Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hot Weather/NO RAIN and a Warning

Sun scald on bagged apples - the first time I have ever had this occur
Tomato planting
Developing potato tower
Garlic flower bud harvest
Sesame seed flowers from last season
lettuce in the onions needs to be thinned
Gas Plant blisters and injury - the seed pods cause the photo dermatitis

Early this week my thermometer on the garden shed ( facing North) hit 100 degrees! No wonder I had apples scald in the plastic bags for the FIRST TIME EVER! In past years later in the season we have had extremely hot weather and the apples did not scald. But, with the small young apples in the bags only a little more than a week, they seem to have taken it on the chin. Most of the scald was on the small tree in the garden that is in a dead air spot so the hot noon sun can really focus on those apples. Luckily I found some missed fruit inside the tree that was still not bagged so I bagged those apples and pruned out the sun scalded fruit.
The tomatoes have really jumped with this hot weather. They are all strung up and mulched with straw. I do not have enough watering jugs to do the whole planting of 60 tomato plants, so I have asked a friend to save me some from the place that she works ( THANKS KATHY). I create one small hole in the bottom of each jug have opposite the handle. When I fill the jugs, I tighten the lid full and then open it a quarter turn for a slow drip of the water to the tomato roots. Usually I have enough rain water from the five rain barrels to do the tomatoes for several waterings but that is not possible this season for construction reasons so I will have to use tap water. I will give each plant 2 gal of water per week if we do not get an inch of rain. The straw mulch is vital to a good crop. Mulching tomatoes is the best way to avoid blossom end rot - the ever present scourge of tomato growers - which is the result of inconsistent water supply to the developing fruits. Keep the plants mulched and watered and that problem goes away. The same is true for tomatoes grown in pots. The roots must be kept cool and evenly moist to produce a crop so "TopseTurvie" tomatoes are a real good idea.
The potato towers are fully planted and seem to be growing. Flowers on some of the potatoes would mean that one could steal some developing spuds but the towers do not lend themselves to this early potato luxury so we will have wait until harvest time. Lettuce suffers from the heat so I make sure that the lettuce gets some moisture every few days to keep it fresh. I did plant another flat of lettuce so I will also start another seedling flat this next week. Bean seeds need to be planted in peat pots this week to start the process for our favorite pole bean crop. Cucumbers were transplanted onto one trellis and I will start a second planting this week too. Some of the lettuce in the onions is past prime and needs to be removed and some has grown so well that it has shaded the developing onions and beets so it will have to be removed for their sake. Besides, it makes good compost and will help remove some of the developing slugs. I cut the developing garlic flowers off the second garlic planting. The are edible and we had some in soup tonight. I also transplanted both white and black sesame seedlings this week. Susan's home made bread is great with the addition of these seeds so I have planted them again this year to see if we can have a larger harvest than last season. Once we have the seed we will share the bread recipe - a no kneed French bread that is excellent.
Now a word to the wise. I was working with Gas Plant (Dictamnus albus) on Monday and did not know that the developing seed pods that are on the plant at this time of the year are very TOXIC. The hairs of the seed pods produce a photo toxic substance that will severely burn some people when they touch the pods and then expose that skin to sunlight. Photo dermatitis from this plant is bad and I got a bad case on my left hand. The pictures show the results. Avoid touching this plant at seed stage. A neighbor had the same experience and she still has the spots a year after the exposure. Check out "Gas Plant" toxicity on the web for future information.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Snap That Sucker

This is the first part of the garlic crop - these flower buds are really "garlicky"
Time to take out the suckers on the tomatoes
Leaf node suckers are not the same as fruit porduction growth
Removing the suckers allows for a single stem to be encouraged

With the apple bagging done the garden again needs attention. The parsnips have all been thinned. At least two of the hills did not sprout well but because the seed is all gone I can not plant again. We have plenty of lettuce but the radish crop is done. I want to plant some of the daikon radish seed but will make hole similar to the parsnips because of the size these radishes can attain. One bed of garlic started to flower and I disbudded that crop so that the growth will go into the garlic cloves and not be squandered on seed production. The flowers are good to eat and we use them in cooking to get a jump on the garlic harvest. There are more potatoes to plant in the towers but the main job is to pinch off suckers and string up the tomato crop which has really jumped with the arrival of much warmer weather.

The tomato stakes need a top string to anchor the growing plants to. I loop the vertical strings to the bottom string that runs the length of the row and then prune off the leaf node suckers to make a single stem on the plant. The plants are then wound around the vertical string and that is tied to a top string that runs the length of the row too. I will continue to pinch off leaf node suckers as shown to encourage a single growing stem on the plant. The stem is wound around the vertical string. I find this method provides me with a good crop of tomatoes that get plenty of sun and fall clean-up of the crop is simple.This is much easier than working with caged plants.

All I am waiting for is a good rainfall and then I will mulch the tomato planting with straw and we will be on the way to a productive crop and an excellent way to manage the need for constant moisture that tomatoes require to avoid blossom end rot.

Happy Gardening

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2009 Apple Bagging Complete

This fruit has been rejected and pruned to make room for the bagged fruit.

The 2009 crop of apples has been bagged. Approximately 520 apples are in bags protected from pests for the rest of the season. This may be the largest crop I have ever bagged as it has taken me a day longer than I expected.
Happy Gardening

Monday, June 15, 2009

More Bagging

The bagging process is in full swing. I have added another 100 bags to the trees with one more tree to bag I should be done sometime this week hopefully by Wednesday. Any Questions? be sure to ask in the comment section.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Apple Bagging Time

The peas mulched for the rest of their growing time
Parsnips sprouted
Parsnips thinned for the first time
The lettuce with the onions that we are harvesting now
A full compost bin that will need water and care to make the black gold
The pepper planting
The potatoes transplanted into towers were stated in flats
These potatoes have adjusted to the tower and started to grow
This tower was planted with three more plants on the top
Apple cluster before thinning
Bagged fruit after thinning with one staple
This tree is bagged for the season

My fishing trip was great fun. I had two 50 fish days and one was with my fly pole so that was most exciting.
The garden did well in my short absence but has jumped ahead with warmer days. The peas have been covered and mulched. Radishes are a good crop this year. Most of the spring planted spinach has not been too successful compared to the fall planted corp. The parsnips have sprouted and need to be thinned. Lettuce is abundant in the garden and the spinach and arugula winter crops are done and in the compost bin. The bin shown in a previous entry is now full and I will soon need to start another bin.
The space where the spinach was has now been planted with this seasons peppers - thirty plants went into that space. Most of this years varieties are bell type with only a few hot varieties. I planted three of each type and have peppers that are rated from 56days (Frank's pepper) to 78 days (Pasilia Bajio). Lettuce seedlings need to be planted this week to continue the goal of garden lettuce all season.
I planted the basil crop in a variety of spots but I am trying the main planting in between the tomato plants in the front part of each row. I had problems with some basil last year and so I am not planting any basil in the same location this year. We will see how they get along with the tomatoes.
One of the potato towers in full and I have pictures of it in this entry. The potatoes were planted in the tower in a sandwich of sifted compost and straw. In the top of the tower of sifted compost I put three potatoes called Peanut Fingerling. this vertical potato crop is the garden experiment of this season. With the potatoes not in a ground row it will be hard to steal new potatoes as they grow but that is why I topped off the tower with the fingerling variety to be able to get new potatoes from the towers.
The tomatoes have adjusted to the garden and are ready for stringing up so that will be part of this weeks activities.
However the major job is bagging the apple crop. I have been bagging apples for almost ten years. In 2006 I did research on the concept and presented my findings. There are many ways to bag apples but I will briefly go through my process and will include a couple of videos to help.
Key to this process is to get the apples bagged before any plum curculio damage. This pest appearance is related to degree days but usually I prevent the damage by a single spray with Sevin right after petal drop. I have used other orchard products in the past and had bad problems - mainly leaf burn - even with exact spray mixing and application. So I only spray once and then as soon as the apples size, about the size of a nickle to quarter, I bag them using a zip closer type of bag. I use whatever is available and cheap, at less than 3 cents a bag.
The bags are prepared by slicing a drip hole in the bottom ( video ) so that condensation will not accumulate in the bag, and if rain water gets in it will drip out. On the tree, the apple clusters are prepared by removing all but one apple per cluster (usually the king fruit since it it normally the strongest developing fruit). I space my developing fruits to about six to eight inches along the branch. I do not fully open the bag the whole way as it easier to re-close the bag around the fruit if it is not fully opened. Once the fruit is bagged, I zip the bag tight to the fruit stem and staple one staple across the zip to ensure that the bag will not open. I staple only to ensure that the bags will stay closed as some baggers do not staple but just zip the bag closed and move on to the next fruit. I usually can trim clusters and bag 40to 50 apples in a hour. I am not done with my trees as of today but intend to be done with the bagging by Wednesday. So far I have put on about 200 bags -a hundred just this morning on one tree.
I like this process. The fruit matures nicely in the bags insect damage free, and I usually pick and store the fruits right in the plastic as this maintains the moisture level and prevents shriveling of the harvested fruits. Sun scald has never really been a problem. I guess the most disturbing issues are finding a bag that does not have a drip hole in it and the bag collecting water or finding the occasional earwig in with the fruit. Both problems are easily fixed.
My Wolf River apples have been known to split the bags at the end of the season but other than those few problems this process provides a nearly spray free method to harvest clean apples from my back yard tree. And with all the different grafts on my trees, I have many different varieties on my three trees. The time spent bagging the fruit is much better than the old method of applying fruit tree spray every ten to fourteen days the whole growing season. Try bagging instead and I am sure you'll like the results.
Happy Gardening

Bag Preparation

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Home from Canadian fishing

While I was gone to Sioux Lookout, Ontario fishing the garden did not advance much as the weather was rainy and cool and still is. This week or next week I hope to begin apple bagging as soon as the fruit sizes. Look for directions and a set of videos to assist you in this process.
Happy Gardening

Just wanted to share the shore lunch sounds but sorry no smells or tastes :)