Monday, June 28, 2010

New Crop - Mosquitos

These first four pictures were show at the 2010 TGOA/MGCA Convention.
These sedums have great color.
Pink Pearl heritage apple is a pink fleshed fruit.
Cardoons are wonderful plants and the flowers are amazing at all stages.
The 'Earthbox' peppers are looking good.
With the cold frames gone the landing is home for the fig tree and 'Earthboxs'.
This is looking like a great use for the greenhouse in summer.
Nice mature fruits.
This is why I don't snap all the suckers till I am done wrapping the stems.

Suckers come from leaf nodes and fruiting structures are at a different point.

Wow, what lots of rain will do - make the grass grow, help the tomato crop, keep the apples growing better than last season, and produce a bumper crop of mosquitoes. Nasty little buggers attack as soon as you walk into the garden. They light and bite instantaneously. Too bad for me that even if I swat them the bite site starts to swell right away. So I go for the bottle of ammonia and put some on the spot - great fix - stops the swelling and itching right away.

There is a lovely first crop of lettuce to harvest even though there is some slug damage. The daikon radishes are loving this rain and are a good harvest. We peel them and then use the vegetable peeler to make long strips for salads. The peas are ready but maybe not the sweetest I have grown so the variety (Cascadia) may not get a second chance. The dandelions (Italiko Rossa) are great and grow different from regular dandelions. These seem to be more vertical and have not flowered yet but I like them in salads and steamed with whatever vegetable we are having. A bit of Balsamic vinegar makes them. The fig tree has figs developing and the cucumbers (Manny) in the greenhouse are producing. Next year I will have to stagger the plantings, one every month, and I think I could have greenhouse cucumbers and not have any in the garden. Then I could use my trellises totally for melons

The major work after mulching the whole garden was getting rid of tomato suckers. This is a weekly job. Because the plants are grown vertically I limit them to one main stalk; sometimes cage grown plants have two leaders. The suckers and the fruiting structures on tomatoes are are different plant parts. The suckers occur in the leaf junctions and the fruiting clusters are separate on the stem. Before I wrap the stem on the strings I pinch out the suckers. I snap them but one could cut them too. I usually do this in the evening as if I do the job early in the morning, I seem to accidentally break the main stem sometimes. As a precaution, I usually snap all the suckers but the last one closest to the terminal stake, then wrap the stake and then safely break out the last sucker. I have a picture of just this problem this week.

The Gardeners of America/Men's Garden Clubs of America picked a few of the pictures I entered in their annual convention photo contest to show at their convention. One of my photos from the 2009 contest was chooses to be in their May photo in the organization's national calendar. I will include a few ( the first four this post) in the next few postings along with a short video of "Sucker Snapping".
Happy Gardening

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tomato Tragedy

Copper foil as slug guards - 8 inches by 1/2 inch (about).

Put a cut in each end to keep the circle closed.
Placed around a plant this guard is supposed to repel slugs.

Bird damage on the pea vines - they get after the lettuce too!

One of the original grafted tomatoes planted out
Mulching the tomato rows with straw.
Parsley at the Paine Gardens making a great green statement.
This is really beautiful chard.
The old fashioned roses in their gardens were in full bloom.
Honeysuckle as part of the entry way into the rose garden.
Great use of time in the herb garden.

Birthday celebration and new computer on line makes for a late entry for this week. Plus the June work has really piled up.
The next set of grafted tomatoes are no more - I got home late from the Y and found the sun had cooked my small grafted plants. I had taken the darkening cloths off but did not get home in time to spray and recover them with a lighter sheet so we are on the the third set of seedlings that have just come out of the ground and we will try this grafting AGAIN. The plants in the garden are doing OK and today I tied them up as the grafts were looking good and strong.
We had a heavy rain last night so I finally got the whole garden mulched. I found straw at a construction site close to home and after calling the realtor and getting permission to take the straw, I brought home 8 bales. The straw had been sitting on a construction site all spring and with the recent rains the bales were very wet, but they worked fine for mulch around the potatoes and tomatoes.
Mulching tomatoes is key to keeping them happy and productive all summer long. No blossom end rot because of inconstant moisture. By the end of July, those tomatoes that have been water stressed will reward growers with ugly inedible fruits, but keep the same plants mulched and that problem will not happen.
Not only are slugs a problem but earwigs are too. They have wrecked the sesame seedlings and a few of the melons too. I hate using chemicals but without them I am going too loose this battle so I dusted all my young plant lightly with Sevin dust in the hopes of fending off the earwigs and giving my young plants a chance to grow and become strong enough to fend off these pests. Some apples have been damaged by birds and the peas plants are getting eaten by the birds too. I think it's English sparrows, especially young ones, on there own trying not to starve - but why my pea crop?
I have finished bagging the apples. That job took a long time this year for some reason. I don't think we have as many bags on the trees as last year but the size of the bagged fruits is better than last year and we have had good moisture at this crucial fruit forming time. A guess would be over three hundred bags, because the "Footies" box had 144 and they are all on the trees. I think I hung another 200-250 plastic bags on trees so that is an easy 300 or more. I have already found water in some bags from the rain and the drainage hole on the opposite side of the bag and a few earwigs are inside some bag. Just how those things get up the tree and into the bagged fruits is something seemingly out of fiction.
All the peppers are planted and I am experimenting with copper bands around some of the plants to see if I can keep the slugs off the plants.The pictures show the band in place now we will have to wait and see if it keep the slugs off the pepper plants. This copper was at a craft store and much cheaper than the ready made bands in the garden catalogs. I know the package cost less than $5 and the ready made bands cost more. So we will see how the home made ones work.
We went to Oshkosh, WI this past Sunday to the Paine Museum and Gardens. I have included some of the garden pictures but especially the gardens with the parsley as part of the plantings. This is such a great garden plant for edging or in this case masses of green in a very formal garden setting. This year I mixed both Italian flat leaf parsley and the curly type as the background of the flower planting by the front walk of our house. This will be a green edge for the summer annuals and a nice green edge into fall with whatever we plant after the annuals. Some of the plants will survive and be a green edge next spring. So think of parsley when you want a wide green edge.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Apple Bagging with "Footies"

Chive flowers are good for the bees
After the flowers are past and before seed development -
Its time to cut them back and enjoy a second harvest.
Carrot seedlings for transplanting

Garlic Flowers need to be cut off the help make a larger bulb
White wonder alpine strawberries

Vertical tomato growing method.

The tomato patch strung up.
This fruit cluster needs to be thinned before bagging - watch the video
Apples bagged in "Footies" and in plastic - watch those videos

Even with rain, this week was very busy. The rain was much needed and helped to settle the new garden space. Many jobs needed to get done so I started with cutting down the chives. Once the flowers of the chives are no longer attractive to the bees and before the plant spends too much energy making seeds, I cut them back. They will regrow in a few week and we will have nice chives for the rest of the season. I included a before and after to show what I did.
The garlic seed pods need to be removed to get more energy to the bulb. I cut off the flower heads and try to use them in cooking for the week. They are the first garlic harvest since planting last October and are good in eggs and stir fry.
The melons were put out and so were the cucumbers. This year I used peat pots to help reduce transplant shock but by the looks of them they are not happy. I am tempted to start a second planting to see if that will fix the poor growth of this first planting. The melons look especially poor so I gave them a half strength shot of fertilizer today just to see if that would green them up. I planted lettuce under the cucumber/melon trellis because we try to use our space as wisely as possible and there is a nice lettuce space under there. The lettuce will get light until the vines cover the trellis and then because of the way it's set the south end will still get light even when the trellis is vine covered.
Last week's onions are looking better and I pulled some lettuce and transplanted carrots into the spot. I am trying the short nubby types to see if they tolerate the transplanting better. I have two seed sources for Parisian. The beets took to transplanting with little shock and have doubled in size in a week. I have pulled diakon radishes and they have been good. Just a few root maggot scars but pre-punching the holes for the roots seems to work nicely for these.
My white alpine strawberries are going to do much better because of this nice rain. I got rid of all the red ones because Robins know what red strawberries are but have not figured out what white ones are - good!. The slugs don't care about color they just eat anything so there is some slug damage even on these fruits. I grew my plants from seed and they are nice clumps of runner-less plants that will bear fruit all summer.
All the tomatoes have been "strung up". We use a post and twine method to grow the tomato crop vertically and this week it was time to start that process. I have included a video or how I set up the twine and then wind the tomatoes up strings. This eliminates cages and allows me to get my plants closer and keep a single leader growing up the strings. Just a few hints - the best time to wrap and de-sucker your plants is in the evening. In the morning they are more brittle and I have sometimes broken off my top. Also when you snap suckers you are not removing tomato flowers because they occur at another point on the stem. Sucker removal allowes for concentrated vertical growth and opens your fruit to air and more sun for better production and harvest. I will also mulch the whole tomato patch for moisture control as tomatoes will show the effects of insufficient water with blossom end rot and mulching help prevent that trouble.
The rest of the pepper crop was planted today. Once I pull the old spinach out from the hoop house and take the plastic off, then I plant peppers in that spot. Because there is some hope of a new hoop house this year I took the plastic down early. I am going to experiment with copper foil barriers about some of these peppers to see if I can keep the slugs out of them. I found some foil sheets at the arts and craft store and will have to fabricate the circles that sell for $15 in one of the catalogs. Needless to say my copper foil was cheaper and I should get even more than the catalog source amount.
The big job this week is bagging the apples. We have been bagging apples for over ten years. I did research on this process back in 2006 and have been using zipper type bags with one or two staples as a way to keep most apple pests out of my fruit. In the past I have done one spray treatment for Plum curculio but this year I did not even do that. Some of the damage that Plum curculio does can be cosmetic. This year like in the past I try to get the bags on when the apples size up from nickle to quarter size. Those sizes seem to assure that the fruit is pollinated and there is enough seed development, otherwise the tree will drop fruits. One also has to thin the apple crop to get the best production. I do this thinning as I bag while the commercial orchards does the thinning with chemicals.
This year we also are experimenting with using "Footies" those nylon sox that the shoe store uses. These have been used in West coast orchards and last year I tried a half dozed fruits successfully. This year a bought a box and put all 144 on. I used twist ties that were plastic coated from the hardware store and instead of buying a roll of wire and cutting I bought pre cut lengths and cut them in half. I have included both the thinning process on a video and the "Footie" application. The best way to see the plastic bagging process is to go back in the 2009 blog entries to June and there is a video on the June14, 2009 that will show how to bag with plastic.
The apple bagging takes some time and I work at bagging 50 or more apples till I have my three trees done. So far I have put on 144 'Footies" and 150 bags and I still have fruit to bag. With a number of different grafted apples on each tree it is interesting to see which fruits have been hit by the bugs. Some fruit seems never to be bothered and some are always a site for egg laying. I did not do any grafting this season and had to remove a branch with three young grafts from last season because I just did not like the fact that a great portion of the limb was dead. I can always replace the grafts on another branch.
I planted out the five surviving grafted tomatoes and started another batch. I grafted twelve plants and tucked them away into their warm dark environment only to find that the heat mat got TOO warm last night and the plants did not look too good this morning. Oh well, I had enough left over plants to re-graft tops to 8 of the twelve so we will see what happens. I also decided to start another trial by starting the scion seed instead of the root stock seed first and then in a few days I will start the roots stock and see if I can't get better size to the scions.
We have a few videos this week but we have done a lot and want to share those processes.
Happy Gardening

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rain on the Garden and the Enemy Returns!

Sweet Shrub - This plant is a cutting from my Grandmother house in southern Indiana
As I recall her's was a huge plant - maybe 6-8ft tall/ Mine is 3-4ft even after 20 yrs.
Onions rinsed and ready for planting
They go in as a bunch and can be thinned later.
The finished row.
Red stemmed dandelions are great in salad.
Evil Punks!

We got a nice rain over the weekend and things perked up. The potatoes have started to show. The parsnips and salsifly seeds have sprouted so I have pulled most of the radish markers out. The broccoli looks good and I had some onions plants left so I put in a row. When I plant onions I rinse the flat in water and let them soak while I bunch plant the row. Because I can thin the onions as they grow for eating I usually plant a cluster of three or so. Even though these are Alicia Craig and supposed to get really big, mine seldom do, so this method works just fine. The video is the rinse and soak. Most of the spinach is done for - bolted in the hot weather so I pulled it this week and put some of it in the compost. The first rice crop failed to grow so this week I replanted and mulched the seedlings. I think the ground just got too hot for the plants so maybe the cooler root run will make for a happier rice crop.
The grafted tomato count is at five plants that survived the process but I have another group of seedlings coming along to practice on. I think I will plant the grafted plants in a row of their own just so I can keep track of where they are and how they do. Once again names have been lost so I will have to see just what kind of fruit these plants make, if any, to tell what is grafted. Luckily all the root stock is the same - Red Peach. The next batch is the same - Red Peach root stock and a Pink Russian will be the grafts.
The apples are getting almost bagging size but I am thinking that the Plum curculio will soon start hitting them so I will have to try to get to bagging as soon as I can. We will be using plastic and "footies" this year. I got some wire twist ties at the hardware store that I can cut in half and have the right size for securing the "footies" to the apple stem. "Footies" are not as cheap as zipper bags but will make for a better environment for the developing apple; not that the plastic is bad but last year with the real hot weather I have my first scalded fruits in plastic.
The red dandelions are really doing well and they are very nice in salads. I thought the sparrows were picking at my lettuce like they have been doing to my peas - they have really damaged part of the pea row- but OH NO! IT'S SLUGS! We have the worst problem with slugs and with all that hot weather I had thought they would not be here yet. But they are BACK! The rain this weekend just seemed to be what they needed. I found a real mass of them on at least one of the lettuce plantings. Although they are still small they make up for it in numbers - two to three on each plant feasting away. Unfortunately control is either by hand picking - been there done that or with chemicals. I hate to use the chemicals but this is a real war. I think they are making a mess of the sesame seedlings too. Night picking them into salt water will be complicated because the rain will bring on a mosquito hatch - and I hate mosquito bites - I swell up badly.
Three years ago I planted morning glories because I wanted them to grow to the top of the house which they did. I have always planted Morning Glories late in the season because they are short day plants and make the best flowers in the fall so planting them around July 4th makes for a great show of flowers. However, flowers make seeds and I am still pulling Morning Glory seedlings out of the bed where they grew seemingly so long ago - no wonder they are outlawed in Arizona. The Sweet Shrub, Carolina Allspice -Calycanthus floridus is blooming and those red/brown flowers really makes a wonder aroma floating on the breeze.

Happy Gardening

The onion rinse method...