Garden lessons 1


Because the growing season is not yet over, and because I have too many topics to cover in one blog, this will only be the first installment. It is 84 F at the moment. Our morning lows have only reached the forties (48 F) once, and immediately returned to the seventies and eighties. Peas that were planted two to three weeks ago are well on their way (see pics), and at least one square bed of bush beans is blooming. The beans can be covered if need be, and peas tolerate cold well.

There are plenty of melon vines that are still green and (slowly) yielding their bounty. Tomatoes also come slowly now, so slow, I am freezing them until I have enough to make into sauce. I may freeze the sauce rather than canning it. I have one square bed planted to Black-seeded Simpson lettuce, and a long one with Romaine transplants. The latter should be ready to eat within two weeks, at least some heads.

Things are still green and growing. We had a nice rain this week, almost two inches. Although it may sometimes feel like fall is around the corner, the growing season is far from over.

However, there are a few things I have learned that I would like to recount:

1. Timing is everything – Bush beans are quick on the draw, much faster to emerge than cucumbers and melons. If these species are planted in the same bed, time their seeding to allow the slower ones to get a head start. Otherwise, the bush beans will shade the emerging cukes and melons and retard their growth. Pole beans are just as bad, and cover more area. Next year, I will plant cukes and melons with carrots, and then allow them to be well up before I plant bush beans in the same bed. Space-saving was only good in theory.
2. Be aware of whether tomato varieties are determinate or indeterminate, and place accordingly – I put Aker’s Plum, which is a vigorous and sprawling variety right up front. Next year, it will be in the back, where Amish Paste is towering over everyone else at the moment. Not producing much, unfortunately. I can put Saucy in their own long rows between beds of cucumbers. Since it is low and not very leafy, it won’t block too much light.
3. No matter how shaded, lettuce and spinach do not do well here after April or May – Shade cloths didn’t work. I can’t successfully transplant lettuce until the very end of August, early September. Don’t even try, a waste of seed and time.

I am trying loose leaf lettuce again, for the first time in several years. I was turned off by those tiny slugs I kept finding on the lettuce. I have to thin/transplant after they get bigger. I also inter-planted with Bloomsdale Longstanding, which has yet to emerge. Another experiment that I hope does not go wrong. The square beds with bush beans will be tilled after harvest and planted to lettuce and spinach. By then, I will probably have to put on the solid lids, but keep them propped open. I expect the leaf lettuce and spinach will not be eaten until spring.

I decided to change my watering system, at least in most beds. In the pics of the Black-Seeded Simpson, you can see the sprinkler hose set on its side. There are Y-connecters on every bed, and the pressure is adjusted to maintain a very fine mist, directed at the plants, and not the sidewalk or spaces between beds. So far this system works well. I hope to be able to water with it during the winter, weather permitting.

You can get Gilmore soaker hoses (25’) on amazon.com for less than $12.00 right now. It was over $15.00 this summer. Many of my soaker hoses had dried up and no longer moistened the soil.

I have also decided to use beans and peas to add nitrogen to the soil in the beds. Beans, peas, and other legumes have nodules on their roots that contain bacteria. Beans and peas are like alfalfa and soybeans in the farmers’ crop rotation. After the lettuce and spinach are done for the spring, I will then plant bush beans, and keep the square beds in them until late August/early September. Edible pod peas will be planted as early as possible in the spring, and when cucumbers are dome in late summer. This will also provide something edible from the garden well into fall.

My choices for paste tomatoes next year are: Saucy, Aker’s Plum, and San Marzano. These are relatively low and productive. I also like Mammoth Melting snap peas, and Blue Lake 264 bush beans. I still have not found a good melon, and may stick with Ambrosia next year. If I decide to grow Broccoli, I will be the hybrid, Packman from Harris seeds.

It hasn’t been a bed year, lessons aside. I ate cucumbers for two months, a summer staple, and canned at least four batches of spaghetti sauce. I also made four batches of Kosher dill pickles (from Mrs. Wages). I currently have 6 gallons of green beans in the freezer, with more expected. I did not fill the chest freezer from the garden as expected. There is too much ice cream and Green Giant bagged vegetables (bought with coupons) in there at the moment anyway. I anticipate several more meals out of the garden yet this year.

Happy gardening!

Lark

Mammoth melting snap peas

Snap peas and melons, with towering tomato in back

Snap peas, melons, towering tomatoes

Backyard beds

Loose-leaf lettuce and sprinkler hose

Bush beans with sprinkler hose

Romaine bed

Romaine bed with sprinkler hose

Bush beans

Side yard beds

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~ by suscrofa on September 17, 2010.

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