Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rain Fills the Barrels

Parsnip thinnings that benefit from the deep cones and soft soil filled in the holes
Footie apples
Garlic harvest for 2009
Mystery fruits from the Solanaceae Family
Another clue to the mystery fruits
The evil Purslane both big leaf and small leaf - check yours out

We finally got some much needed rain and the rain barrels are full again.

This week I harvested more of the beets but I am not sure that this variety is the best eating. The second cooking lacked any real flavor and had little sweetness that good beets bring. I will try the white beets as soon as they size a bit more. The Alpine strawberries continue to produce a few handfuls of plump very sweet fruits. I noticed when checking on the variety name that the supplier has another variety of white fruited berries listed - maybe for next season. The next lettuce harvest is nice but the slugs have found it too - they are really a terrible pest in my garden. I have tried everything short of slug poison to keep them in control. I won't even go into the saga of last year's slug wars on the sweet potatoes. Hundreds met death in salt water, nightly. The last thinning of the parsnips was this week and as the pictures show, the long roots are already developed so now the rest of the season the plants will increase in size till next spring's harvest. The pole beans have started to twine around the poles and I have one more location that, now we have gotten some rain, I can prepare and plant a later crop. The tomatoes need de-suckering weekly and training but there are a few that have begun to color so we are approaching the first harvest. The basil in the tomato rows seems to flourish. The cucumbers have stated to send out tendrils and with help they will begin to climb up the trellis.

Last year we grew sesame seed with some success. This years crop has been slow to get started but is finally growing and hopefully will make flowers and seed before frost. The three foot plants will be covered with white flowers and I will keep you posted with pictures as soon as I see flowers. I get my seed for this herb from Sand Hill Preservation Center Calamus, Iowa. The first of the garlic (Bavarian Purple) harvest was this week and I am very happy with the crop. The picture shows the garlic from one planting of about a four by four foot planting area. This crop was planted last year in September and harvested now so if garlic is in the plan this year you should have made your order already or make it soon. The potato plants have provided a surprise as noted. The apples have finally stopped falling, and the young fruits are beginning to size. The few fruits that I put in "footie's" are growing too, so I will be interested to see how they do. "Footie's" are the stocking that one uses to try on shoes in the store and have been used by western apple growers as an alternative to plastic bags - so we will see how they do. Backyard science is fun.

Weeding is a daily job in the garden as the Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a constant pest. This weed, yes I know one can eat it, has such tenacity that I dig it and do not compost the plants as the seed is tough and persistent along with being sticky and tractable any place. Observation seems to indicate two varieties - one large leaf type and one small leaf type. But no matter what the type once you have it in your garden you have it forever.

I have been told that posting comments seems to be confusing. Anyone can post a comment and have it anonymous by typing the comment, selecting a profile and then clicking "preview" and typing the code letters that appear in the box. But you do need to make the profile choice for the comment. One does not need a Gmail account to post a comment, just use the "anonymous" setting at the bottom of the select list.

The video this week is a panorama of the garden, Sorry for the speed but you can pause it if it runs too fast.

Happy Gardening,

Monday, July 20, 2009

Let's Trick the Robins

Alpine Strawberry "Yellow Wonder"
The neighbors blue Delphinium over the fence
A sleeper on a clothespin
Promise of tomatoes to come
The basil seems happy in with the tomatoes
Broccoli fresh has a wonderful taste
Pole beans ready for transplant
Planting out the pole beans
White berries fool the Robins - for now
One pull of a transplanted clump of beets

I was in another art fair so it was too late Sunday evening to post.
We had some rain this past week but not really enough to break this drought. The tomatoes really look good and we have developing fruits on them so my hope is the start of the harvest by August. I was listening to "Garden Talk" on public radio this week and yes "blossom end rot" was the topic of conversation. Keep the plants well watered and mulched and the problem should correct itself. The basil planted in the tomato rows is happy and ready, like we are, for ripe tomatoes.
This was the week that the pole beans went into the ground. I usually transplant the seedling beans because that allows me to position my poles and then transplant my beans around them. The video shows the transplant and there are five sets of four poles with three to four bean transplants at the base of each pole. Remember when using peat pots to remove the top of the pot to prevent water wicking before you transplant. Watch the video below to see that process. The last two pole sets were direct seeded to make them a later bearing planting. When the beans start to bear, they should produce for several weeks. The variety is Emerite which I have planted for many years. I select the longest pods as my seed source and the beans at the top of the poles, out of my reach, becomes the seed source.
Last year I planted white Alpine strawberry seeds to replace my red variety. Robins know what red strawberries are. I had one white fruiting plant and the birds did not recognize the berries as edible so now I have replaced all my reds with whites and have a small picking of alpine fruits often. This type of strawberry does not make runners and so is an excellent edging plant. With water, they will produce for a long time and although they do not make a huge picking just a few berries are a great treat. I find the white ones really sweet and again I get them and I don't have to share with the birds. I got the white seed from Pinetree Gardens. The seed germinates readily and the plants will bear nicely the second season.
I tried transplanting beets again this year. I choose one of my cylindrical varieties and was very happy with the results. They seem not to mind, and the harvest picture is of one transplant clump. This is just the right amount for a taste of fresh beets. I think I will try this again next season. The regular beets are not nearly as far along as these, so the transplanting this time was a success. Now lets see what will happen with the carrots that I tried the same thing with. In the past it has not worked but the transplants were really small this time so maybe that too will be successful.
Lettuce is having a tough time in the hot dry weather so as soon as the cucumbers begin to trellis the shade should help that crop. The garlic in one bed is very close to harvest. There are developing peppers, and onions abound in their rows. We had steamed broccoli with onions the other evening - nothing like the fresh from the garden taste of veggies.
Happy Gardening

Monday, July 13, 2009

More Apples Fall

The bag count is less than 400 apples by now
Cardoons are one of my favorite plants - more later
Hummingbird food
The next crop of lettuce
Little potatoes safe from the cook
Real French Tarragon - great flavor and almost ready to flavor vinegar

The apple drop continues and I am really not sure of the cause. I collected a half dozen fallen bags and cut the apples open for a seed count. If fruit is mature, three or more seeds must be developing or the fruit will be aborted. However, most of the sample checked had three if not five seeds so the mystery continues. Luckily, most of the fruit drop is on the Fireside tree and not on the other two trees but the Fireside (my favorite) will be a poor corp this fall.
We finally did get some rain but not enough to fill the rain barrels, especially when I found that the diverter into the barrels was not attached properly so I lost a fair amount of water. If we would get a nice soaking I could start with my watering jugs for the tomatoes but for now I need to water the planting in order to try to keep the moisture level high to prevent blossom end rot - the scourge of tomato growers.
The "Sugar Sprint" peas get a reprieve. I decided that I was picking them too soon so I let them fill out the pod real good and the flavor improved markedly. This variety stays short, about 24-30 inches, and is a fair producer. We have had two small pickings and the third and last made for a nice amount of fresh peas. Two row would be a good amount for next year.
Several individuals have talked to me about their "French" tarragon. It really is a shame how many of them don't have the real thing. Without exception, all the tarragon that I have tasted in other herb gardens this season is not French but Russian -a robust grower that has a horrid taste. Real "French" tarragon has a mild, soft sweet licorice flavor; very palate pleasing. But Russian has a harsh metallic taste and the metal flavor lingers. Russian tarragon is a strong grower while French needs some protection from our harsh Wisconsin winters. By the end of May, Russian will be over three feet tall and dark green while French will have lighter color leaves and will take much more time to reach that height. I have my tarragon close to the foundation of the house and it is happy and returns yearly. About now, the plant is developing flowers which will not produce seed so the only way to get good French tarragon is to get a division. Or, if you buy a plant, be absolutely sure that you are getting FRENCH and not Russian. I only wish I could have every one do a taste test and they would know immediately which they wanted in there morning scrambled eggs.
The pole beans are ready to plant out. I grow them as transplants because I set up my pole tepee's and then position my beans. I like doing this because I can better arrange my bean space in the garden after the tomatoes and cucumbers are located. Some of the beans are in peat pots and some in plastic. Fortunately they transplant well so that job will need to be done this week. I also discovered that I have three packets of carrots seed that were never planted. I will get some in the ground and see what happens. Real hot weather is not good for carrot germination but then I do not have real good success with carrot seed in general. I have some planted in six packs and will see how that goes. The beets that I planted and transplanted are doing better in the garden than the direct sown seed - so we will see with the carrots. Even though I have done this before with poor success, I want to try again.
The tomatoes take weekly twining and de-suckering but we have green tomatoes and we are closing in on the time to find the first ripe one.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Apple Drop

The dry weather continues and the large apple drop my be a result of the weather. I drained the rain barrels of their water onto the apple trees. 50 gallons each was all that was available in the barrels. The loss count is at over a hundred bags dropped so far this season. Rather a large number but I think the weather is a factor - real hot days and little rain. However, there is still a fair number of bagged fruits developing on the trees. Hopefully we will get some rain soon or I will think about watering the trees. I have not done much watering of the apple trees in the past but every season is different and we have had successive years of dry weather. So as a result I will consider watering if we don't get some measurable rain soon.
The peas are ready but the variety, Sugar Sprint, is not that tasty and I do not think I will plant them again. Most of the butter crunch type of lettuce is done for now and summer lettuce is starting to produce. I have planted out some cucumbers but they are not too happy, so I have started another crop. I also started the pole beans in peat pots and will put out the poles this week in preparation for transplanting the seedlings onto the poles. Most of the rest of the garden is growing nicely due to the fact that I am spot watering some crops. The first heads of broccoli are developing and I have pulled nice onions for part of our meal on the Fourth of July. The potatoes have flowers so that means the tubers are growing in the towers.
Most of this week was involved with a new patio construction ( contracted work) that went on in the backyard. I now have a large amount of dirt to spread into the new garden space when I get around to that project. Plus this week I hope to relocate the rocks that were part of a perennial bed that was by our old patio - now gone. Maybe a water feature could be part of this new space because we went on a "Pond Tour" last weekend and saw some great backyard water features that certainly inspire one to think about having such a space in the backyard.
Happy Gardening