Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Developments

I went out this evening to check on things and there were a number of photo-worthy developments. For one thing I was able to get a good shot of one of the many ladybugs I have in the garden this year.

Like last year, I have a lot of peppers setting up already. My experience is that it'll be awhile before these start to turn red.

I have several watermelon that are rapidly approaching the size of my fist!

The nasturtium I planted from seed are blooming.

I have a veritable sea of potatoes. In another week or so I can start pulling some new potatoes from the bed of red caribe. Thier flowers have already come and gone. They are early potatoes indeed.

Amaranth! There is a ton of it. They popped up like weeds. And they look like weeds.

Summer squash, with a lovely curving swan's neck.

One of the eggplants is blooming. Thier leaves look like lace they've been so ravaged by bugs. But they're hanging in there.

Scarlett runner bean blossoms!

And last but not least, winter squash!

Friday, June 4, 2010

We have veggies coming in from the garden...

We definitely have food coming in from the garden now. Last night a heavy thunderstorm pounded the hell out of everything out there, and when it had passed I went outside to see what kind of damage it had done. I had a lot of plants on thier sides: tomatoes, corn, beans, and the potatoes - let me tell you - these storms we're having can really beat down a potato plant. I did what I could to try to prop things back up where it seemed necessary, but mostly tried not to worry about it, since it's a natural phenomenon. I assume most everything will bounce back once that sun starts pounding on them again.

While I was out there yesterday evening I realized that I have managed to grow a cauliflower! It looks like I might only end up with one out of the four that I planted, but still, I'm going to count this as a success. Out of my four this is the only one that really seemed to self-blanch. I tried to tie up another one by hand but it is just infested with bugs and little slimy green eggs. Another that I did not tie up has started producing a head, but the florets are far apart instead of tight together as they're supposed to be. The fourth just doesn't seem to be producing a head (yet) at all. So I guess the verdict is still out on whether or not that one will feed us. The broccoli has been coming in nicely though so we're having broccoli and cauliflower for dinner tonight for sure.

While out on inspection last night I also discovered a vine borer hole in one of my summer squash...sigh. I really need to get on the ball about covering these things when I set them out. Like everything else that's new to me that very thought of it intimidates me. Silly, I know.

We've had ample salad greens/lettuce and plenty of salads, so I've been real happy with that. I've pulled up a beet every now and then but they're small and growing very slowly. I've had a few peppers already - two banana peppers and two tiny - and I'm talking tiny - jalepenos. My three jalepeno plants are small and yellow. I'm disappointed; and not sure what to do about it. The plant I had last year was huge and robust and all around stunninly georgeous. I bought it big from a big box store, and I'm going to go hunting for another one, maybe this weekend. Last weekend's hunt resulted in finding out that my local private garden store only had three jalepeno plants for sale and they were smaller and yellower than mine. So maybe it's the weather...I did buy a nice big kung pao pepper plant there though. That should be interesting.

I've been meaning to say that I have an unusual amount of ladybugs in the garden this year. I mean, just a ton. Last year where I was seeing California Potato Beetles on my potato plants, this year they're just crawling with ladybugs. Can a high ladybug population decrease the Potato Beetle population? It certainly seems that way, though I have nothing to offer in the way of scientific evidence....

The blueberry bushes just don't seem to be taking off. The blackberry bushes, on the other hand, are growing like weeds and have already set fruit. I think next spring I'll put in more blackberries and maybe some rasberries. I would love to have blueberries, but honestly I don't want to have to fuss with anything too much. I favor plants that will be hardy and do decently around here on their own. Lazy, you say? Maybe. But I'm trying to be practical.

I pulled all my miniature onions up last night. I don't want them to rot out there like they did last year. I need to get on the ball using them while I have the chance.

I suppose it's too early to call the Brussels sprouts a failure, I mean I can see sprouts - but they sure do take forever and it just doesn't seem like they're every going to get big enough to harvest and eat...We'll see.

On the subject of problem veggies, my peas are done for the year. I barely got a few good handfuls. Did I do something wrong? Did they die off early, or just languish in the summer heat? Too much water? I have no idea. I pulled them up last night. That's year two of English pea failure. Moving on....

Cucumbers, cucumbers, cucumbers!!! I am loving these little white pickling cucumbers. I did them from seed inside and transplanted them, and they're just doing great. They are popping up everywhere, fast. This week I've come in with a handful every day. We've eaten every one on salads, except for a few that I just had to use to try the Nourishing Traditions lacto-fermented pickle recipe. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Just call me Mrs. MacGregor....

Another rabbit sighting, 9 May

I was outside in my pajamas, hacking down my rye with a shovel, and getting pretty doggone good at it, thank you very much, and was almost finished, near the fence, when I did my step-hack sequence and was startled by the tell-tale scream of a rabbit. At least I was pretty sure it was a rabbit. I couldn't see the source of the noise. But I had a rabbit many eons ago when I was a kid, and I remember the time he got loose in the back yard and we had to catch him, that scream he let out when we finally made a successful grab. And then there was the time at band camp when my best friend started marking time at the Drum Major's signal, and found that unbeknownst to her she was standing on a rabbit's nest. You can imagine the screams - the rabbits and the teenagers - and the ensuing hysteria.

So even though it flitted across my mind that I might have unwittingly dismembered a field mouse - sadly this has happened, quite by accident, before - it was no surprise to me when the baby rabbit, considerably larger than it was the last time that I saw it, presented itself, apparently unharmed.

I think I just scared the crap out of it. I know that bunny scream scared the crap out of me.

It made sense out of that half-eaten strawberry I found a few days ago, still clinging to its vine.

What to do?

Of course, it couldn't stay. Absolutely no rabbits allowed to make their home in the garden. Interesting things about the babies, they're quite able to squeeze themselves through even the closest-spaced wires of the rabbit guard. Rabbit guard indeed.

So I ushered him out, gently, with the shovel, where he proceeded to crouch in the tall weeds along the garden fence and to generally try to make himself invisible. Thankfully my dogs were all tied up at the time and did not notice the quick arc the bunny made across some open grass before settling into its hiding place. It occurred to me that I could solve the problem very quickly by letting them loose, but that - while sure to be effective - just seemed too cruel, especially with my daughter watching everything with rapt attention.

So I headed over to the carport where I came up with a plastic pitcher and an old Frisbee, and I managed to get the little thing inside the pitcher without too much trouble. I carried him to the fence line at the back of the yard.

Toss him over? Nope. Way too high. That would be sure to cause cruel and unusual damage. And that's when it came to me.

The day before, on one my patrols around the yard, I happened to notice a hole that had been dug all the way through under my fence. Groundhog? Rabbit? A small neighborhood dog? I have no idea. I do know that it was nowhere near big enough for one of my dogs to get through it. Still, I had hauled a cinder block out from behind one of the sheds and plopped it on top and there you go, problem solved. No one coming in. No one getting out.

This hole was plenty big enough, though, to be a safe passageway for a baby rabbit.

So I took my captured charge back there, moved the cinder block with my foot, and let the rabbit go to scamper through into the yard of the neighbors behind me. Then I put the cinder block back and another rabbit problem is solved.

Were the neighbors likely to mind? Honestly, I didn't think that they were likely to notice. Their yard is not fenced, and the neighborhood is full of these wild brown hares. And besides, I know for a fact from my frequent walks around the neighborhood that these neighbors do not have a garden.

A few days later...

The next time I was out and about and happened by that same spot in the fence, I saw that the hole had simply been extended the length of the concrete block. The rabbit must have burrowed right back in.

Since then I've seen him out grazing in the grass. My daughter has spotted him in the garden. I've learned where his front door is, and that he is indeed living in relative safety under our shed, which is fenced away from the dogs, who are always likely to go tunneling in there after him or whatever else they see or smell. One day I went back there for a peice of fencing that I'd left against the shed wall, and I caught him right out there in the small patch of grass between two sheds, and he darted back under the shed in the same place where I had set him a few weeks ago. (Right past the still visible other rabbit babies which, unfortunately, died there).

So I'm pretty doggone sure this is one of the babies I found in April.

This morning

So today I let my dogs out at 6:30, and there is an immediate ruckus. I look outside and my two young male dogs are running around the garden, barking at the fence line, and I know that we've interrupted our rabbit's breakfast.


So I walk out there and can see him darting around, looking for a way out. I guess rabbit guard is best negotiated in a non-stressful environment. So I called off my dogs and came back inside, so he can get himself on back home - until tomorrow morning - when I'm sure he'll be back in there again, helping himself to something.

How much can one rabbit eat? I guess through the course of this growing season, I'm going to find out!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The peas are coming in!

So far they're only trickling in...but we're starting to harvest peas!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A walk through the garden

Things are going along pretty well. My squash plants all survived the transplant and are getting big.

The dill seeds I planted are coming up.

The peas are starting to plump up. Soon I'll have to start picking them.

My onions are blooming, which is bad, but quite beautiful, nonetheless.

I learned that garlic actually grows up kind of at a right angle. I think some of the really heavy winds we've had made this come up out of the ground. I'm not sure it's quite ready for harvest though...

Winter squash is also getting big. That little squash to the left is an acorn squash seed coming up, from one I had for dinner a year or two ago. I wasn't sure if it was still viable, but apparently it is!

I have little cucumbers!

And the calendula seeds I planted have come up beautiful plants and are finally about ready to bloom.

I did end up getting some broccoli, but overall the spring broccoli has been disappointing. One of them bolted before it ever had a head, we had so much high heat in April. I'll do broccoli again in the fall, when it does much better.

Beans are coming up everywhere. Bush beans and pole beans.

The potatoes are also all huge, and already have buds on them. I don't remember being this far along this early last year with potatoes, but maybe I was. I have 11 sweet potato slips in so far, and a few potatoes inside in the window still sending up slips like crazy, so I'll probably keep planting them for another 3 or 4 weeks.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Things coming up...and things coming down

Things are coming along pretty well. I've been making a few trips out to the garden every day with a big watering can, and giving a drink to anything that looks like it needs it. It looks like one of my Red Acre Cabbages is starting to show signs of heading up. My other one, that I thought I was going to lose, actually looks great - only much smaller.

My English peas are beginning to bloom...

As are some of the curcurbits...

The beans are up...

And the rye is coming down...

And tonight I'm having a turnip and a kale salad with my dinner. Yum!!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Quick Garden Tour

Wow, has it really been almost a month since I've posted anything here? I've got a lot of catching up to do. I haven't been writing about the garden, but I sure have been working it. I'm trying to get a jump this year on weeds, so I've already hauled in a fair amount of straw for mulch, and a few of my beds are "weedless" beds, although they still have a few weeds in them, as Lee Reich predicted that they would, in his book Weedless Gardening. You'll see in some of my shots that I have a few areas that are just weed nightmares, mostly around tiny plants that are planted close together. Other areas are not in too bad of shape.

On Friday, 30 April, I planted all the seedlings that I grew this winter (above and towards the back), along with three jalepeno plants I picked up a few weeks ago from a big box store, and my tomatos and peppers from The Tasteful Garden. I had been intending to wait until the first of May, but it was so hot and georgous on Friday, and I had the day off, and it wasn't supposed to get below 60 Friday night (it got down to 54 here) and I figured with that being the case, what difference would another day make? So in they went.

I have two large areas for tomatos this year, with space for a few nasturtiums in between, which are not there yet. The tomatoes below are Italian Sweet Beefsteak, Brandywine, Beauty, Rose de Berne, Box Car Willie and Arkansas Traveller, all heirloom varieties, and I am not familiar with any of them. I look forward to seeing how they turn out!

Most of the tomatoes I did myself from seed are on the other side, and I still have space for three more, which I will pick up this weekend from a local garden store. They are either Long Keeper, or Roma, or some combination of the two; I had the two different seeds in the same little pot so I'm not one hundred percent sure what came up. That's rye growing tall in the background. More on that later.

I have 10 pepper plants this year. Below are Orange Mandarin, Italian Yellow Bell, Sweet Banana, Anaheim and Chili de Arbol.

Below are Carmen, the three Jalepenos, and one mystery pepper to be named later. Reason - I bought a mix of hot pepper seeds and managed to get one to grow into a nice looking little plant - I have no idea what kind of pepper it is. But we love peppers around here, and we had such wonderful luck with our jalepeno last year, and we loved the Carmen, Anaheim and Serrano from The Tasteful Garden, so we decided to up our pepper production this year. And this year I won't kill them off early by trying to transplant them into pots and bring them inside.

The next two shots, respectively, are four watermelon plants and five muskmelon plants that I did from seed.

Below is one of my four potato beds (in one of the "weedless beds" I made). This particular one, I think is the Yukon Gold. My potatos went in on 7 April, and are coming up quite nicely. I also have a similar bed of Red Caribe and Banana Fingerling. I want to be keeping my own potatos around this winter!

I have a little patch of red-speckled romaine coming up.

In the foreground are my brassicas - broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts on the right; turnips and kale, a few heads of Red Acre cabbage and some spinach on the left. Nothing in the middle but a coming onslaught of weeds, that I'll have to do something with. This is the area where I did the sheet mulching last fall. In the foreground is one of the areas I have set up for composting. In the back of the picture is where we're heading next. Those bamboo pyramids are going to be my trellises this year for climbing plants. More on that later.

Here's one of the turnips, coming along nicely. I can't wait to have turnips again!!!

Below are my English Peas, which are doing well so far. I would like to have one nice big Ziploc bag full of them in the freezer - I have no idea if I have enough planted for that. my daughter and I like to have a handful from time to time and my husband won't eat them, so the one bag should do us for quite some time.

Here's the cucumbers. I'm going to trellis them this year. The bamboo actually has some holes drill in it, so I can run wire around it to provide support and something to cimb. Same with the peas above, though I have only put in the first level of wire, closest to the ground. Last year I had three cucumber plants; there's more going on this year, though I suspect that due to a labelling mishap that one of the plants below is actually a squash...

Here's one onion bed, doing great, and way better than the other bed where I have onions planted. I think it might get more sun. Last year I let my onions go too long and didn't get as many as I should have. I won't make that mistake this year.

Here is the garlic I planted last fall, no further rabbit damage to report. It is HUGE! I didn't know how it would do - planted upside down (duh) and left under about five total feet of snow this winter - but it's doing just fine!

Here's my summer squash, two varieties, whose names escape me at the moment, but they're not yellow crookneck...For the moment I'm not trying the zucchini this year. We've lost it the past two years to vine borers....

Below, to the right are four eggplant plants of two varieties, I think Listada de Gandia and Black Beauty in some combination. To the left are some herbs - rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano.

Here's some various little things nestled amoung the weeds; beets, carrots, baby lettuce mix, the other onion patch, one radiccio plant which is a mystery to me. It doesn't look like I expected it to. I'm not sure what to do with it. Have I researched this?

Here's my strawberry patch in the foreground. We've already had three strawberries this year. I want to put a few more plants in. In the back, under the trellises, are two different kinds of winter squash, Delicata and Winter Squash. Never done these before. Hope it goes well.

And finally, I'm trying to get a little more exotic and whimsical with my flower planting this year. I have a few pretty things going on. I still have a lot more to put in, now that all the veggies are in.

I also planted yellow wax beans, jade bush beans, asparagus beans, scarlett runner beans and white runner bush beans. But there's no picture because right now there's nothing to see but dirt.

I'll be addressing sweet potatoes in another post. I'm still working all that out.

And the rye, you ask? What's up with that? Pretty, isn't it?

We originally put it in as a cover crop with the intention of harvesting the grain. Then I learned about some possible dangers of that, and decided to till it under this spring. Obviously we didn't get around to that, and now my husband is making noises about keeping it around to harvest later this year to make a small batch of biodeisel to run our lawn mowers on. In the meantime, it's my daughter's playground.

So here we are, at the top of May, and waiting to things to grow in and get lush, and a heck of a lot further along than we were this time last year.