Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cross-Country Twice

I have seen the plants and habitats of eight states since my last post. Everything from the desert Southwest of Arizona and New Mexico; the mountains and evergreens of those states and Colorado; the plains of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas; the rolling hills, hardwood forests, and farm fields of Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois. For someone who is fascinated with the land and its plants both drives cross-country were times to observe and marvel at the flora and scenery - even though some of it was vastly flat and pretty monotonous. The ability to see ten to twenty miles flat ahead is just amazing. I also experienced all the weather those states had to offer, snow, dust storms, gale force winds, black ice, torrential rain in three states, and sunny blue skies.

As a result I have not had time to do much with gardening except to start paper whites three weeks ago and have them blooming for Christmas now. I even started another set this morning and hope to have them for after the holidays when I will be trying to wake up the amaryllis that are in the basement crawlspace.

Wow, I see that Johnny's is advertising pelleted onion and parsnip seed. I like the idea of onions in pellets but parsnip seems not to be practical since over seeding is usually necessary to get decent germination and the need for thinning is a fact for the home gardener. probably the commercial growers are where this product is aimed. Johnny's does supply to farmer's market growers, and they are into to production.

However, last spring I was not at home in time to plant parsnips so this is the first year in a long time that I will not have any for harvest at the end of the year - sadly. I will miss that harvest because cold weather makes parsnips a fantastic root vegetable.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, November 20, 2011

2012 Seed Catalogs Here - Already!

I was again inAZ for a while and when I got home in the mountain of mail were the first two 2012 seed catalogs. Now this is the absolute earliest they have ever come. Unfortunately, I did not collect them from the mailbox so I don't know which one was the first to arrive. But still, this is November and not like last year when Stokes came in December. One will have to get to these wish books along with the mountain of other catalogs that fill the mailbox at this time of year. Personally, it might be a bit early - what will we have to do in those cold January days if we have already gone through them by then? Maybe I'll just set them aside and wait until New Years Day.
Happy Gardening.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Strange Fruit Harvest

Must be a season for strange fruits.
Pleasant surprise to find this fruit on a vine this fall - Got any ideas?
Make your guess before you read the text to see if you got it...
Strange seeds inside too. Yes the fruit is edible.

We have had several nights of real cold weather with frost on windshields and ice frozen in buckets so most of the outdoor growing season is done. I picked all the bird chillies and donated them to my local Asian grocery store - they were pleased to get over a gallon of fresh hot peppers. They are just the kind that are used in green papaya salad. Plus I gave my favorite grocer a jar of hot pepper jelly made from the same peppers - I'll check back in a couple of weeks to see how they liked the jelly.

Fall chores include the final grass cutting and application of fall fertilizer to the lawn. I don't fertilize grass more than twice a year as the basic result is that grass grows and has to be cut - not my favorite job. All the marigolds had to be pulled and so in the front bed I planted the seedling white Alpine strawberries that will be the sidewalk edge in the future. Alpines are great edgers because they do not have runners. The white ones will fool the robins and the front walk will had 17 strawberries fruiting most of the summer ( I hope).

I hope you guessed the mystery fruit in the pictures. I was surprised to find it and the seed inside reminded me of the shark egg cases one sometimes find on the beach - yes, it is a Mayhop Passion Flower fruit.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Good Apple Harvest for 2011

Last of the marigolds.
Part of the apple harvest.
These are Wolf Rivers - great for cooking
Good germination on the spinach crop.
Radishes mark the rows as they germinate in about five days.
These radish should make in 20 plus days.
These are tomatoes that sprouted in the cold frames - too bad kids, winter is on the way.

With cooler nights finally here and frost on the roof for the last three days it was time to harvest the apples crop. I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the Firesides - nice large fruits were the norm this year. I harvested everything off of all the trees and we have the vegetable bins in the basement refrigerator full, the small cooler and the large camping cooler full to the top and an extra five gallon pail full of sauce apples - ones that fell from the tree and are bruised. We will make sauce soon with those.
With the hoop house done I planted it before we took quick trips to Minneapolis and Chicago in the last two weeks. Everything is up nicely and most nights I leave the hoop house door open because the cool night air is good for the spinach seedlings. I did plant some radish seeds with the hopes of getting a crop before real cold weather sets in. So far so good. All the seed has sprouted and we should soon have true leaves on the seedlings and then hopefully the roots will swell into nice fall radishes.
The fig trees are inside the greenhouse and the Chicago has lost all of its leaves while the black fig still want to keep leaves - I need both of them to go dormant and soon. The amaryllis too need to go dormant so they will get no more water this fall and should start to cast off their leaves in a few weeks. Then I will put them all in the crawl space in the basement where they will stay till after the new year and they show signs of growth.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunny Warm October

The chickens we gave away this spring are finally laying eggs - Thanks Beth, for the egg gift - GREAT dinner from our former feathered friends.
The hoop house in need of fixing.
The work station - I added more ribs in hopes of making the tunnel stronger.
This time I painted the ribs - foam brush worked the best.
Both ends got double plastic from one 8 x 25 sheet of 3 mil.
The rest of the covering will be a 20 x 25 sheet of 3 mil doubled stretched and stapled at the base.
The garden ready for winter.
The planting in the hoop house.
Green coated spinach seeds.
Apples stay in the plastic in storage so they do not shrivel.
Good ole Wolf River - big sauce apple.

Center tomato is a grafted plant - yes it does have a bigger root system than the other heritage type and grafting should do this - makes for more vigorous roots.

The warm weather continues and so that makes fall garden work much easier. The garden has been tilled and I dug the drainage ditch across to allow for water to run off next spring. I got the rest of the crocus and tulip bulbs planted and worked on rebuilding the hoop house this week.
I put more ribs in this version and got them painted to see if that might extend the life of the plastic covering. I tilled the soil in side and planted spinach, lettuce, and radishes in several rows but have not put the main cover on yet because I need a windless day to get that job done and it was somewhat breezy today. Plus I would like the seeds to have some sun and warmth before I cover the tunnel with plastic which will make for a fair amount of condensation in the hoop house.
The apple crop is getting ready to pick but I am postponing it as long as possible because the harvest goes into coolers in the garage and we need some cooler weather for that storage method. Most of the second crop of figs are not getting that big and the Chicago fig is dropping leaves and trying to go dormant. The black fig is much happier to be in the greenhouse so who knows how it will fare this winter.
I made two batches of hot pepper jelly this week. I used organic apple juice as the base and chopped the peppers fine and the resulting jelly is really good - nice bite to it. Yesterday I made another batch of apple sauce and this morning we had it on pancakes laced with hickory nut pickings and a drizzle with maple syrup - very nice.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Sad Unkempt Garden

These zinnias are still blooming nicely.
Tomatoberry is one of the few plants with fruit still on.
The winds did a number on the garden
And finished the hoop house.
I am still letting this watermelon grow as long as possible.
The Thai bird peppers are going to be for the pepper jelly.

My wife and I spent seventeen days in Flagstaff, Arizona working for my parents in the management of their home and getting it ready for sale. So my garden was left to fend by itself for that time and upon my return my garden was a sad site.
Overgrown and unharvested was the basic condition of it all. We have not had a killing frost but the tomatoes show just how much they hate cool nights. Most of the plants are done except for the Tomatoberry's and Candy which are still good. Both of the green grape varieties were poor this season and the Red Peach plants have fruit but most of it is still green and will never ripen. I think tomorrow I will take the tomato rows down and cart them off to the dump.
The hoop house fell victim to the heavy wind storm we had several nights ago. The 45mph plus winds shredded it. But some failure of the covering seems to have been part of the problem too. I had read that plastic on plastic was not a good mix and caused deterioration with time and UV. That seems to be the case so I will have to recover the hoop house and I make make some improvements in the number of ribs I have holding the cover.
The best crop still producing is the apple crop. we have been harvesting apples for over a month and the early fall varieties are now ripe with the later ones still on the tree. I made dried apples and a big batch of apple sauce - great on morning cereal.
The peppers in the EarthBox planters were ready for harvest and so I picked most of them and I am thinking about making some hot pepper jelly - great stuff.
Both the fig trees have second crops maturing so they have been moved into the green house in hopes that the figs will mature. Fall planting begins with bulbs as my order from John Scheepers Bulb Co. came and there are 270 tulips and crocus to get in the ground this month.
Happy Gardening

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hot Days and Cool Nights

Fall has arrived with silence in the morning. In spring the number of bird sounds was constant and now about all one hears is the sound of crickets chirping the temperature. I have not heard a robin or wren in more than a week and although hummingbirds are still around, they don't make much noise.
This past week the big event was presenting a vegetable class at the Wisconsin Garden Club Federation Gardening Study School. Great location at the Elwood May Environmental Park in Sheboygan. Plus, I had an excellent attentive group with many great questions. I sure hope everyone had as good a time as I did. Thanks, Julie, for the invite.
The garden is winding down with fewer tomatoes and cucumbers to pick. The second crop of figs is growing nicely and I have two watermelons hanging through the trellis supported by pantyhose so with luck they will get ripe. As a result of the slow down in the garden and with apple harvest about two to three weeks away I might just take a short break in posting.
Happy gardening

Monday, September 5, 2011

Harvest and "Putting Up"

More perfect amateur grown roses I have never seen at any fair.
These Zinnias were beautiful and a perfect entry.
These entries of Zinnias were great to judge.
"HUGE" does not really describe this Cockscomb.
And the veggies were nice too even though someone else got to judge them.
The poor man's - Seal-a-Meal process for my broccoli.
Just freezer bags and a straw.
Out goes the air.
And into the freezer.
The Tomatoberry was a great choice for drying.
The dryer tray ready for hot air - sun dried tomatoes over night.
The same tray in the morning - dried.
The whole dryer in a one quart bag.
Dilly Beans and peppers - Our "Putting Up".

Friday I spent one of the best days at a county fair I have had in a very long time. I was judging at the Shawano County Fair in class 15 - Flowers and House Plants. What a great display and more participants than I have seen in a long time. Not only were there many entries but they were good if not great entries. Noticeably, I saw the most perfect homegrown roses I have ever judged. I was very impressed with the perfection of the entry and they justly deserved the "Best in Show" ribbon awarded at the end. My photo does not do these flower justice - they were beautiful!
With the arrival of September the weather seems to have quickly decided to change. The threat of frost is in the forecast for northern counties in Wisconsin tonight - Frost! Oh No...
My grandmother would spend fall days canning the bounty of her garden and whatever anyone would give her. She would build a fire and cold pack her canned goods with that open fire instead of using her electric range - "costs too much" was her reason. That was her way of "putting up" for winter.
We did our "putting up" this week with canning, drying, and freezing our bounty. I have frozen beans and broccoli. I used the "air out of the plastic freezer bag" method - check out the pictures. The broccoli was not the best I have ever grown but frozen it will be OK during winter. I froze more tomatoes this week too. I think frozen is a good use of energy as we are not cooking them twice to make tomato juice or sauce. I only have to peel them with water and set them to cooking after they thaw and during the thaw I get rid of some of the water in them too. I did make tomatoes ( vegetable) juice too. I like to juice cucumbers along with the tomatoes and add the basil, parsley, garlic, and onion juiced instead of cooked. Some of the juice I will freeze just in plastic bags as it keep fine that way and is good.
We also did some drying of apples and tomatoes. Both will dry overnight and our research suggests that drying 6 trays costs about 25 cents. I really like the flavor of dried tomatoes. This year I used mostly the "Tomatoberry" variety as they are meaty and dried nicely. The entire dried batch filled one quart plastic bag and the sink was full of fruit prior to drying. As the apple harvest continues we will dry a major portion of that crop too. Dries apples are a favorite here and an easy way to store our crop. My wife did the real canning. She made "dilly beans' and she "put up" both sweet and hot peppers. The peppers are her crop and with the success of the Earthboxes she had a nice selection to can. All in all we have begun our "putting up" and all of these will be great additions to the winter menus.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Week Away - And How the Garden Grows

Shore lunch in Canada - fresh Northern Pike - FANTASTIC
The fragrance of Four-O-Clocks is one of my favorite summer smells.
Tomatoes and more tomatoes.
Big heads of Green Magic broccoli.
The luffa that covered my 8 foot trellis.
I think these vines grew a foot or more every day.
The Chicago Brown Turkey fig tree will give us nice figs for the next month - great tree!

WOW! leave the garden for a week and BAM - everything jumps. My wife worked hard to keep the garden picked while I was gone fishing in Canada but 2in of rain and sunny summer days will make everything leap. The fishing trip was back at Woman River Camp in Ear Falls Ontario - about 750 miles from home and in great fishing waters. I went with my brother, Dennis, by fishing buddy, Dick Schaal and the three of us had a great time - good fishing, great food, and lots of laughs. Only had rain one day out of six and one day that was really hot for late August that far north.
While I was gone the garden really started producing. Easily a half dozen cucumbers a day, great amounts of green beans, and the tomatoes really got ripe. Somehow I have quites a few determinate plants that I will cross off the list for next year. I even found two watermelons on the vine that I have since hung in pantyhose slings to support them on the trellis - now if they only have enough time to get ripe.
The fig tree is really producing and the peppers in the EarthBoxes are making a great crop. I really like those plants for peppers. They get plenty of water, are nice an warm on the greenhouse apron and no earwigs have found them - sounds like all plus marks for them.
The luffa gourds are taking over one trellis as the pictures show so they have been cut and will be headed for the compost bin soon. The broccoli has matured too fast and so we intend to pick the whole crop and freeze as much as possible. Daikon radishes are still edible and not too hot. I got rid of the melon plant in the greenhouse because the one in the hoop house is doing so much better - has set three nice melons.
My only bad note was the hornets nest in the greenhouse that was in the thermostat so when I reached over to turn the knob to open the vent they got mad and one stung me - welcome home! They no longer live in the greenhouse by the way.
Happy Gardening