Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Day's Harvest

This is most of what I brought in from the garden yesterday. The cucumbers include both Straight Nine salad cukes and Littleleaf Pickling cukes. The squash is a trombocino. It will feature in more than one meal, because it is a lot of squash. (For reference, the veggies are in my biggest dough bowl; it is more than two feet long.) Surprisingly, we are still getting to pick blueberries. I am bringing in a quart or two each day. There were several birds out picking with me this morning, so that may end soon, but I am very happy to continue putting these into the freezer, the dehydrator, and our stomachs!

The Alabama Black pole beans have not been especially productive, but that may change as we have had cooler weather recently (low 90s rather than high 90s). I hope that's the case, because a rabbit ate all my bush bean plants down to the stems.
I picked the hot peppers, that Joe put in the smoker with a chicken, later in the day, so they didn't make it into the official Harvest Photograph. Smoking the hot peppers is one way to save them for the winter; we use them like chipotles (which, I guess, they are).

I am growing two kinds of little yellow tomatoes this year. The Yellow Marble are the size shape, and approximate flavor of regular cherry tomatoes. They started producing EARLY and show no signs of stopping. I have been taking these in my lunchbox to work every day, and I'm not tired of them yet.

The other little yellow tomato is Olivette Jeune (possibly misspelled). This is like a little Roma tomato: same shape, thick walls, low "juice" content. These were late in starting up production, but they are making up for it now. The plant (I have only one), pictured below, is covered with tomatoes. They've been especially good in salsa, but they have a surprisingly short "counter" life; they start to turn mushy within a few days after harvest, so they need to be eaten or processed as soon as possible.

The squash patch is still healthy and has several more smaller squash coming along. I've had to tear some patches of squash-bug-eggs from the leaves, but otherwise it is problem-free.

The lima beans are also still doing fine. The picture shows the funny flat pods.

The Jimmy Nardello peppers are finally starting to turn red. When they do, they become more sweet than any other pepper I've grown, so I have been just as patient as I can in letting them stay on the plants. However, I will get to harvest these, soon!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Two Good Questions

I gave a talk last night at the East Cobb Library; the topic was "Planning a Fall Garden." I am lucky that I get asked to give these talks, because I get to meet more gardeners!

The group that attended asked a lot of good questions, but two particular questions I had never been asked before.

I don't remember the wording of the first one exactly, but it was, essentially, "which of these fall garden crops grows up to be tall?"

This was from a gardener who was being very careful to plant his small garden with the taller plants along the north edge, so they wouldn't shade everything else. He was trying to maximize the sun exposure of his plants.

I looked down the planting guide that I had created and realized that all the plants on my list were short! If I had put Brussels' sprouts on the list, they would have counted as tall, but everything except the broccoli was to be harvested as a leafy green plant that had leaves coming from around the base. Examples from the list: lettuce, cabbage, Swiss chard, kale, collards, beets, turnips, radishes. All short and bunchy!

Another great question was "how much of one plant (of arugula or lettuce, for example) can I harvest at one time?" I'd never thought consciously about it; instead, I have just worked "by feel." I would say that I usually don't harvest more than a quarter of a head of leaf lettuce at one time, and never more than half of the leaves from any one spinach plant, so 1/4 to 1/2 the plant was my answer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two Beans and a Boy

Last spring, my youngest son wanted to grow some black beans. We didn't have space for a huge patch, but we had room for a couple of plants at the back of the spinach and lettuces. That area already had nicely prepared soil, so the planting would be easy. We picked two beans from a bag of black beans we had purchased at the grocery store, and he planted them.

The bean plants grew and made bean pods, and when the pods dried, he decided to pick beans. The lettuces and spinach are long gone, but the plants are visible behind the squash plants, and in front of the boy.

Since there were only two plants, picking the beans didn't take very long. (Please ignore the weeds...)

Zack shelled out the beans himself.

And voila! The beans are piling up!

The harvest was an unspectacular 85 beans in total, but they are beautiful!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Out of Chaos...

Today's harvest (not including the blueberries):

It never ceases to amaze me, that in the jungle of growth that comes out of the seeds and wee plants that are set out in April and May, we get actual food. The melons look as though they have swallowed up the whole bed that they inhabit, except for the corn sticking up at the end, but, believe it or not, there are pepper plants in there, loaded with peppers, and okra plants (Cajun Jewel) that have begun to give us okra.

This is the popcorn from another angle; it is starting to make ears! I am very happy with the prospect of more popcorn from the yard! To the right is a trellis (you can just see one end of it) on which three different food plants are growing: salad cucumbers, green beans, and Malabar spinach.

This is one of the cucumbers, poking through a space in the trellis:

This flower is half of why I grow okra. It's beautiful!

And the crazy vines that yield the trombocino squash are starting to make good on their promise: squash are forming! These are tougher than zucchini, but make an acceptable substitute when the squash vine borers have felled all the zucchini plants. The solid stems of this different species (C. moschata instead of C. pepo) are resistant to the borers, so these plants keep making squash all summer long.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rust in the Garden

One of the great things about working at the Plant-a-Row-for-the-Hungry garden, besides getting to hang out with a cool bunch of gardeners, is that it adds a lot to my gardening experience. This week, it added "bean rust" to the list of plant diseases with which I am now familiar.

This is what bean rust looks like on the top of a leaf:

And this is what it looks like on the underside of a leaf:

This bean variety is State Half Runner. The poor plants were already beset with Mexican bean beetles, but this is, potentially, worse.

I had brought my copy of Ellis and Bradley's Organic Gardeners Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control with me on Wednesday morning (our usual work time) to look up what was wrong with our cucumbers (another post...). It definitely came in handy! Photos on page 34 made the problem easy to identify, and this is what the book says:

As this fungal disease progresses, leaves turn yellow and drop. Spots also appear on pods and stems. . . Rust usually develops in late summer. To control, spray sulfur as soon as you see indications of the disease. Plant cultivars that are rust-tolerant, such as 'Burpee Stringless,' 'Kentucky Wonder,' 'Roma,' 'Spurt,' and 'Sungold,' to prevent problems.

After reading this, we looked up sulfur in the index, to learn more:

Sulfur is probably the most commonly used organic fungicide, although plain sulfur is more a protective measure than a control. Sulfur doesn't kill fungal spores, but it does prevent them from germinating on the plant surface. Another useful control is lime-sulfur, which can kill recently germinated disease spores. (page 348)

And then we found this:

A severe limitation to the use of sulfur is the foliar damage it causes in hot weather. (page 369)

In essence, we have a problem. If the rust progresses - and in this hot weather it will - the plants could lose all their leaves, which would definitely impair production. If we use a sulfur spray, the leaves could become damaged in this hot weather, which would impair the plants' production. It's almost one of those "danged if you do and danged if you don't" situations. Our fearless leader, however, has decided to try the sulfur.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Small Fruits

A great thing about this time of year is that we have plenty of fruit to eat without going to the store. This quart container heaped with (mostly) blueberries, Yellow Marble cherry tomatoes, blackberries, and three tiny plums is from this evening's walk through the yard after work.

In the last two-to-three weeks, we have had berries made into syrup for pancakes, berries by the handful as snacks throughout the day, berries packed into little containers for the freezer, and berries in the dehydrator to use like raisins in recipes later in the year. I take little yellow tomatoes in my lunchbox to eat at work. I am guessing that, currently, none of us is in danger of developing scurvy.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Joke's On Me

I am growing Lima beans for the first time this year. I don't even know whether I like Lima beans; I certainly didn't as a child, but taste buds change. I am 50 years old, and it is totally possible that I will like Lima beans now. After all, I didn't used to like beets, and now I do!

The Lima bean patch is pretty small, but I have enjoyed watching the plants grow. They have flowered and set pods like crazy -- Henderson bush seems to be a productive variety. My problem has been in deciding when to pick the pods.

This is the hilarious part: I have been waiting and waiting for the pods to plump up, to inflate a little bit. That's one of the clues for when to pick other kinds of beans and peas, so it seemed reasonable to me. Then I noticed that some of the flat pods had begun to turn yellow, which is usually a sign that picking time is past!

That's just about the time that the light bulb in my head finally turned on. Lima beans are flat! Those pods were never ever going to plump up.

Right now, I have about three quarters of a cup of shelled Lima beans in the freezer, waiting for enough to be added to the group to make a meal.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Progress of My Melon Experiment

Anyone who has been reading along may remember that this is the year I am beginning the process of dehybridizing my favorite melon, Sugar Nut Hybrid. The first step is just to pollinate the female flowers with male flowers from the same variety and save the seeds from that first "cross" to plant next year.

In other words, this is the easy year. I almost made it harder for myself than it needed to be, because I am growing other varieties of melons in the same garden patch. The good news is that I was (at the last minute) smart enough to start the Sugar Nut melon plants almost five weeks earlier than the other melons.

This means that instead of working to isolate the female flowers by taping them shut or covering them in some way to keep pollen from the other varieties of melons away, and then hand pollinating the Sugar Nut melon flowers, I just need to be careful to save seeds from the first few melons out of the garden.

In essence, the flowers were isolated by time, rather than with physical barriers.

The first melons are coming along nicely. They take a long time to ripen, though, so if will be awhile before I have seeds to save.

Next year, the real work of selection for "the perfect melon for my yard" really begins. Wish me luck!
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