Thursday, July 31, 2008

Asian Greens

Today's chore is succession cropping again. Since I picked so many Asian greens recently, I had plenty of space to put my seedlings in. I planted two Chinese cabbage... err yes more Chinese cabbage. Optimism reigns supreme here in the dandelion patch. I might be able to defend the cabbage. I'm thinking rolled up newspapers as decoys for the earwigs this time. Then I can always throw the newspapers in a bucket of water and drown the little suckers. As an added bonus I can throw their dead bodies on the compost pile with the newspapers. Pay no attention to the wild look in my eye.

Hmm where was I. Oh yeah, what I planted. In addition to the Chinese cabbage, I planted one of each of the following: giant red mustard, Fun Jen, mizuna, tatsoi, and two boc choi. The boc choi seedlings don't look all that good. They got too close to the fluorescent light during their youth and got burned. I may have to pull them up if they don't recover. I remembered to give the Chinese cabbage space this time. They can easily take up four square feet of space. These get huge. So I planted them toward the edge. One I put in between some tatsoi and Fun Jen, but they will be pulled within a couple of weeks so should be fine. I actually think the foot spacing I'm giving the rest of the Asian greens is too large. They are all small plants 9" would be fine. I'll have to remember for next year.

The one thing the bed is missing is more compost. I've used all my finished compost up, so am out. With the constant planting of this bed (it turns over about every 40-45 days, except for the Chinese cabbage and mizuna), the nutrients are really getting sucked from the soil, and the crops are all the same ones, so not any rotation, which means I really need to feed them more. I put about a tablespoon of balanced organic fertilizer in each hole along with the same of worm castings. I'm hoping it is enough to keep them growing for their lifetime.

Though I put another mizuna plant in, I'm not sure I need it. The old plants are still growing like crazy. Not a flower is in sight. I'm really shocked. I've never grown it before, but figured it would want to bolt like all my other Asian greens. The plant is a purple mizuna and it is absolutely lovely. The stems and edges of the leaves are purple. When the leaves get old, they also turn purple. Though I don't eat them as a meal to themselves, they get put in every salad I eat. They taste wonderful. Nothing eats the plant (well except me of course). Even the slugs leave it alone. It is my little workhorse that I can always count on. I'm definitely growing this every year.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

I failed to write a blog post yesterday. I was a little depressed when I went out to the garden and found yet another green tomato missing, one of my Aussies. I found it this morning on the other side of the garden with chew marks all over it. The chipmunk had destroyed yet another one, along with another zucchini female flower. The good news is that the first flower it ate had already set. So the zucchini is growing.

But that wouldn't have stopped me from writing. I actually had a wonderful harvest that morning: 5 cucumbers, peas, beans, basil, hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, and a frilly boc choi. The eggplant is almost ready to pick and more tiny ones are on the way. It hit the ground a little while back, but is still getting longer. Right now it is 4 1/2" long and it is supposed to be 4-6" so I will probably pick it tomorrow.

So there is plenty of good news in the garden too. What got me really down was my Chinese cabbage. I had two ready to pick. They were heavy and huge. I confess I was worried about them since they were filled with holes. The last one I picked, the outside had holes, but the middle was perfect. This time, not so much. I not only had slugs attacking it, but I had earwigs all the way through. Their damage is a little different from the slugs. They make tiny numerous holes, while the slugs holes are bigger. I cut away the outside slowly, trying to find the yummy middle, but it was all shredded. I really hate earwigs. They freak me out a little. Usually they just go for my marigolds, but this year they have left the marigolds alone. Instead they eat my cabbage. I really would rather lose the marigolds.

So I came inside and consoled myself with tea, made from herbs from the garden: chamomile, lemon balm and chocolate mint. It was a good herbal remedy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Quest for the Impossible

Perfection only lasts so long in the garden. The beautiful bloom fades. The slugs invade. The hail shreds your leaves. The heavy winds knock down your dill heads. Chipmunks eat your ripening tomatoes. Sigh. Today I had more bad gardening news.

The first was the return of the chipmunk. He has been getting bolder. I went out to check my tomatoes this morning. The Orange Blossom tomatoes had previously set 7 tomatoes. The chipmunk ate part of one yesterday. Well he obviously enjoyed it. Today there were only 5 tomatoes left on the vine. Arrggg. They weren't even close to ripe yet. He picked a green one and totally made off with it. Not a shred of evidence left. So I picked the two that were blushing yellow. They will have to ripen in my kitchen. I'm crossing my fingers for the last three. At least they are higher up on the vine. Maybe he will overlook them. Then I found a half eaten green cherry tomato lying on the ground. He obviously liked the Orange Blossoms better since he took the whole thing.

But he still wasn't satisfied. He ate one of my squash blossoms. It was a female blossom. I guess I can't complain too much since I'm getting way too many zucchini anyway. Tomorrow I'll probably know if it had time to set. I may get fruit regardless. He also took a small bite out of an unset cucumber. No big loss. Most of those don't end up setting anyway. Then for his next trick I got a good laugh. I can't imagine he liked his treat. He took a bite out of one of my super chili peppers. These have the heat of a cayenne pepper. Most adult humans can't handle that straight up.

With so many bites out of so many plants, I'm thinking he liked his taste of ripe tomato yesterday and he is looking for more. Maybe the taste of pepper will scare him away, but I doubt it. I'm hoping not to have a war with the little guy, but I might have to.

That was just the first of the bad news. The second was the vine borers. That one vine borer I caught previously did indeed lay eggs on my pumpkin. I noticed that my pumpkin was wilting in the heat this afternoon even though we have had plenty of rain. That is a sure sign of borers. Since they live inside the vine, you have to find out where they are. They leave telltale holes and frass outside the holes. Sometimes you can see the side of the vine with a yellow spot on it. So I took my sharpest knife and carefully split open the vine near their holes, trying to stay straight and not crosscut the stem. I pulled out several of the little worms.

Then I tried to repair the damage. I wrapped the stem up to protect it. One of the slits was a good six inches and had a couple of them inside. I recently made a circle skirt out of dark green cotton, so I thought it a good color for the bandages. Now I pray I got them all and the damage to the stem isn't too severe.

Remember yesterday when I talked about gardening insanity and doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I do that too many times. I know not to plant pumpkins here. They never live. It is an impossible quest. But it is so hard when my daughter asks for pumpkins to say no. The mini pumpkins sometimes work. They can set their fruit quickly and will often make one or two, but real pumpkins just aren't worth trying. Next year - butternut squash.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What is it About Gardeners?

Carol at May Dream Gardens asked "What is it about gardeners?" yesterday. It was such an apropos question to me this morning. And I had the answer. We are all insane. And as I frequently do in the garden, I'm feeling that way right now. The definition of insanity that I'm using today is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I know better. I've done it so many times. But why do I keep doing it?

What have I done today you ask?

Well I know my chipmunks. You can't leave the tomatoes on the vine to ripen. They get them partially ripe. Yesterday, I looked at my two tomatoes - I might point out here that they are the first non-cherry tomatoes to ripen on my plants, so I was particularly looking forward to them - and got greedy. I wanted vine ripened tomatoes. So I let them stay in the garden for one more day. I told myself I would pick them in the morning. I thought maybe they would be safe. Now they had never been safe any other year, so nothing had changed, except that bout of gardener insanity. I kept thinking not one cherry tomato had been taken yet. Of course I've picked every cherry tomato only partially ripe.

Really I knew better. So much for my first ripe tomatoes. The Aussie I'm very sad about. I won't get another for quite some time. The Orange Blossom, is a determinate so all the other ones will start turning soon. In fact two already are blushing yellow. Hmm how long should I wait to pick those? Maybe just one vine ripened tomato?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Solanaceae Crops

This year is not my best year for the solanaceae crops. Their location really sucks. My major planting area is in three beds that are on a three year rotation. Each bed is four feet wide and they vary in length from about 15' to 20'. This year they are in the shortest one. In addition it is now in partial shade until around 1pm. In late June and early July the sun is high enough in the sky for them to get full sun, but now as the sun gets lower in the sky each day they get less and less. I have one little eggplant that has set and it is now 3" long and touching the ground. I don't know if I should pick it or if I should let it grow longer. It is a mini eggplant anyway - Slim Jim variety. Its eggplants only reach 4-6". I hope they are getting enough sun to set more. They are such beautiful plants with the soft purple leaves.

My jalapeño peppers are the worst off. I almost didn't plant two of them in the spring because of the sun situation. They are right up near the fence, so not only does the tree shade them in the morning, but the fence shades them in the afternoon. You can see the four jalapeños that I have all in a row. The ones on the left are half the height as the one on the right that actually see a few hours of sun each day. But they are all setting fruit. I'm really surprised they could pull it off. I've harvested two jalapeños from each of the two tiniest plants.

As always my Super Chili peppers are doing the best. These are the prettiest plants I've ever seen. They hold their multitudinous fruit upright above the foliage and when the pepper turn red they are stunning. I eat a few of them green, mostly pickled, but the strength of the peppers is when they are red. They are very hot and dry extremely easily.

What I wish I could grow was sweet red peppers. But for some reason sweet peppers don't like growing here. They tend to rot out before getting ripe and since I'm not a green pepper fan, it just doesn't seem worth the space. I wish I could however since it is really hard to find organic red peppers in the store.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Downy Mildew

After all the wet weather we have had, the downy mildew is starting to grow. Right now it is just growing on the dead and dying leaves, but that could change. I decided my primary chore today was to clean the garden to keep it from spreading. I always remove the squash blossoms from the garden after they finish, because they mildew up so quickly, but the leaves are harder to get to. The zucchini was the hardest. Zucchinis have spines and they objected me to removing their lowest leaves. I have some bright red welts all along my left arm now. I fared better yesterday pruning the raspberries. The beans also had some mildew, so I removed all the yellowing and dead leaves. Downy mildew loves wet weather and it is a late disease here in the north. It doesn't overwinter here, but eventually gets blown up here. Usually I first notice it in August and it tends to kill all my cucumbers. I'm hoping the weekly spraying will keep it at bay this year.

The only plant I didn't prune the dying leaves off of was the spring peas. Most of its leaves are yellow and dying except the new branches. There is no sign of mildew on them right now, but I'll keep a close eye on them and rip them up at the first sign. The falls peas are will eventually take their place. The are growing well and look pretty all in a row.

I've been seeing a lot of different insects in the garden. I'm always fascinated by them. With most of them I have no clue as to what they are. If I see a lot of an insect I don't know or suspect it is a pest I'll look it up. Mostly I just gawk at them. Today I found a cicada shell on my bean plant and an assassin bug in my peas. I have some weird leaf hoppers or aphids on my Cosmos. They look like a bit of bark, but the ants love them. They are always there milking them. I just leave them be. They don't seem to be doing too much damage, so I leave them alone.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Finally a Sunny Day

After so much rain (3" yesterday) we had a nice day today. So of course I was so busy that I forgot to take pictures. You will have to use your imagination. I harvested all the typical summer fare: tomaotes, cukes, zukes, beans, peas, jalapeños. But today I noticed how sad the lettuce was. It really hates the heat. I picked most of it that was over 2" tall. It was bolting. I left a little in, but really it isn't lasting well. Next year I have to start seeds indoors in the basement where it is cool. Then put the plants out after they have grown a bit. The lettuce I seeded about a month ago is only an inch tall. Pretty sad. But at least I'll have (slightly bitter maybe) lettuce in the fridge for a week and half. It took a while to get it into the fridge. Though there are barely any insects on the leaves anymore, they were coated in mud. So they needed a very thorough washing.

The poor little carrot seedlings were smooshed into the dirt. I gently freed their leaves from the drying mud. The second seeding (to fill in the gaps from the first seeding) is just starting to come up. I'm surprised all the seed wasn't washed away. I'll have to keep the surface moist for the next few days, because after that heavy rain, the soil will crust over if left to dry and the rest of the little seedlings will be stuck underneath.

I picked two long 16" beans from the yard long bean plants. This is certainly not enough for a meal yet. I'll have to wait for the others to get a little longer. Or cook them up with my green beans (most likely). If I do it that way I can do a taste test. My Fortex beans are the prettiest. They are very straight and long but not very productive and they are starting to get diseased. So far my Kentucky Wonder beans have been producing like crazy. They were the first (and still only) bean to make it to the top of the trellis. I would say I get about twice to three times as many beans from them as I do from Fortex.

My dill was almost on the ground because of all the wind and rain. I had to put up a trellis to keep it off the basil and leeks. While I was at it I picked a lot of later dill that was just starting to blossom and turned it into pickle juice. I had to be careful though because my second crop of butterflies is on its way. I saw two caterpillars munching on the leaves. I saw some last week too, but they never grew up. They disappeared well before they got to the pretty green and yellow striped coloring of their youth. Ah well. I have too many beneficial wasps zipping around. I really can't complain much about that.

Then it was on to the raspberries. I have ever bearers. Which means they bear fruit twice a year. Once in July and once in September. The chipmunks have finally found them and stripped off most of the unripe berries. So I cut out the old canes to let the new ones grow up for my fall crop. The new canes were thinned out to keep the air circulating, and so I can find the berries in the mass of canes. The other added benefit of thinning the canes is that it makes it easier to get into my car. They grow right up against the driveway and my car is parked on that edge. So they attack me constantly.

I also had to spray my worm tea/aspirin mix today. I would have done it at the beginning of the week, but it never stopped raining. It isn't supposed to rain again until Sunday. So it ought to give the plants time to enjoy their spray. I am seeing more disease after all this rain. I saw the first of the powdery mildew in the garden this year. Luckily it was on a dead bean leaf on the ground. I quickly disposed of it. Tomorrow I'll have to clean up any dying leaves so such things don't spread. Today everything is still a little too damp to clean up the plants.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Freaky Weather

We have been having freaky storms recently. Huge thunderstorms are going through and beating the ground with sheeting rain and heavy winds. Then it clears up for a while and repeats. The lightning has been intense. I have one friend who lost her internet and one that lost his tv and wii. I've been turning the computer off and unplugging it a lot. Everything we own is on surge protectors, but they aren't always enough.

The garden is having its own issues. We have had about three inches of rain in the last few days. My newly germinated carrots are getting beat into the ground. I'm hoping the poor little things survive. I do have time to reseed if necessary, but I'd rather not. My dill and coriander are heavy with their seeds. The wind is knocking them around. I'm surprised most of the dill is not on the ground yet. A little has had to be propped up but most is just leaning over and still standing. These plants have been blooming for about a month and I wish they would set their seed already so I can pull them up and get some light into my other plants. It is the problem with collecting your own seed. They take so much time to do it. I really should limit how many plants I let go to seed. It would open so much more space up. My coriander crop will be huge.

I picked my first jalapeño today to eat with lunch. I had a quesadilla with garden fare thrown on the top: jalapeño, green onion, cucumber, tons of Sungold tomatoes and lettuce. Yum.

I'm still anticipating my first non-cherry tomato. The Aussie tomato is pictured above. It has a nice red blush to it. There is only one full size one right now. I have a few setting that are a couple of inches across, but they have a long way to go before they get their full size. This is a really big tomato. The Orange Blossom tomatoes are pictured below. They are much smaller and more numerous, but they are a determinate plant. I think they have set all the fruit that they are going to, 7 tomatoes. The plant is tiny - probably about 16" tall and not getting any bigger. It only set two clusters. So it hasn't been very prolific. It is supposed to be an early tomato. At 60 days I should have started picking them a week ago. My Sungolds were two days early. My Aussie is probably running early. At 75 days it has eight more days to get ripe. I know that tomatoes vary in time, but I'm guessing my early tomato will be at least two weeks late. Though you can see that one has a slight blush on it, so it is on its way. My basil can't wait and keeps trying to blossom. I have to restrain it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What to do with a Zucchini?

I've had so much food come out of the garden this year. The number one producer is definitely zucchini. It just won't stop. The yellow squash pictured above, really wants to try to out produce it. Its name is Early Prolific Straightneck. Well it might be prolific, but it can't hold a candle to zucchini, even with its propensity to put out twin squashes. I sometimes wonder how much it really is producing. I wish that I had taken notes on the amount that I've harvested.

So this morning while putting away my harvest, I noticed I had five zucchinis in the fridge (though one is a midget since I picked it that way before camping, to keep it from becoming a baseball bat). Sigh. They keep replicating. I eat them and they just come back. It was time to make zucchini bread.

My first stop in cooking something new is almost always I like the rating system and the fact that so many people make comments on how they changed the recipe. I'm not good at following a recipe exactly. I'm more apt to add a little of this or a little of that. Their two top zucchini bread recipes are both exactly the same except one adds walnuts and one adds blueberries. I have no walnuts and have half a box of blueberries that are starting to get a little old and need using up. I made one plain loaf and one with blueberries. Here is the recipe I used, which is close to what allrecipes has listed. You can use their recipe to figure out how to bake it.

Sidenote: LOL when I went to allrecipes to copy the url linked above, their front page had a recipe of the day, and it was for zucchini grinders. They look yummy and it is nice to know that they are keeping up with the zucchini season.

Zucchini Bread

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4c applesauce
  • 1/2 c canola oil
  • T vanilla extract
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 3/4c grated zucchini
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 c whole wheat flour (I would have used more, but ran out, so had to use white)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 t cloves
  • 1/2 t ginger
  • 1/2 t allspice
  • 1/2 t nutmeg

Plus I added 1/2 pint of blueberries to one of the loaves. If you compare the two recipes (mine vs theirs), you will notice that I love spices. The more the better. And OMG they are yummy. It doesn't quite rank up their with pumpkin bread but it is close.

And speaking of eating from the garden, yesterday for dinner I ate one of the boc choi that I picked. I was shocked. It was so mustardy. I suppose with our temps in the high 80s and low 90s, I shouldn't be so surprised. But the Fun Jen is doing so well in the heat. These were spicy. Not really bitter just hot. Now I like mustard, but I was expecting the sweet mild boc choi taste. I would have added a bit more honey to tone it down if I had known. Or maybe boiled it for 2 minutes first to take a bit of the bite out of it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I peeked under the row cover over the Asian greens. One of the boc choi looks beautiful. The other wasn't growing quite as well, but not bad, just small. They were ready to pick. This is the first harvest of this variety - 'Brisk Green'. I really like its size. It is supposed to be 6-8" tall, so a mini choi, but mine grew to about 9". Since I grow these just for me, size is important. The mini chois are usually a little too small (6"). I need two for a meal. The large ones (12" usually) can be a couple of meals. This one looks perfect for a meal for one. It is a fast grower too. I planted two and half week old transplants on June 16th and am harvesting on July 22nd. That makes about 53 days total, or 36 from transplanting. The packet says 50 days.

As you can see, I also harvested some onion thinnings. I usually only pick them as I need them, but they are getting way too big for their spacing, so they had to come out. I'm sure they will get cooked up with the boc choi.

I'm also still getting plenty of peas. I keep thinking that the peas will quit soon. They have lots of yellow leaves. But every time they start to fade, they send out new green branches with flowers. So the last couple of days I've had lots of snowpeas. A week ago I sowed some broccoli in a six pack. In 2-3 weeks they will be ready to take over the spot. So if the peas don't quit by then, they come out anyway. Though I suppose I could always pot them up to add another week or two to the timing.

I'm also getting beans every day. Yesterday I had beans with dinner and ate a quarter pound of them. I'm not a big bean fan, but I don't hate them. So I tend to jazz them up or add them to other things. Last night I made Chinese spicy green beans. I should be using asparagus beans for those, but the ones I planted are weird. I thought they were pole beans, but they are acting like bush beans. So I will get a small harvest in a couple of days then pull them up. It is not normal to have a yard long bean as a bush bean. The beans drape all over the soil.

On the tomato front, I keep picking a handful of Sungolds every day. I usually pick them not quite ripe and let them ripen indoors. That way the squirrels and chipmunks won't eat them. I was shocked today to see my Aussie tomato start to color. It still has a ways, but it is not the same green it was. It is supposed to take 75 days. My Orange Blossom tomato is supposed to take 60 days. So it should ripen first, but it looks like the Aussie may beat it.

And where are my pickling cucumbers? Well I had none today. I've been picking 3-4 most days, except we have a lull. It is probably because I was gone and didn't pick for a couple of days. The plants quit producing if you don't pick regularly. I'm sure I'll get more tomorrow. And the next day, and the next . . .

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back from Camping

Well I'm back from a fun three day weekend of camping. This is the first time I've left the plants this summer. I always go out every day to the garden. So Friday I got up early (5:40) so I could water the plants before I left and pick.

On Sunday I was out in the garden that evening picking and making sure everything was doing well. I had a lot of cucumbers, peas and beans. Surprisingly only one zucchini (for a total of 5 summer squash in my fridge - two of which I ate for lunch) was ready. Then it was over to the nightshade crops. I have one chili pepper that is just starting to turn red. Go pepper. I dry the super chilis and use them as cayennes.

Even more exciting was my first little eggplant. It had set. I was shocked. I figured the first flowers from these plants would fall off. They have been through a lot. The hail we had earlier shredded their leaves. Then the flea beetles set in. I pick flea beetles off the leaves every couple of days. I can't get them all since they hop around so much, but I've gotten pretty good at catching them. The trick seems to be not to shade them as you pick them off. Once I have them, I plop them into a little container of soapy water. The only thing that is good about the eggplants getting flea beetle is that the beetles seem to overlook my tomatoes. They like the eggplants so much more.

The variety of eggplant I'm growing is "Slim Jim". I chose it because it was small. I'm hoping the fruit don't get too big. First because the eggplant is only about 3" from the ground. I figure when it gets that long, it will have to be picked. The second reason is that I haven't staked the plants (does one stake eggplant?). The main stem seems sturdy enough, but the plants have just started sending out side shoots. I'm afraid fruit on them may break the branch off.

Right now there are so many flowers on the eggplants. I have four plants. Two in the back are not doing well. The flea beetles leave them alone, so that is not the reason. The two in the front are growing quite well. One of them is over 18" tall. That one is covered in flowers. Though its lower leaves are totally covered in flea beetle holes, it keeps sending out new pristine leaves. I ought to have fruit set on that plant soon too.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Baby all Grown Up

Yesterday afternoon when I was out in the garden, a beautiful black swallowtail was playing around me. She would land on the parsley flowers then flitter on over to the dill flowers. Was this one of my baby caterpillars all grown up? I would like to think so. It seems about the right amount of time. Of course I did not have my camera with me, but after about 5 minutes of watching her, I ran into the house for it. The butterfly really didn't want to sit still. The only time she did before she flew away was this brief rest on my tomato plant.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Peas and Cukes

I'm having trouble with my lettuce. It is hot out. It has been well into the 80Fs for quite a while, with occasional heat waves into the 90Fs. Before the last heat wave I picked lots of lettuce, which I've finally finished eating. We are about to have yet another heat wave. I picked a couple of bolting "heads". I hesitate to call them heads since they really aren't large enough yet. It is probably enough lettuce for just one salad. None of the rest is really doing all that well. It is growing very slowly. The new seed that I put out won't come up (except Red Sails). So my succession planting has really stalled.

The best of the lot of lettuce for this heat so far seems to be Red Sails. It has out performed all the others. But after weeks without a break in the heat, even it is having problems. The little seedlings just sit there asking me why I planted them during the summer. They are on strike and demanding cooler weather before growing again. Black Seeded Simpson has been the overall worst performer. I don't think I'll grow it again. I've been told crispheads grow better in the summer than other lettuce, but I hate crisphead lettuce. I'll have to do some research before I buy my seed next year. Also I'm going to have to branch out with salad greens and grow a few other kinds of green. My best green so far in the heat is my Fun Jen (frilly boc choi). It doesn't hold up well to cooking, but it quite tasty in a salad.

And despite the heat, my peas have germinated and are poking out of the soil. My current peas are still producing weirdly enough and are even starting to send up side shoots. They are starting to get some yellow leaves, so I'm guessing they won't last all that long. This has been the weirdest variety of pea. It is supposed to be Dwarf Grey Sugar, which is a dwarf snowpea. The package said it was supposed to get about 2 1/2 feet tall. Well it has topped 5 feet and is still growing. I had to add to its trellis so it wouldn't fall down, but sadly I did that a little too late, so it is tipped over a bit. It is also supposed to be a snowpea. And it is fine in that capacity, but it gets sweeter if you let the peas develop a little and they seem to work as a snap pea too. Very strange. I wonder if their seed got mixed up.

The heat has been a boon for my cukes. I clipped off the tops of the two that have made it to the top of the trellis. Their response to this has been to freak out and send out lots of potential cukes. If you look at the photo, one node has four little cukes growing and the other has three. This is happening all the way up and down the stem. Plus it is sending out side branches. I expect to be inundated with pickles soon. And speaking of pickles. I ate the first ones yesterday at dinner. They were wonderful. A little sour though, so I'll add a little more sugar to the pickle mixture next time. Cold pickles are the perfect summertime treat.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Comfrey is Planted

Yesterday was a very busy day in the garden. My favorite part was picking the harvest. I had lots of raspberries, in fact, too many to eat on my breakfast cereal. I'll have to think about how I'm going to store them. I'll probably just freeze the extras right now since it is easy. When I get enough I'll do something more fun like ice cream.

I picked the mustard because it was bolting. I've had real trouble growing this giant red mustard. There is nothing giant about it in my garden. Of the five plants that I've put in over the weeks, three of them have wilted and died. One bolted. If you notice that one it really isn't that big. One is still hanging on, but I'm not optimistic. Its too bad. I really like the sharp flavor of the leaves. They are too strong to eat straight in this hot weather, but are good mixed into things to provide a little bite.

After the harvest, it was down to work. My Russian comfrey showed up yesterday afternoon. I've been hemming and hawing a lot about planting this. It is really a nice plant for its ability to fertilize other plants. Its roots go way down and bring up valuable minerals. I've been wanting to grow it for mulch for a while now. Currently I buy straw for mulch, but it would be nice to create at least some of my own. At the very least it is fabulous on the compost pile. Comfrey's flaw is that it tends to be invasive. It will seed itself everywhere and once the roots are there (remember they can go way down into the soil), it can be impossible to get them out again. So do I really want an invasive plant in the garden? Well I bought the blocking 14 variety that doesn't set seed. This should at least remedy one problem with it. I'll have to keep a close eye on it though to make sure it doesn't spread too far.

I decided to put it in the weird corner of the garden. I found it very hard to work in the corner since it is so sharp an angle. Before I just threw some dwarf iris there, so I wouldn't have to take care of it. Since the maple roots invade that spot, not a lot of things like to grow there. I figured that might help keep the comfrey in check. Pulling up all the iris was a chore. It hadn't been touched in about eight years. It was just a mass of iris tuber that I had to cut through to pull it out. But now you can see the after photo of my three comfrey plants. I know it looked prettier before, but hopefully they will start growing.

Then I had to compost it all. My friendly lawnmower guy left a huge pile of grass yesterday too. So I hacked up the iris tubers and I snipped all the leaves into bits to help them decay and mixed them with the grass and leaves. I'm thinking I need a machete for my next garden tool. It would have been useful. Just put it all on a block and whack it to death. I now have three compost piles (four if you count the plastic one in the garden). I can't get the vision of the Count from Sesame Street out of my head. "One compost pile; two compost piles; three compost piles; hahaha." You'd think with my kids being 19 and 21 I would have forgotten that show already. But it is programmed into my brain now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day July 2008

Wow what to pick for bloom day? There are too many things in bloom. In the veggie garden we have: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans, peas, giant red mustard (sadly), summer squash, cucumbers, and pumpkins. In the herb garden the following are blooming: thyme, oregano, feverfew, coriander, dill, parsley, sage, lemon balm, and chamomile.

A few days ago I posted about the mushrooms that had come up. The day after my ghost pipes finally showed up. They missed that page, but seem appropriate here. They aren't technically flowers, but boy they sure look like ghostly white flowers from some fairy's garden.

On to showy flowers as you probably expect from bloom day. I have lilies and several different daylilies. The one on the left is beautiful and I don't remember planting it at all. I think the fairies that planted my ghost pipes, planted these at the same time. It was really weird. I have Stella D'Oro in the front of them. When they bloomed I expected them to be more of the same. My first thought was that my Stella mutated, but of course that isn't it. I don't remember buying more daylilies. I usually just divide the ones I have. The one on the right is my favorite daylily, Hyperion. I love it best because of its scent. Anything with a wonderful scent is worth growing in my book.

I also have three varieties of coreopsis. I remember Moonbeam is the yellow one, but the two pink varieties, I don't remember at all. I really love the one in the photo. I planted it this year and I didn't expect it to be so tall and leggy. I wish I had known that it needed staking before it flopped all over the coreopsis in the front. One of the reasons I love this coreopsis so much, is not because of the beautiful flowers but because it attracts all sorts of bees. Bees love this plant. I've seen two different kinds of metallic green bees on it and all sorts of interesting wasps.

All my hostas are flowering too. Some of their flowers are frankly boring, but some are quite stunning.

Then to my echinachea. I've tried to grow this plant for years, without any luck. I tried to buy plants. I tried to grow them from seed. The plants would never flower and they would die before the year was through. I don't know why they are so hard here. They are supposed to be an easy plant. But I wanted them. They scream old New England farmhouse to me, because of course all the old farmhouses have them in their gardens. A couple of years ago I gave up. I plopped a dwarf iris where the plants were and decided to forget about them. Last year I noticed at the edge of the iris a plant that looked like an echinachea. I wasn't positive. It didn't flower, but I didn't pull it out either. This year I have two plants growing, one on either side of the iris. They are both blooming. Their blooms seem stunted and a little twisted, but there are blooms. Will they eventually be happy? Or are they fighting some terrible disease and that is why I can never grow them here? I've had the same trouble with rudbeckia, but they are finally going to bloom here too.

I certainly have other flowers, but really so much blooms in July the page would take forever to load if I put up photos of them all. I listed my veggie garden flowers already, so I'll just list some more bloomers here: snapdragons, cosmos, marigolds, mallow, balloonflower, ox-eyed daisy, forgetmenot, rose, and dalia.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Harvests, Insanity and a Rose for Remembrance

Today had some great harvests. The best was the chamomile. I've been picking it for weeks now, but today there were so many blossoms. I brought them inside to dry on the windowsill (below you can see they are sitting next to Lono, the Hawaiian god of fertility and agriculture). I tried drying them in the dehydrator for the first batch, but they didn't dry all the way through. When I checked them in their glass jar, they had a funky smell, not the wonderful fragrance of the flowers. Now I'm very worried about how to tell if they are really dry or not. I don't want to destroy another patch, and I have four batches sitting on my windowsills.

Squash was also in abundance today, one zucchini and two yellow straightnecks. Previously I've only gotten two yellow squash at all from this plant, now it gives me two in one day. I sort of expected the zucchini to do this. That one zucchini plant had three female blossoms open yesterday, but today only one seemed of a good size to pick. I'm sure I'll get more tomorrow.

I have started the dreaded summer zucchini glut. I ate one zucchini yesterday for lunch and had all three squash today for lunch. Really they don't have many calories. A medium one has only around 30 calories. You can eat a truckload and not gain weight. And let me tell you, it feels like I've eaten a truckload of zucchini. I wish I had counted the zucchinis from this plant. I think I've been getting about 2-3 each week for about a month, but now it seems to be getting crazier and the squash are getting larger. The one I picked today was 7" long yesterday before it was pollinated and 9" when I picked it this morning. Maybe it is just a temporary glut, but if it keeps up, I'm going to have to start annoying my neighbors and hand them out. I'll be known as the poor zucchini lady that isn't willing to throw out her zucchinis so tries to pawn them off on unsuspecting strangers to keep from having to eat them all herself. And I planted a succession crop of zucchini. What was I thinking? I need therapy for my love/hate relationship with them.

Well lets put potential insanity aside and get back to the garden. While picking the dreaded zucchini I noticed a pair of cucumber beetles mating in a squash blossom. I wanted to get them out and drown them, but there was a honey bee, also enjoying herself in there. In fact she seemed quite drunk on the nectar. While I was waiting for her to finish imbibing and leave, another bee joined her. Sigh I'm having some pretty strange parties in my garden, and I'm the cops that have to break it all up. But break it up I did. I picked the blossom and held it upside down a little bit away from the other squash blossoms, until both bees left. Yes weird gardener strikes again. I just stood in the garden for a good 3 minutes waiting for the bees to fly away so I could kill cucumbers beetles. The cucumber beetles were obviously having a good time, since they had not stopped their sexual escapades at all until their unexpected cold bath. Sorry beetles, but you are not welcome at my parties. Invited guests only.

Then it was to the roses for some more uninvited guests. I found some Flower Longhorns deforming my roses. They were summarily uninvited. Now unlike most of you in gardening blogland, I don't really do roses. I don't like hard to grow plants that I can't eat. But once upon a time, before she moved away, I had a gardening friend (technically I still have her for a friend, but it is not the same when she lives 2000 miles away). Yes someone I could talk gardening with and she liked it, and I might add, didn't want to change the subject. She loves roses. She talked me into one. "Hey," she said, "David Austin has some new roses out and they don't get nasty diseases like the others. They are very easy to grow and smell good." She got me with the talk of the scent of roses. But easy to care for? Not. Really it is a rose. I put it in my fruit garden because it makes rose hips. Not that I use rose hips, but at least it fits with the concept. It has full day sun. It has good air circulation. It gets sick if I don't spray it. This is the first year that I've sprayed it. I used the same sprays as the veggie garden, aspirin, worm casting tea, and Serenade. It is much happier this year. And oh yeah I fed it for the first time in years. It probably likes that too. It is amazing that this rose hasn't died off yet considering how I treat it. But still I'm at least a little attached to this rose, despite the neglect. It smells nice and it reminds me of Debbie.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Current Favorite Tool

I think I'm a bit different from most gardeners. I can go into a garden store and buy nothing. I love to look at the plants. I could do that for days, but I don't need to bring them home. I'm also not much of a tool hound. Having more tools means more tools that I have to keep track of. Most of mine are hand-me-downs from my husband's grandma Lea and some are in terrible shape.

My life is so much simpler if I just have a few. I also don't have much of an attachment to them and frankly rarely use tools. Hands are so much more fun (well unless you have to dig). Carol loves her hoes. Mine are just tools. My kids used to take them to the backyard and loose them in the woods. They were supposed to put them back when they were done, but they rarely did. It really didn't bother me much. Most were old and dying as it was. Digging in the woods seemed like good childhood fun to me. When I needed them I would make them start hunting, but I was never upset. One of them however has been permanently lost in the woods. It was the one tool I wouldn't let them use for a long time. I agonized over buying it. It was my compost fork.

A good compost fork is worth its weight in gold. All I had before was a garden fork, which is used to turn soil. It came to me old and bent. It still works, but the wooden part of the handle has fallen off. The problem with a garden fork is twofold. It is very heavy, which means it is sturdy enough to dig rocks out of the garden, but uses a ton of energy when you are turning compost, and it tines are too wide and sticks get stuck in them - especially in the bent part. Now that I am getting lots of grass cuttings, and making a lot of compost again, I need a good fork to turn over my compost.

My favorite (sadly soon to be closed down) garden store had an OK compost fork,but not great. Mahonies, the biggest of our local gardening stores, only had a long handled pitchfork, and it was heavier than my garden fork. So it was time to turn to online sources. I tend to like the tools that Johnny's has. They are very well made. The compost fork that I ordered from them is wonderful, light and sturdy. It has no wooden parts at all. It is mostly metal with a plastic handle. And it is green, so it looks nice in the woods. Turning over the two compost piles this morning was a breeze compared to last week. It's my new favorite tool. Of course now that I've bought it, watch me finally find where my kids buried my old one. I know it is out there somewhere.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Random News

Blooming news

Lots of my second round of dill (dill that germinated late or dill that was eaten to the ground by my swallowtails then grew back) was starting to flower this morning. I will have more than enough seed from the first round of dill plants that have been flowering for a while. So I harvested it and some chilies. I made it into more pickle juice in anticipation. It turned out to be way more than I thought, so I just dumped the rest into a freezer bag. I haven't a clue if it freezes well or not, but it can't hurt. I have nothing else to do with it right now.

I had other blossoms starting up today too. The first eggplant blossom opened up. Hopefully it will set. My yard long bean was also in flower this morning. I wish I had a photo. I went out later to take the picture, but alas, it must not flower during the heat of the day. It was all closed up. If you remember from way back when, I complained that my yard long beans haven't grown and weren't climbing the trellis like my other pole beans. And indeed they still aren't growing. The little plants really have no right to flower now. How is their bean going to grow? The plants are only about 6-8" high. Even if my yard long beans only get to a foot long, they would be dragging in the dirt.

My other beans are doing just fine. I have to pinch them out when they get past the end of the bean poles. They have been sending out lots of side shoots from the bottom that are starting to wind their way up the pole. I actually picked the first five beans today. They are covered in blooms. Soon I'll be inundated with them.

Insect News

The "moth" that was wondering what it was, is not a moth. It is a netwing beetle. Thanks So I looked it up. It is a pollen and nectar eating beetle. So it is unlikely to be bad for the garden.

During the last couple of days I've been seeing black swallowtails in my garden. Are these my baby black swallowtails? I'd like to think so. I hope I'm not picking dill with swallowtail eggs on it. I don't see any, but then I've never seen any and haven't a clue as to what they look like.

I have green bees in the garden. Ok I had one green bee in the garden and had trouble getting a photo of it. It wouldn't stand still long enough for me. But his back is beautiful metallic green. I've also seen some blue bees in the garden, but haven't been able to photograph one.

I was very worried about the bees earlier this year. I really hadn't seen many except bumble bees. But now they are out in force. Where I had only seen one honeybee by the middle of June. Now I see them everywhere - on the mallows, on the coreposis, on the cilantro. Though I still find that my zucchini does better if I hand pollinate it and the only yellow squash I've gotten was from hand pollination. So I've taken to it again despite the bees. The positive aspect is that I can pick all the male blooms and eat them if I like.

Miscellaneous News

My carrots have come up. Their germination is a little spotty, but not too bad. I may have to sow more seed in a week, but maybe more will come up before then.

I planted some Sugar Snap Peas and Mammoth Melting Peas behind my carrots. I'm hoping they grow fast before the fall. I've never tried growing fall peas. At 70 and 75 days until harvest, it will be well into late September before I get any. We usually don't have our first frost until the end of October or the beginning of November, so I'm hoping I can get a month and a half of peas before the frost kills the blossoms.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Moths and Mushrooms

Last night I was buzzed by a female peach borer, which I promptly killed even though I have no peaches. This moth is just huge. He is a little scary too since he looks so much like a wasp - actually a hornet since no 2" long insect could be a measly wasp. It was probably quite amusing if you were watching me catch the thing in a tiny little fishing net. He barely fit. Luckily for me he didn't want to leave the garden so he gave me plenty of chances.

The moths have definitely invaded my garden. The orange and black striped moth that I saw yesterday and still can't identify (maybe a lichen moth?), has brought his buddies with him. I counted three sleeping in the garden this morning. I really think I ought to be killing them. They are moths and moths do produce larva that eat plants. But I can't bring myself to do it unless I know it is really destructive. I've found lots of webworms in my garden, and most of them lived to tell about it. They really don't seem to do much damage.

The other thing I have a lot of in the garden right now are mushrooms. The above photo on the right is the one that all the squirrels love to eat, so I'm guessing it isn't too poisonous. The others they won't touch at all. Some year I ought to learn something about mushrooms, but not today. We have started to dry out recently so I'm guessing they won't last long.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Golden Tomato

Yesterday was the day that all kitchen gardeners dream about. Drum roll please --- the first tomato of the season in all its golden goodness. I picked it but didn't eat it right away, I had to look at it for a while, but not too long of course. Yummy. I gave my daughter the second one.

Ok so it isn't a big beefsteak tomato or an heirloom, but it was the best tomato variety I've ever tried. It was pit against about 30 others in a personal taste test last year and this little gem won. It not only tasted great, but it is an early tomato at 55 days, or so it says. I planted it on May 17th and the first one picked on July 9th. So by my reckoning it took 53. Way to go Sungold. I'm also told that it resists cold better than most tomatoes so it is often the last tomato in the fall still producing. Whats not to like about it? Ok it's not an heirloom, and you can't save the seeds and expect yummy goodness the next year. You do have to buy them each year.

Also if you notice the bowl, I picked four cukes yesterday. I picked four more today. So my first pickle jar is full and tomorrow will be time to start on the second. Sadly I didn't think ahead. I saved the one glass jar, which actually used to have pickles in it. But I should have saved lots more. Who knows how many pickle jars I'll finish before my cukes bite the dust? So I'm stuck with plastic until I find more glass.

While I was picking my zucchini today, I noticed an insect on the row cover. My immediate instinct when I saw it was to kill it. It is a pretty enough insect. I swear I used to know what it was, but can't remember anymore. I tried to find it in my books, but no luck. So it lives. I don't want to touch it unless it is a pest. Does anyone in blogland know what it is?