Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Garden Bloggers Death Day June 2009

Death has not had a heavy hand in my garden yet this year. He has visited. He even had tea once or at least that is my assumption. The orange mint just won't grow. Death must be picking it. All the other mints are fine and prolific like a mint should be.

Mostly Death has enjoyed taunting me, but I keep eating my fill regardless. He taunts me most with my tomato crop. Tomatoes are not the easiest crop in the world to grow here. Fungal diseases are endemic here. The flea beetles bite holes in the foliage. A week ago a nor'easter came by and broke off a myriad of stems from my caged tomatoes.

The dreaded chipmunk has tasted the first green fruit. He was just seeing if it was ready yet. It isn't, but the little snail enjoyed his castoff. He will be back. He will bring friends. I'll control him with rat traps if he starts throwing tomato eating parties in the garden. If he is just annoying, I'll annoy him back and put up bird netting around the tomatoes.

But despite the reminders that my tomatoes are mortal, this year they seem determined to beat the odds. This is a photo just a week after so many branches came off the tomatoes. You can't even tell. They want to celebrate life while they have a chance.

My basil that is planted near the tomatoes is not nearly as happy. One plant succumbed to this unknown disease. The leaves all turned black. Death visited again. The other two basil plants are alive still, but I do occasionally pick off black leaves. It is a race now between Death and my harvest. Will the others grow fast enough?

There was much death in the cucumber patch this year. The slugs would eat the seedlings down. I'd replant. This went on for some time. I'm nothing if not persistent. The seedlings seem to be growing now. Not thriving. Just growing. Slowly. In the long run this could just be death by cold weather, but maybe it will warm up and they will thrive.

Some death in the garden is anticipated. It helps me out. The garlic foliage is slowly dying. It will be picked at the end of the week. I have it under cover right now since we don't seem to get one day without rain anymore. It should be drying as it dies. Right now it is just rotting. I'm picking it a bit early this year - the end of the week. It might give me a smaller harvest, but at least I have a chance of it keeping.

I've also had bouts of premature aging in the garden. While this isn't precisely Death, it does keep those plants from my plate. The Chinese cabbage above is in bloom. Ignore the weird colors. I thought my camera was dead. It wasn't producing any red colors, but it was just a silly gardener that got the camera stuck in a setting she didn't know existed. Whoops! Not dead yet!

My corn is tasseling. It is half the height that the seed packet said it would get to. It has no ears forming that I can see. Though they seem green and healthy, I'm thinking this is premature aging again. We just had no sun and no heat. At least the cool weather is bringing a good crop of peas. If this keeps up I'll be picking peas all season long.

If you wish to join Garden Bloggers Death Day, visit Kate over at Gardening Without Skills.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Harvest Tally

I have to confess. I'm starting to forget to weigh things. I forgot the garlic and some bunching onions. Once I forgot to weight the peas. Ack! Luckily I remembered before they were used. I hope I don't miss too much.

This week was a great week for greens. Lettuce, chard, tyfon, komatsuna, and cabbage were all picked. Sadly the mizuna bolted and got too sharp for me. I pulled it out. More was planted yesterday so in a couple of week I'll be picking that again.

The next biggest category was peas. I'm growing snow peas and two kinds of snap peas. The Super Sugar Snaps are by far the best producer so far. They are producing about 50% more than Cascadia even though I have two of the best Super Sugar Snaps marked to not pick so I can save seed. I don't know yet how many plants I'll have to keep out of production to get all the seed I need for the next year, but the two plants are an experiment.

I love weirdly growing carrots.

The alliums and carrots did a good job too. I've harvested two head of garlic and I will probably harvest the rest this coming week. I'm afraid to leave them in any later since with all the rain they will start rotting in the ground. A couple of the tropea (red torpedo) onions were picked. I didn't taste them because they went into pickled peas, but it is nice that some of them are finally getting bigger. I'm really not sure how big they will get in the end. I'm also picking bunching onions here and there when I need them.

The big storm we had knocked down the feverfew blossoms, so I elected to make my bouquet this week just from them. I find them very cheery, but I really can't wait for my black-eyed-susans to come in. They can really brighten up a room.

I did spend quite a bit this week. I bought more poles so all my beans are now supported. The corn is starting to flower (males only). I think the cold weather stunted it. I have a feeling that means no corn for me. Sigh. But at least the beans are growing well. I also spent money on peat moss and compost. I need to make some soil mix for my seedlings. I make a lot of compost, but mine just isn't finished enough to use. I really liked the potting soil from the Vermont Compost Company. The seedlings grew amazingly well in it. So I bought the compost from them. If I could find more of their Fort V mix I wouldn't make any myself, but I can't get it around here and it is too expensive to ship.

So here are the totals:

  • Alliums 0.49 lbs
  • Carrots 0.55
  • Greens 3.96
  • Herbs 0.28 lbs
  • Peas 2.88 lbs
  • Peppers 0.08
  • Flowers 10

Weekly total: 8.23 lbs
Weekly spent: $32.74
Yearly total: 26.43 lbs
Yearly earned: -$57.63

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Busy in the Garden

I've been busy trying to eradicate my weeds (yet another thing that brings Death to the garden, but y'all know how to deal with those). Clover may not seem much like a weed and for a while I let it self sow all over the garden. Last year they were allowed to grow in the paths. I would cut them and use them as come nice nitrogen mulch, but I just can't take them any more. They have gotten too huge and I can no longer walk down my paths without getting soaked.

I haven't gotten rid of all of them but I'm almost there.

I grew my Chinese cabbage in this little patch this spring. It is by the compost pile and doesn't get much sun. It does however get a lot of slugs and sow bugs from the pile. I decided to sow some lettuce seeds outside. Maybe they will grow. Maybe not. If they do they will be protected by the late afternoon sun. The sun may never be an issue. So far we are keeping to the one 80°F day in June. Today it is in the 60°Fs again. We may not have any heat this summer at all. Who knows?

I also planted some seedlings that I let get a touch big. They keep flopping over since their foliage is heavier than their soil blocks. I planted two mizuna, two tatsoi and three Komatusna.

The real excitement for the day was canning some pickled peas. I'm getting way too many peas from the garden. I can't possibly eat them all. I gave some away and decided to can some too. I'll probably freeze some more at the end of the week before I go on vacation (expect another paucity of posts after the 4th). I tried to use a lot from the garden to make these. I used snap peas, carrots (the Danvers that are slightly bitter, I figure they will be fine pickled), garlic, the first of the tropea onions, dill, dill seed from last year and chili peppers. I didn't have enough chili peppers. Some got cayennes. Some got serranos. And some got dried chilies from last year. If my canning liquid seems a little cloudy it is. I use sea salt, not the kosher salt you are supposed to and I use evaporated cane juice, not sugar. I don't really care if the liquid is cloudy so I don't follow the rules.

I don't usually pickle my peas, but this year I'm doing since Michelle over at From Seed to Table mentioned them and they sounded good. I also am not too sure when I'm going to get cucumbers for pickles. I'll use whatever I can get at this point.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Controling Death in the Garden
Part II Insects

Save a bee, avoid pesticides.

I tend to have a very natural approach to insect pests. I don't spray or use anything toxic. When my kids were little I wanted them to be able to just pick something out of the garden and eat it. Safe was more important than keeping my plants alive. So I let many of the bad insects live. When you let nature take its course sometimes good things happen.

This year I had a huge infestation of aphids. Usually they aren't all that bad. So first the lacewings came and laid lots of eggs. In the last couple of weeks I have seen a lot of lady bugs. In due time these plants will take care of my problem. I also plant decoy plants just for such things. The aphids love my borage. So they went there first and my tomatoes weren't quite as infested. My feverfew on the other side of the garden also makes a great decoy.

Every garden has its own issue with bugs. One of my worst issues is slugs. I've dealt with them in a couple of ways. The first and foremost is to hand pick. They are nocturnal creatures usually so I pick them either at night with a flashlight or early in the moring. Some people hate the slime. I've become inured to it. This year they were constantly chomping down my little cucumber seedlings. So I hand picked. I put a ring of crushed eggshells around them. I covered the area with used coffee grounds and I was persistant. Every week I would grow some more seedlings to replace any that were eaten. Slowly but surely I've gotten plants that are big enough to withstand the onslaught. If we would ever get any warm weather the cucumbers will take off.

This year the fireflies have been very active. As far as I know they don't eat anything in the garden, but their progeny, the glow worm, does. They eat slugs. Yes a predator that eats my slugs. I love it. I don't like that they eat my earthworms too, but I have plenty. Yesterday the fireflies were all over the garden. They kept flying into me as I worked.

Last year I had a fight with squash vine borers. They killed all my pumpkins. I didn't get one fruit. This year I'm growing mostly Cucurbita moschata which is resistant to the borer. Sadly there isn't really a zucchini that is resistant. Tromboncino is the closest resistant squash to a zucchini, but it isn't quite the same. Maybe if my zucchinis all die this year I'll try it next year. Last year my zucchini did OK.

For my brassicas I always use a row cover. I can't get them to grow here without it. It looks very ugly in the garden, but if it means I can have cabbage and Asian greens, I'll use it.

For my nematodes I use marigolds as companion plants. They keep the population down. I have them around my corn and my tomatoes.

There is one insect that I've pulled out the guns for though. It is the earwig. Often earwigs aren't bad in the garden. They are predators themselves. They can eat things like aphids and baby slugs. But they are omnivores. They eat rotting material and much like sow bugs when they get numerous they eat plants. Right now I have some infestations in my lettuce. They love hiding in the leaves and they can shred it to pieces if there are no insects to eat. They are also in the tips of my corn. The tips have the male flower starting to come out and they are eating it. Ack! I've also found them in my peas, but so far they have stuck to the aphids and are leaving the plants alone so there they stay.

Earwigs freak me out. Give me a slug any day. They can hide in small places and are hard to catch. So today I brought out my diatomaceous earth. DE is the fossilzed remains of diatoms. It is basically rock that is very sharp. It kills chitinous insects by drying them out. It is innocuous to humans unless you breath it (use a mask). I'm hoping it will help my earwig issue. I sprinkled it down into my lettuce heads and into the tip of my corn. I tried to keep it away from anything else. I don't want my ladybugs dying. Luckily I've never seen them on my corn.

If you think ahead earwigs can be controlled by traps. They love to hide in small sections of old hose. You can shake them out into soapy water whenever you find them. Last year I had two T posts together and they love hiding between them. I would kill them every couple of days. I didn't think ahead this year. So had to resort to DE. Which reminds me. Where are those old hose sections I had? I ought to get them out in the garden.

I've only resorted to three pesticides in my garden. DE is the first. Years ago I used to use a soap spray for aphids, but now I just let them be. The last is Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis). Bt is a bacteria that is specific to killing caterpillars. It won't affect anything else in the garden. Right now I keep all my brassicas under a row covers so haven't used it. Next year I will. I planted some blueberries and found out that the winter moths that have inundated the area love blueberries and eat all the flowers buds off. Next year I'll spray my blueberries when they caterpillars start to hatch.

So there you have it all the things I use in the garden to control insects: decoy crops, companion plants, row covers, hand picking, traps, natural predetors, DE, and Bt.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Controling Death in the Garden
Part I Fungal Disease

Ground level overview of the garden

In honor of Garden Bloggers Death Day that will be celebrated at the end of the month over at Gardening Without Skills, I will show you what I've been doing in the garden to keep Death away. I haven't been totally successful, but I do what I can.

The weather here in the Boston area - really the whole North East - has been wet and cloudy. My trusty weatherman told me today that for the month of May and June we had only 7% of the days that were at least mostly sunny. If you do the calculation that means we had only four days that were mostly sunny in two months. The humid sunfree weather is fertile breeding grounds for fungal diseases. I have them in abundance around the garden.

What do I do to keep them at bay? First I pick off diseased leaves. Tomatoes are probably the worst offenders. Many stake their tomatoes and rigerously prune them to keep the air flowing. I don't. I cage mine (mostly - my potted tomatoes have stakes). So when the foliage gets really thick inside the cage, I prune the middle leaves out. They aren't getting much sun anyway. I also pick off all the leaves that show signs of any disease. I'm doing this with my potatoes too that have developed a case of late blight.

Second I spray. I started spraying last year after reading a recommendation from Love Apple Farm. I alternate two types of spray and spray every week. Last week I used a mixture of aspirin and worm casting tea. I take 1/2c of worm castings and soak it in water for a day. I strain the mixture into my gallon sprayer. Then I add 3/4 of an aspirin tablet dissolved in water and fill the sprayer to the top. I coat the tops and bottoms of all the leaves. I do this for anything that tends to get fungal diseases in the garden including tomatoes, potatoes, peas, beans, cucurbits and my rose.

Most people know the benefits of worm tea. It is a foliar feed and it has microorganisms that fight off diseases in the garden. Fewer have heard of using aspirin to help their garden. Aspirin works because it turns on the plants own disease fighting mechanisms. Whether I have to spray it every other week is questionable. Once that mechanism is switched on it may stay on for a long time. The research for this has been done on tomatoes. Even if it doesn't help any other plant that one would make it worth my while. Tomatoes are the most disease prone plants in the garden.

This week I sprayed Serenade, which is a commercial biological fungicide. It contains a bacteria called Bacillus subtilis that kills fungal spores.

There are so many other solutions that people use for fungal diseases - skim milk (1:9 with water), baking soda (1-2T baking soda, t vegetable oil, 1 gallon water). But so far I've been fairly happy with my two remedies. They aren't perfect by any means. Nothing will stop powdery mildew around here at the end of the season, but it does keep Death at bay for a while longer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pineapple Tomatillo

Last winter I knew I wanted to grow some tomatillos, but I debated what kind. In the past I had grown the typical green ones. I was thinking of getting them when I read the description of the pineapple tomatillos. Oh these I had to try. I had images of pineapple tasting salsa dancing in my head.

It turns out they aren't really tomatillos. Tomatillos come from the genus Physalis as do all the little husk fruited plants like Chinese lanterns and ground cherries. However tomatillos are of the species ixocarpa (wild tomatillos are from the species philadelphica). My little pineapple tomatillo is of the species pruinosa, which are commonly called strawberry tomatoes or cape gooseberries. But then again does it really matter? No. My little "tomatillo" will taste just as sweet no matter what the botanists call it, but it is nice to know that I can grow this and tomatillos together next year and not have them cross. It makes saving seed so much easier.

The plants have steadily grown over the last few months. In a way they have been fairly boring plants so I haven't spoken of them much. Yes their leaves get chewed on occasionally, but it doesn't seem to bother them much. They grow steadily, but not like crazy. They haven't given me anything to eat yet, so they haven't garnered much attention.

Recently their steady growth has put them in contention with the carrots. The carrots will be pulled soon to give them more room, but they are slowly trying to grow up and over the carrots. When I grew real tomatillos, they had an upright habit much like a tomato. They liked to be caged to keep from slumping over. This one likes to creep over the ground. When the seed catalog said it would spread to 3' wide I imagined a bush, not a short little creeping plant. I'm wondering if I grew it in a cage it would take less space. I might have an extra cage in the garage. If it ever stops raining, I might try that out.

The pineapple tomatillo has one interesting trait that it shares with its brethren. Striped cucumber beetles love it. It makes a great trap crop for them. The beetles have been ignoring my cucumbers totally but I have found many beetles and egg masses on my tomatillo. When I see them they get dispatched. Sadly it has been raining so much the soap in my soapy water has diluted too much and I need to refill before these little monsters escape.

They seem to flower from every branching node and their little husks are slowly being filled with fruit. The best way to pick them is to wait for them to fall to the ground. Then they are ripe. If they are anything like the real tomatillo they will keep for months in their husk as long as the husk doesn't mold. It will dry out but the little tomatillo will be fine. Though I've been ignoring them in the past, I'm starting to see more husks forming and am anticipating my first taste.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Little Time in the Garden

I finally had some time to go out and deal with my garden today. I had time yesterday but since it was pouring all day long with no let up, I stayed inside. Today the nor'easter moved a bit farther north, so we are staying mostly dry.

The first order of business was to harvest all those greens that were patiently waiting for me. Though it isn't a harvest news day, I just had to say, I picked over four pounds of food. The above photo shows all of it except some green garlic, two serranos and the peas. The first two are very exciting. I picked the first green garlic of the year. Basically I needed garlic and I think it is silly to buy it when I have tons just growing in the garden. The cloves aren't all that big yet, but if they were picked today they would be usable. Which is good. The garlic is starting to get brown around the edges. The first of the bottom leaves are brown.

The serranos (I think, they could still be my jalapenos due to a labeling mishap) have been amazing. I can't believe they have been setting in this cold cloudy weather. Three were of a size I could pick, but I only needed two so left the other on the plant. There are little serranos everywhere and a couple of cayennes. The jalapenos haven't started to set. They have been flowering, but their blossoms just fall off.

If you notice in all that harvest greenery, there is a small head of cabbage. I have three cabbages, but elected to pick the middle one now. The other two will have more room that way. This is Gonzales cabbage which produces small heads when planted closely together. And yes they are planted just a foot apart - or were. Now they have a touch more room.

The lettuce is amazing. I love the looks of the different kinds. The Merveille de Quatre Saisons is always the prettiest. I thought it was only a loose leaf lettuce, but it has started to head up. It looks a little like a buttercrunch lettuce in the middle. I picked four heads of lettuce today of four different kinds. I now have space for the next set of seedlings to go out.

I'd been debating what to do will all my excess peas. I gave some away. I thought about freezing them, but then I read a post on From Seed to Table and Michelle was pickling her excess peas. What a wonderful solution. Plus I was wondering what I'd bring to the July 4th BBQ. Well I'm bringing pickled veggies. I used my regular pickling recipe, I just used other veggies besides cucumbers.


We have been having a nor'easter sitting off our coastline and it will continue through Wednesday. A nor'easter is a classic New England storm pattern. A cold core low pressure system sits right off our coast in the Atlantic. The storm lives on the clash of the warm weather being brought up from the south and the cold air coming down from the north. The rotation of the storm brings heavy rains and strong winds. The winds come from the north east, hence the name of the storm. We have had nor'easters worse than some of our hurricanes, but the systems aren't as well organized as a hurricane and thrive where cold air is predominant. We usually see nor'easters from late autumn to early spring since they are associated with cold air, not warm air. Our nastiest blizzards are all from nor'easters. It is a very sad summer when you get a nor'easter. Very sad indeed.

And since it is supposedly summer the storm wasn't too bad. On the Cape the winds were over 50 mph but here probably only around 25mph. That was bad enough to cause some issues in the garden. My peas were blown all to one side. I tried as best I could to put them back, but I think the snow peas and snap peas are permanently grown together. I hope I don't let the snow peas get too big. You can tell the pods apart, but it is easier to pick all the flat pods if they are in one section.

Though it doesn't look bad here. The tomatoes had quite a few branches break off. Emma was more than a foot over her cage. Her stem was a half inch thick where the cage ended, but it wasn't strong enough and broke off. There were numerous branches here and there that broke off. One of the cayenne peppers lodged. I staked it back up.

The three sisters garden held its own or at least the three sisters did. The cilantro and marigolds that inhabit this section all blew over. I cut off numerous branches of marigolds. They will grow back. This marigold seems to like to creep around the garden and I want it to stay put. Its branches fall over and they root where they hit then keep going. I'm starting to cut them off. I don't want a marigold garden. I tied up some of the cilantro to the bean poles. The rest will have to flower running along the ground. I hope it doesn't die.

I have numerous flowers that have fallen over. My feverfew always does. I have it staked up, but this year it is taller than last year so the stakes are too short and it fell over anyway. Luckily I used one of those bamboo poles that I bought the other day for my solitary Lemon Queen sunflower. It is still alive and thriving. I really want to count those bees and it is my only one left. I have to take care of it.

The other issue with all our wet weather has been the invasion of the slugs. They are starting to take over the garden. I have to go out and handpick early tomorrow morning. If I get a few dry days in a row I'm going to put out some diamotacious earth. I don't use it often, but when my other nemesis, the earwigs, start getting bad I need to get them under control. They hide in little places that I can't get to - like the middle of my lettuce heads. They destroy them when they get bad. I found a few in one lettuce head that I harvested today which means control is necessary. Sigh. If it would stop raining I could do something about them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Harvest Tally

Life can really mess with the harvest tally, not to mention the frequency of posts. I didn't pick any greens and decided they could just sit in the ground for another week. I gave away excess chard and peas that I didn't have time to cook. I only picked what needed to be picked and did the bare minimum that needed doing in the garden.

I did get to pick some carrots, in fact I picked twice. The first batch was pretty small. They are just thinnings. The size may be a bit deceiving but these are tiny little thing. Note the broccoli sitting on the carrots. It is also tiny. It is the only broccoli harvest this spring which is sad. The root maggots got under the row cover somehow and the others died. This one was starting to go too. Sigh. Maybe I'll get broccoli in the fall.

The second batch I had to pick because they were starting to shade out the eggplants. They had grown huge in just a few days of wet weather. The Sugar Snax are the ones on the left. They are my attempt to grow long pretty carrots in my clay soil. I think they are doing OK. I picked four and two were horribly stunted. Two were very long. They obviously could use a bit more time in the ground to beef up. I really ought to shift my soil before growing carrots. That would get all the numerous little rocks out. The Danvers which are the stockier carrot did great. Danvers was bred for clay soils. It is more fibrous and can power down through heavy soil. They had one stunted one too, but all in all not too bad. The taste was the telling part though. Danvers was a tad bitter. I need to water more. Sugar Snax was sweet even with my poor watering habits. Hopefully with all the rain we are getting the Danvers will sweeten up a bit.

I'm into picking peas every couple of days now. I won't bore you with multiple photos of the same thing over and over again. This was the first picking. The second was much larger.

I tried picking edible flowers. They picked well but I forgot them and they never got eaten. They also never got into the tally. I really don't know how to tally them. They don't weigh anything. I suppose I could count them in the flower area, but really how much are they worth? I haven't a clue. So for now they aren't tallied. Hopefully I'll get to try some this week. I probably should pick them right before I eat them instead of my usual which is to pick in the morning.

I picked and dried some dill because it was starting to shade my cucumbers. The cucumbers could handle it when the dill was little, but the dill was shooting up with all the rain. I left a few scattered in the bed, but the thick forest of dill is gone.

Sadly there aren't any really stunning flowers to pick right now. The summer flowers of black-eyed-susans, cone flowers, and coreopsis haven't really started yet and the pretty spring flowers are all gone. All that are left are my double feverfew and the ox-eyed daisies. So that is the bouquet that is sitting on my kitchen table. It is a little boring with just white flowers, but still pretty.

So here are the totals:

  • Carrots 0.63 lbs
  • Herbs 0.41 lbs
  • Broccoli 0.09 lbs
  • Peas 1.48 lbs
  • Flowers 43

Weekly total: 2.6 lbs
Weekly spent: $14.61 (bamboo poles - and I need to buy more)
Yearly total: 19.04 lbs
Yearly earned: -$73.22

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Three Sisters Garden Update

From a distance the Three Sisters Garden looks like it is doing well, but it is having problems. The first is that the weather has been cold and cloudy for all of June and a lot of May. We have had more weather under 70°F(21°C) than over it. This is way below normal for us. Next week's prediction is the same. It is supposed to rain for the next week and be cool. The plants in a Three Sisters Garden are all heat and sun lovers. We have had neither.

Last year I picked my first zucchini on June 15th. This year the biggest of the zucchini plants is Costata Romenesca and it only has two true leaves. It is so small, but it is handling the cool weather better than the other zucchini, winter squash or cucumbers. I think I am just going to have to enjoy lots of peas and lettuce, but I don't know about squash or cucumbers. I was so counting on making pickles this summer. I hope it happens.

The other plants that aren't traditional to a Three Sisters Garden are doing great. My cilantro is very happy and my marigolds are growing like crazy. Their only flaw is that their branches aren't very strong. When we get rain they break off.

Then there is the issue of the corn and the beans. The beans are handling the cold weather with ease. They germinated quickly. They have been growing well. The corn has not. It has been growing very very slowly. It can't keep up. I was afraid of this. If I did nothing the beans would not have support and would overwhelm the corn.

So I went out and bought some 7' bamboo poles (middle row). I bought twelve of them. I also have some other supports that had gone in earlier. The earlier supports were to hold up the beans where the corn had died. I still need about 12 more poles, but at least all the precocious bean plants are now grabbing onto a pole and not the corn. Somehow I think this is not the traditional way to grow a Three Sisters Garden. I wonder how the Native Americans in New England grew their crops. If they grew them in the traditional Three Sisters way, what did they do when hit with cool summers like we are having now?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peas Picked

Cascadia, Mammoth Melting, Super Sugar Snap

Last Sunday I picked my first peas. I showed them to you on Monday's harvest post. I had a total of three snowpeas. They have since been eaten in a nice stirfry along with some Komatsuna, Chinese cabbage, mizuna flowers, and garlic scapes. They were a little lost amid the other plentiful vegetables. But no more back seat for the peas. They are really starting to come in and I'll be picking them every couple of days.

I'm growing three kinds. I love how Mammoth melting grows, but it really isn't the best tasting snowpea I've ever had. Maybe I'll find another pole type that is better someday. Since I had two snap peas this year that grew, I could do a taste test with them. Cascadia wins hands down. It is much sweeter than Super Sugar Snap and SSS has a tinge of bitterness. I can see it would go well in a stirfry, but Cascadia would be best in a salad. So what did I do? I just tossed them all into one container in the fridge. Now I can't tell them apart at all. Oh and Super Sugar Snap seems much more prolific than Cascadia so far. It would be the less tasty one that grows so well.

I'm saving one of my varieties of peas, SSS, for the Seed to Seed Challenge. I chose two really nice plants on the end that are farthest away from the other peas and will not pick any peas off of them. It is really more of a trial than anything. I want to see how many peas can be saved from a plant before it gives up the ghost. I know once it sets, it will stop setting more peas. I'm also learning how to mark the peas to be saved. Right now I have a little bit of orange twine marking the blossoms. It is hard to notice however despite the orange color. When I pick peas I zoom in on one and don't even notice the twine. I need something better to mark it.

The big question with saving peas that are right next to one another is if they will cross or not. Peas are self pollinating and are usually pollinated before the pea flower even opens. But sometimes you can get crosses depending upon the insects in your area. I think I will be able to see if the peas have crossed or not by just seeing what the peas look like. The closest pea to this one is Mammoth Melting. The peas that grow from this are not wrinkled (sweet) peas. If my peas end up smooth than I will know some crossed (and which peas won't come true and I can just pick them out) and might have even crossed with the other snap peas (these I won't be able to tell the difference, sugar snaps all have wrinkled seed). If I see no smooth peas, then I think I'm set for the following years to save peas from any ones I want.

This is prime pea season. Last year I picked my first peas on June 16th. This year was only a couple of days earlier. If all goes well I will be picking peas for a long time to come. Last year I pulled up the last of the spring peas at the beginning of August. Will this year's last as long?

On a more down note, my potatoes have late blight already. I've never had late blight in my garden before. I'm very very worried that it will transmit over to the tomatoes. Right now I have any sign of infection picked off. I don't want the spores to get into the air. I hope this isn't the end of the saga of the potatoes but it might be. Should I pull them all up and protect my other plants? I'm guessing they need until August 1st to mature. This is a long time. We have had a lot of damp cool weather. This coming week it is predicted to rain all week long. Late blight thrives in these conditions. Is it better safe than sorry? Has anyone had late blight before and gotten a crop, especially this early in the game? If it were the middle of July I'd just wait and see how the potatoes turned out but I'm just not sure. This morning I sprayed them with asprin and compost tea. The next non rainy day I'll spray them with Seranade.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Harvest Tally

Chinese cabbage (colors off due to camera issue)

Well I expected my harvest to go down this week, but it was the biggest poundage week yet. This is not necessarily good. Last year my Chinese cabbage was harvested around the end of June. This year the Chinese cabbage didn't make it. It had started to bolt. I'm guessing it is because of the lack of rain around here. I do water the garden on occasion, but probably not as much as the plants want. And the Chinese cabbage is under a row cover. Though the row cover tends to keep in the humidity so the plants don't dry out as quickly, it also tends to shed the rain. Yes some gets through. It is porous, but I think not enough. I hand watered under my other row cover just a bit, but never under this one. Two of the Chinese cabbages had already flowered. The other had sent up the stalk but I felt it was still OK to eat. I tasted a bit of the leaves to make sure they tasted fine. Yup. At 1lb 11oz it added a lot to the total. At least I didn't miss out on all the Chinese cabbage. It is one of my favorite greens.

Chard really pulled its weight too. I have 8 1/2 plants. One plant was eaten to the ground in its youth and is just now starting to recover but not at a havestable stage yet. Usually I harvest by picking out one of the big leaves every week. When the leaves get big they start shading each other out so I pick them. Well the plants are picking up steam. I harvested once from each plant than later in the week harvested five of the strongest plants yet again. They gave me just over 14oz. I love chard.

I'm still harvesting lettuce. The Merveille de Quatre Saisons gets bitter when it doesn't get enough water. My Red Sails doesn't seem to care. The MQS was leaking tons of the white latexy stuff when cut. Usually the plants do this before they bolt. It makes them bitter. It did sweeten up a bit after it was soaked and refrigerated. It isn't bitter enough to throw away and actually tastes pretty good with my garlic scape dressing which is sweet. I'm thinking though that the plant isn't pulling its weight as well as the other reds though.

I keep harvesting chamomile every week. The harvests are all small, but it can keep up all summer long. Speaking of small harvests, my peas have started producing. OK only three peas last week, but this week is looking good.


Tyfon - isn't it just huge?

The Asian greens are still coming on. I just couldn't eat them all and gave the Tyfon away to some friends. I've planted a succession of Komatusna and tatsoi. The newly planted tatsoi is getting eaten by the nasty little sow bugs. Bad sow bugs. I give them plenty of mulch to munch on but they pick my tatsoi instead. I think it will grow out of it however. I'm wondering if there are just too many sow bugs here and I should start trapping.

I keep picking flowers. I picked a simple bouquet for a neighbor and kept this pretty one for myself.

So here are the totals:

  • Greens 3.36 lbs
  • Herbs 0.04 lbs
  • Alliums 0.16 lbs
  • Peas 0.02 lbs
  • Flowers 87

Weekly total: 5.24 lbs
Weekly spent: $2.61 (twine)
Yearly total: 16.44 lbs
Yearly earned: -$85.66