Dear Gentle Reader,

Sorry that I haven’t been about for a while.   But, I am back in the garden again.  Hooray!  Here is an update on what I have been doing.

It has been hotter than I’ll get out the past few weeks.  So, as a result, I haven’t been doing more than occasional watering and picking tomatoes and zukes.  The Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes are going berserk.  I don’t think I have ever seen a tomato produce so much, and they don’t seem bothered by disease, pests or the heat.  My four plants are producing so much that I am having to pawn them off on the neighbors, people at work, and any unsuspecting stranger that happens to stroll by the house. 

The Al Kufa tomatoes are great too.  They haven’t had any problems with disease or getting blown over.  They are very sturdy bushes that don’t really need any support at all.  Plus they are producing a lot.  These are a bit smaller than a tennis ball.  So, next year I would like to grow something with larger tomatoes.  Other than that, I have no complaints with the Al Kufa.  They are really great plants.

The Amish Paste tomatoes I have aren’t doing so well.  I think it is because I planted them in SWCs, and they are just too small for the plants.  The tomatoes that I am getting from them are wonderful.  But the plants are kind of straggly looking and run out of water frequently.  I might try them again next year, in the ground.   I think the Al Kuffa would have done better in the SWCs, as they are short, blocky plants.  I think I’ll plant herbs in the SWCs next year.  I’ve always had great success with herbs in the SWCs.

The corn was a bust.  Most of the ears were not fertilized at all.  A few had about 1/3 of the kernels fertilized, and only one ear was fully fertilized.  What a bummer.  I guess, if I want to grow corn in the future, I need to have a really big plot of it, not just a 4×6 growing box.  BTW, the pumpkins I planted grew but never produced pumpkins.  Eventually, they got ripped out.

The cukes haven’t been doing well.  The vines were growing like crazy, and I got tons of blooms, but the plants weren’t producing female flowers.  I really don’t know why.  Up until this past weekend, the plants were healthy.  But, when I went out Saturday to water, half of the plants had succumbed to bacterial wilt.  Boo hoo.  I need to read up on cukes to find out why they didn’t make female flowers.  This variety is supposed to be very prolific.

The Hubbard squash is going strong.  I have two beautiful fruits growing on them.  There were about 4 or 5 squash that got started but bit the dust.  Don’t know why that is.  In any case, I am keeping my fingers crossed that bacterial wilt doesn’t get this.  So far, it has been a very healthy, vigorous plant.  It doesn’t seem to be bothered by much.  But, boy is it BIG!  It is growing half way around the house.  It is planted in a garden on the side of the house and then wraps around to the back.  It is multi-branching.  And every few days I have to pick up a new branch that is starting out into the yard, and move it so that it will grow along the garden in the back of the house.  I would like to grow it again next year, but I’m not sure where I will do that.  Maybe I will start it just outside the gardens, and then wrap it around as it grows.  Then it won’t get mowed over.

The garlic was also a bust.  I waited too late to pick the hardneck garlic, and the papery skins had rotted away, leaving bare, mouldy, teeny tiny cloves.  They went into the composter.   The soft neck garlic was picked at the right time, and is hanging in the kitchen, but it also has tiny cloves.  In the grand scheme of things, I’m no so sure it is worth my time to grow garlic.  The leeks were awful too.  They were bulbing (making babies), so I obviously didn’t pick them at the right time.  I think I will try again with leeks, but try a variety where I know what it is.  I have no idea what these were.

One of the garden boxes is cleaned out, and I have planted Ecinacea, Rudbeckia and Shasta daisies that I started from seed a few weeks ago.  Next spring, I plan to move them to the garden on the side of the garage.  I would like it to be mostly “wild flowers.”  Tight now, it is overgrown with the Hubbard squash and crab grass.  Also, there is a fabulous swamp milkweed and some common milkweed.  The swam milkweed is a huge plant (about 4-feet high) and the bees and butterflies love it.  I think I would like some little blue stem grass there too.  It will be kind of wild, but we will get some pretty flowers during the summer.

And that’s all for now.  I’ll be back at the end of the week.  I want to plant some lettuces for Fall.  And it is time to get busy making pickles.  Before you know it, it will be time to make applesauce! )

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Dear Gentle Reader,

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a long time.  My back has been out, again.  I have been spending a lot of time on the heating pad and doing physical therapy, so, I haven’t been able to do much in the garden. 

However, every few days I have been able to get out for a few minutes to harvest the zucchini and cherry tomatoes.  They are doing well.  The Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes are going nuts!  And they don’t seem to have a speck of disease .  I will definitely grow these again.  The Al Kufa tomatoes are finally starting to ripen up.  But it turns out that they are rather small tomatoes that tend to crack, though they aren’t getting blossom end rot or mildew.  I think that next year I would prefer to grow a beefsteak type of tomato instead.  The Amish paste tomatoes aren’t doing well at all, possibly because they are in the self-watering containers.  These have only 1 ft3 of dirt, and I just don’t think it is enough for them, even though they are determinant tomatoes.  But I had to take one out for wilt and blossom end rot several weeks ago, and the other two plants aren’t looking too good.  I have one Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato in one of the SWCs, and while it is much better than the Amish Pastes, it isn’t doing nearly as well as the ones in the dirt.

I harvested the Mexican Sour Gherkins, and they are good, but you would need an entire garden of them to get enough to pickle.  It seems that the plants produce only once, and that’s it.  The H-19 cukes are doing well, lots of flowers, but still no fruit.  Don’t know what that’s about.

The okra is doing well, finally starting to flower.  We’ll see if 5 plants is enough.

I harvested one container of potatoes.  They are fine, but there weren’t very many and most are Tiny.  I have seen on other blogs that potatoes seem to grow much better when they are in the ground, not a container (like the grow bags I used).

And the corn is a disaster.  It has been blown down by the wind so many times that I am going to have to pull it out. 

After this year, I think that to get a decent amount of anything, I need to plant a lot more of each plant.  And to do that, I have the wrong type of garden.  Instead of a few raised beds, I think I want to convert my garden to one very large bed with paths, sort of like very long 3- or 4-foot wide mounded up beds, with mulch walk-ways between them.  Hopefully, the beds would be at least 25-feet long.  And next year, I think I need to be a little more simple about the crops I select.  I have wanted to try all kinds of things, which all seem to be failing.  I need to pick five to eight crops and focus on those, so that I get good at them, and then branch out from there.  Also, I will only grow smaller things in the SWCs, such as herbs or flowers.  I have grown herbs in them in the past, and they did very well.

That’s all for now.  It might be another week or so, before I post again.  I am hoping that my back will shape up very soon, so I can get back at it.

Hope you all are doing very well.

Dear Gentle Reader,

Sorry that I have not been posting lately.  This past week, we have been busy with house guests.  It was nice to have them, but I haven’t had time to blog.  This coming weekend, we will be away at a family reunion, and I have to spend most of my free time working, to make up for lost work hours.  So, not too much blogging again. 

But, I did have time to check my garden.  And Finally, I was able to harvest something. 🙂  Here are the total:

Yellow Zucchini: two squashes totalling 0.80 lbs.  A lot more are coming on, so soon there will be a glut.  My neighbor dropped off two jalapenos, reminding me that I will be able to pawn zucchini off on them.  Also, I discovered that he has a crabapple tree in his back yard, and I have been welcomed to pick them when ever I want.  Better go over tonight, and put them in the fridge.  Our neighbor says that they are very ripe right now, and won’t be good for much longer.

Carrot: one tinny 1/8 oz carrot

Purple Italian Hardneck Garlic: 0.42 lbs  These had tiny cloves, and the papery covering was pretty much gone.  Some of the cloves were starting to grow.  I think I waited too long to harvest, though I did wait until the tops had dried up.  Also, I cut off the scapes, but the cloves were really small anyway.  I need to read up about growing garlic with large cloves.

Pink Music Hardneck Garlic: 0.30 lbs  Same as above.

Leeks: 1.20 lbs  These were not what I expected.  I think I should have probably cut off the scapes.  Oh well.  Almost all of the leeks were making one or two cloves on their sides.  In some cases, the cloves were starting to grow.  I had picked these up last year (at the nursery), as a single pot of generic leeks.  I think I need to start next year’s leeks from seed, so that I know what I am getting.  But, for now, I can plant my zinnias and have some summer blooms.

It wasn’t much of a harvest, so far, but I learned a lot.

The corn is growing really well.  Most of the plants have started growing a second ear.  Interestingly, the local gold finches love the corn.  There are usually several in the corn.  Maybe they like the bugs.  I don’t mind.  They are so beautiful.  We have lots of goldfinches, since I have a thistle feeder across the yard from the corn.

There are a couple of baby pumpkins on the vine.  I haven’t seen any Hubbards forming yet, but that should be soon.  The Mexican Sour Gherkins are growing like gangbusters, but I still haven’t seen any H-19 cukes yet (only male flowers). 

I need to harvest the potatoes, either tonight or tomorrow night. 

The cherry tomatoes are growing all over the garden (had to tie them up) and are just starting to ripen.  The Al Kuffa tomatoes are doing really well.  They are short, sturdy plants that haven’t been blown over.  And each plant has several clusters of slicing tomatoes.  I think they will take a week or so to start ripening up.

That’s all for now.  Hope that your garden is growing well.

Dear Gentle Reader, 

I took several photos before I left on my trip, and then more this morning.  So, I think I will compare before and after pictures. 

This was the corn the evening before I left.  As you can see it has grown over the PCP pipes I have for the winter cover.  The pipes seem to be helping to hold the corn up when it is super windy.  On this evening, the corn had begun to make tassels, though it is difficult to see here.  Also, some of the stalks were just beginning to show a little silk. 

Corn on June 24, 2010.

And here we are a week later, on the morning of July 1, 2010.  It is much taller, way over my 5’4″ head.  All of the corn has tassels, and most of them have tassels for an ear of corn.  How many ears of corn does a single plant get in any way?  One ear?  Two?  More?  Interestingly, some of the ears have white silk, and others have red silk.  The plants with the red silk also have some reddish coloring on their stalks and leaves.  Since this variety produces both gold and maroon ears, I am guessing that the white silk goes with the golden ears, and the red silks go with the maroon ears. 

Silk on a baby ear of corn.

Corn with red silks - a maroon-colored ear coming up? 

The cucumbers are all growing well.  First, lets take a look at the Mexican Sour Gherkins.  These plants are growing like gang-busters.  And they are covered with teeny tiny cucumbers.  The whole plant is kind of tiny (leaves, fruit, flowers) except that it grows many really long vines very quickly.  For those who aren’t familiar with Mexican Sour Gherkins, they are a bit sour (of course) and look like tiny watermelons (with the green and white stripes).  In the second photo, below, you can just begin to see the stripes on the little cuke.  They will make great pickles.  

Mexican Sour Gherkin Covered with Baby Cukes!

Baby Mexican Sour Gherkin

As far as the H-19 Little Leaf cukes, they are growing well, and covered with flowers.  But I have only seen male flowers so far.  Today, I actually planted three more H-19 Little Leaf starts, as I have only one vine on the trellis.  The others were munched by something.  Maybe Bambi? 

H-19 Little Leaf Cucumber on Trellis.

Is it a male or a female bud? We'll see soon.

I need to harvest the leeks this weekend.  They are looking kind of bad, as they were blown over in a storm a couple of weeks ago.  But, here you can see what the flowers look like.  It is kind of interesting, since they start out white and then turn pink. 

Old and new leek blooms.

The bees seemed to really like the leek blooms.  They were all over them.  I got a picture of this odd bee.  It was shiny metallic bottle green.  I thought that it might be a fly, but it didn’t have the fly eyes.  So I looked it up, and apparently it is of the genus Agapostemon virescens, a kind of sweat bee.  They are solitary bees, like mason bees.  I but up a mason bee house, but haven’t seen any activity there yet.

Agapostemon virescens having a leek lunch.

And finally, I wanted to show you the royal velvet okra.  It is a pretty plant, though the stem seems to be kind of spindly.  The leaves have lovely dark maroon spots, veins and stems. 

Royal Velvet Okra.

Dear Gentle Reader,

I have to tell you how great the service is at Territorial Seed Co.  It is Fabulous!  Yesterday morning, I e-mailed them about the chocolate spot on my Fava beans, since I wasn’t sure what to do with it or if it was safe to eat them.  I got an answer later that very same day, from a nice person named Lori!  I was really surprised.  I hadn’t expected to hear back for at least a week.  Lori said that I need to remove and destroy the diseased plants, and that you can spray the remaining plants with carbendazim, which is a broad spectrum fungicide.  Unfortunately, all of my plants are diseased, so I need to get rid of them all.  I think I will put the plants in a clear plastic bag, in the sun, for about a week or so, to kill the fungus before I compost them. 

To prevent future outbreaks of chocolate spot, Lori recommended to fertilize before planting, don’t plant too closely together, keep the leaves dry, and practice a 4-year crop rotation.   Well, I planted the plants too closely together, since I have been doing the square-foot gardening, and the leaves have been wet quite a bit, due to the constant rain and/or my watering.   BTW, I also read up on Fava beans, and apparently they stop forming beans when it gets too hot (e.g., about 70-degrees).  No wonder they stopped making beans.  It has been very hot here the last several weeks.  I should have planted them as soon as the ground was workable (e.g., February).  Live and learn.

So, I am going to pull the plants out and replace them with zinnias.  They will grow well  during the summer, and at least I will have some flowers to cut.

Next year, I am going to try out a smaller/shorter version of Fava beans, and plant much earlier, in the next garden box over.  I will give them more room, and maybe spray them with copper on a weekly basis.  Also, I will do some more reading up on them before then.

Update 7-1-10: The Fava beans got torn out.  Still need to plant.

By, By Favas. You were fun while you lasted.

Dear Gentle Reader,

I haven’t been able to do much gardening lately, as I am still having back problems.  Anything requiring bending over is difficult.  I’m hoping that I overcome this problem soon.

I went out to check the garden this morning, and noticed that some of the bean pods have black spots on them.  In some cases, it is very severe.

It is very hard.  Not slimy.  I did a little searching on the web, and found that it is called Chocolate Spot (Botrytis fabae).  But I haven’t found any information about what to do about it.  Any suggestions?

Dear Gentle Reader,

I checked out my garden this evening, after I got home from work.  It rained once again.  So it’s hot and humid.  It looks like there is a lawn in the back yard, but it is a trick.  When you walk around, your shoes squelch in the mud, leaving sloppy foot prints.  Hippy Skippy. 🙂

The leeks are growing well.  I should have harvested them a couple of months ago, but they started making scapes, and that was interesting.  So I left them, and now some of them are 3-4 feet tall.  The flower buds are huge and starting to open.
 
 
 
 
The fava beans are coming along.  Some are getting pretty big.
 
The tomatoes are even making tiny little fruits.
 
And the corn is standing tall.