a morning rain.  It's become a familiar pattern - things just start drying out then another rain comes down.  This weekend I pulled out an acorn squash, rotted at the stem, and more carrots which are rotting in the ground.  Considering the weather there are still good things coming out of the garden. 

Early last week I picked another batch of Calypso pickling cucumbers, 4 1/2 pounds, and one Diva slicing cucumber.  The Calypso cucumbers were made into three quarts of refrigerator pickles in short order.  So far the Calypso's have been producing in batches which is convenient.  The next batch is several days off, and if it is large enough I'll think about hot canning them. 

I think the Calypso's are a good looking cucumber. They just look like they will make a good pickle.

A few days later the first Fortex pole beans were picked, along with Marengo Romano and Provider.  The Provider bush beans look puny next to the pole beans.  I like to plant a row of bush beans early in the season so beans are coming in while the pole beans are still growing.   This was just over two pounds of beans.

On Sunday I picked the first tomato, a Grandma's Pick.  The tomato wasn't fully ripe but at this point only bad things can happen if it is left on the vine.  It should have sat in a windowsill for a few days but I couldn't wait.  Also two more Diva cucumbers.  I was able to make a salad with lettuce, tomato and cucumber - probably the only time that will happen this year as the lettuce is done now.

I compared this year's yields to last year's and they are about 20 pounds ahead of 2014, nearly 70 pounds so far.   Until this week kohlrabi was the leading producer at 14 pounds but the cucumbers have already passed that mark with 14.6 pounds.  The Calypso's have been very productive.

To see what other people are growing, visit

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday July 10

About two weeks ago I posted on the wet weather and it's effects on the vegetables.  I thought the worst was over.  I was wrong.  There has been little relief.  Two days without rain is infrequent, and then a new wet pattern sets in.  There haven't been any torrential downpours, just repeated rains, an inch or two one day, followed by several cloudy days with intermittent drizzles, and then one or two days with some sun, then the pattern is repeated.  The result is ground that is saturated.  Walking in the yard feels like walking on a wet sponge.

It's taking its toll on the tomatoes.  One bed has two cages of slicing tomatoes and they look terrible.  The plants just stopped growing a few weeks ago, but the blight hasn't stopped, and the only way the plants produce is if they can outgrow the blight.  It doesn't help that this is the shadiest spot in the garden.  It doesn't come out of the shade until midday.  Add to that a lack of sunshine and soil that is too wet and you get tomato plants that look like this.  Cages that should be thick with foliage are open.

I planted only one Big Beef plant in the cage on the right since this variety has a reputation as a vigorous grower.  Turns out it is the spindliest tomato of all of them.  There is a Grandma's Pick tomato that is actually ripening in the left cage.  All of the plants are spindly, not much foliage.  At this point I'm getting worried.  If we don't get some 'normal' summer weather soon I don't think they will make it.  The blight will take over.

In the adjacent bed just to the south the Super San Marzano tomato plants are doing much better.  They were not as affected by the blight.  After an episode of blossom end rot at the peak of the rainy weather the tomatoes that have set since then look fine.  If I had to choose I'd rather get sauce tomatoes than slicing tomatoes.

Last evening I found a carrot that had rotted into its core.  First time I've seen that.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Monday July 6

Not a bad week.   The last of the cole crops have been picked but snap beans have started up, just in time.  The summer crop of raspberries is finished, by my own doing, while the Tribute strawberries are starting to produce more berries after a short hiatus.  So without further ado, here's the week's pickings.

 Early last week, Provider bush beans, the first Marengo Romano pole beans and the last head of broccoli.

More beans, some Red Tropea onions, okra and the last head of cauliflower.

The last early summer harvest of raspberries.

A harvest of Calypso cucumbers.  This photo was on the last post, but why not show it again. 

Yesterday, more snap beans, onions, and okra.  The last head of cabbage was picked.  That finishes the cole crops for the year.  I don't plant fall cole crops because the beds get too much shade then.  Lettuce from the SWC's was starting to bolt so I picked much of it. 

About nine and a half pounds total.  To see what other people are growing, go to

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Lacto-fermented cucumbers

It was time to put the new fermentation crock to use.  On Saturday a new batch of Calypso cucumbers were harvested.  I'm really pleased with the pickling cucumbers this year.  Last year I put in two plants which gave me some early production then fizzled out, and the plants never got any size.  This year I planted four plants and pruned off the first fruits.  I think it paid off as the plants are at the top of the trellis and producing like crazy.

The plant in the left of the photo is a Diva, a slicing cuke.  The rest are Calypso.  Well here is what was picked.  Nice fat beauties, totaling 3.6 pounds.

I didn't know if that was enough to fill a gallon fermentation jug but figured that I could always add one or two more as more cucumbers would be ripe soon enough.  It turned out to be just enough.  I sliced off the blossom ends, put in the herbs - fresh dill, dill seeds, garlic, mustard seeds, coriander, and a wild grape leaf for tannin - then the cucumbers.  The jar was filled up with a brine, two tablespoons per quart, and the lid with bubbler attached. 

Since the cucumbers were whole they couldn't be packed as tightly as the sliced.  A top weight wasn't necessary as the topmost cucumber wedged in crossways under the shoulders of the jar, holding everything else beneath the surface.  Now it's wait and see.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Cleaning up the raspberry patch

The two everbearing raspberry varieties that were planted last year, Caroline and Autumn Bliss, have been giving me a nice trickle of berries for several weeks now, nearly four pounds from six bushes.  The berries are produced on last years canes, called floricanes.  But production has slowed now, and the foliage was looking worse for the wear, as can be seen in this photo.  The floricanes are fading and bent, while this year's canes, the primocanes, are upright and green.  It was time to remove the old canes to make room for the primocanes which are just now flowering. 

The new plants produced some berries on the tips last fall, always a nice bonus the first season.  At the end of the year I pruned off the ends of the canes that bore fruit, cutting the canes down about half their length.   In my opinion the Carolines from this early summer harvest are inferior to the Autumn Bliss.  Interesting because from last autumn's harvest I thought the Carolines were the better berry. 

I could have waited a little longer and got a few more berries from the floricanes but with their poor condition it seemed better to get them out and give the primocanes the plant's energy, hoping to get a nice late summer harvest.  I picked the remaining ripe berries and set to work with the pruning shears.  It was a little prickly but easy enough - all I had to do was get my knees limbered up and nip off any brown shoots at the ground while leaving the green ones.  The patch looks much better now.  I took the pile of old canes to the burn barrel for disposal.

At the end of the year after the new canes have fruited I'll repeat what I did last fall - cut off the bearing tips of the canes.  With this method there are always primocanes and floricanes growing at the same time, and that is how the plants produce two crops in a season.  Some growers simply cut the canes to the ground in the fall, which results in only primocanes the following year and one harvest.  They claim it reduces chances for disease and actually produces a larger total yield.  But I like getting two crops a year.  The early summer harvest began just after the strawberries quit, and now the strawberries are blooming again.  Between the two I'll get a nearly continuous harvest of berries, and there are certainly worse things than that.