Dog days are here

•August 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A week of heat and humidity was followed by a few relatively cool days, although there was no rain. I got the lawn mowed and worked on beds, both flower and vegetable. One square bed of squash was not thriving, so I yanked the remaining plant and tilled it. Then I added two bags of manure and a couple cups of kelp meal. Tilled it again and then leveled it out with a steel rake. I planted Contender bush beans in it and anywhere there was space in the back yard beds.

I have been reorganizing the front flower bed. I had transplanted most of the iris last month, which left big holes. Iris are passive-aggressive here. They had squeezed their way through many other perennials, and had multiplied to the point where some had grown to the size of a dinner plate. Currently, the new organization is: Black-eyed susans or Heliopsis in the back, heirloom petunias and marigolds in the middle, and Blanket flowers and coreopsis in the front. I still have some Balloon flower plants to move and replace. The new plants are being watered with sprinkler hoses, including the new iris bed.

The dark green zucchini are coming, but very slowly. I am tempted to empty more of the square beds and prepare them for bush beans. However, due to the extreme heat (100 f and over), I will wait a week or so.

Cucumbers are coming, both pickling and slicing, but just enough to keep a couple days worth in the refrigerator. I did give some away the other day. Not enough pickling cukes to pickle, so I cut them up in salad.

I picked the first Ambrosia cantaloupe yesterday, but haven’t eaten it yet. I like them chilled. I see others at various stages of development, but no volunteer melons yet. All the vines look healthy despite the lack of rain. There is a soaker hose way down under the soil, meant for the asparagus, but I doubt much gets to the melons.

I started the first batch of spaghetti sauce this week. I had to save tomatoes for a week to do it. Instead of boiling and icing them to remove the skin, I decided to just run them through the blender. They are mostly pretty small, and I hate to waste the skin. Makes a smoother sauce. I add Italian herbs (from Frontier Herb Company), about 2 teaspoons each garlic and onion  powder, a little sugar, a little salt, and a zucchini. This is the fourth day it has simmered all afternoon. I may can tomorrow.

Saucy is about done with the first round, and I am not sure there will be a second one. I have enjoyed Aunt Lucy’s Italian paste tomatoes in salad, since they are just a little larger than those little salad tomatoes. Principe Borghese also goes in salad. Aker
S plum is very productive, although many of the first ones looked nothing like a plum. Large vigorous plants.

Amish paste is seven feet tall and climbing, with nary a tomato in sight. Unless they are super productive, I probably will not grow these again. Roma VF is productive with medium-sized plants.

All in all, some days are better than others for tomato output. I see many green tomatoes, so the rest of the summer looks fruitful.

Otherwise, it’s water and wait.

Happy gardening!

Lark

A little rain is better than none at all

•July 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The last three weeks have been unusually dry here. We had been getting weekly rain since the spring. Then we finally started getting small showers, some of them just a few minutes in duration. Some heavier than others. The sun comes out again and an hour later, it is hard to tell that it rained. I have spent one to two hours a day watering flowers and squash transplants on the off days. Now I have time to do something else in the garden.

My last bed of beans needs to be pulled and stripped. My neighbor was picking the pole beans most of the month, but it seems she has stopped. I will pick them today as well as the last of the bush beans for awhile. I had planned to plant more in the cucumber beds, but those plants take up most of the space, even after I redirect them to the cattle panel.

Cucumber production is still slow. I barely get enough for lunch each day. The heirloom varieties are finally starting to yield, so that will help. Not enough pickling cukes yet to make pickles, so I eat them raw in salad. They help augment the hybrid Burpless.

No zucchini yet, although I keep looking. They have been blooming for a week. I will probably get a whole bunch all at once.

Today, I started the first fall Romaine crop inside. I should be able to transplant them into the beds by the end of August. It is very warm in the front porch where I start seeds, even with the windows open. I have Black seeded Simpson seeds to try in the square beds on the side of the house. The Romaine will go in longer beds, some in the back yard in the bed with pole beans, and some in what was the broccoli bed. These have sprinkler hoses that will keep the soil wet and cool.

I have gotten tomatoes from all varieties now, although some are only starting to bear. I still like Saucy the best. Firm an a good size. I am still eating tomatoes in salad, not enough to can with yet. I may not do any sauce-making this year. Some plants are very tall, 6 – 7 feet and growing.

I need to get out and pick beans before it rains again. Much more comfortable if it stays cloudy. I wish there was more of a breeze today.

Happy gardening!

Lark

End of summer is in sight, sigh

•July 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It’s supposed to rain today. I can see lines of storms on the radar, hopefully headed this way. We have been repeatedly missed in the last week or so. The town about four miles away as the crow flies, got pounded on Tuesday and we got bupkiss. It is time for a good soaker. I am tired of dragging the hose around to water the flowers and some veggies.

The cucumber crop to date is hardly overwhelming, as it has been in the past. This may be due to the fact it is not on the eastern-most row, and partly shaded by the tomatoes there now. I barely get enough a day for a meal, which is usually a big cucumber and tomato salad. There have occasionally been pickling cukes on the western bed, not enough to try pickling, but they can also be added to salad. There are younger pickling cukes coming up, as well as other slicing varieties. I should have plenty of cucumbers by this time next week.

And then there are the zucchini, just starting to bloom. I keep looking, but nothing yet.

The tomatoes are producing, but not enough to can with. I eat them in the salad instead. I still like Saucy the best. The plants are almost done with round one, and are reloading for round two. I get smaller tomatoes, just a few a day off some of the other varieties. Some have vines that are six to seven feet tall, but few fruits. Saucy is short, not a lot of leaves, but a lot of firm, oblong fruit. I think it may be the only one I need next year.

Cucumber and melon vines still need to be redirected to the cattle panels. They are shading the carrots I planted a few weeks ago. Nothing has come up yet. I am still holding off with planting bush beans.

I picked the first melon yesterday, and probably the only one for awhile yet. It must have been the Kansas variety. Looks like a yellow and green cantaloupe, but has green flesh. Not too sweet and not large. I ate it for lunch today. Sure smelled good yesterday. No other melons on the horizon, but lots of blooms, especially on the sprawling asparagus bed. They even try to climb the asparagus fronds. The Kansas melon had managed to climb down the side of the bed and was growing on the sidewalk next to it.

I will probably pull out the remaining bush beans (two rows) and plant one to Romaine. That bed runs east and west, with the north side of the bed shaded by pole beans and melons. A good place for lettuce. The beans on the north side were not very productive. I had hoped to put in peas for the fall on that panel, but it will be full of melons well into September. My concern about fall peas is the availability of bees when the plants are blooming. I am sure the plants can survive the frost, but the bees may not. That is one thing about early spring planting, they are blooming at the right time. I had hoped to save seeds for the next year. The same goes with late fall bush beans.

I rescued a rabbit that had been grazed by a car. I happened to pass it on my bike this morning. I know they are anathema to many gardeners, but I couldn’t just leave it to be run over again. I am giving water and MSE probiotic drench every few hours. I offered some cucumber ends, but it wasn’t interested. The hind legs do not look broken, but it can
T sit up. The car took off a patch of kin on the left hip. Just a little bleeding.

Happy gardening!

Lark

Beans galore!

•July 12, 2010 • 1 Comment

Today is cloudy and cooler. Rain yesterday morning, with several unsuccessful attempts since then. Unlike the East coast, last week was fairly pleasant, with comfortable temps. Perfect for picking and processing green beans.

I did the third picking (pull and strip, my favorite pick) on six rows last week, usually two rows a day. It takes me about an hour to an hour and a half to pick that much. Then I have to snap them (usually done while watching the television) and then process them (boil for three minutes, and then ice bath for three minutes or more). I have 6 gallons in the freezer and I have eaten at least that much, fresh cooked. I have two more rows to go. They are the youngest. Only one has been picked once, and the other not yet.

I planted carrots in the space between where the next round of beans goes and whatever is climbing the cattle panel. I will give them a chance to emerge before I plant the beans. A lot of the carrots I had planted earlier did not sprout because the beans came up so quickly and overshadowed them.

I also have to keep the same climbing species on either sides of the same cattle panel. Cucumbers take off faster than melons and also overshadow them. The melons that were planted by cattle panels are way behind because they shared the bed with either cukes or pole beans. The melons that were planted in the asparagus bed are all over the place and should bear first.

One of the zucchini varieties that I had planted last month never came up. I thinned the Dark Green variety that did come up to cover the bare areas. I still should have plenty of squash.

The Giant Nobel is neither. I will not buy these seeds again. I think I will stick with Bloomsdale longstanding for spinach. I will also try Black-seeded Simpson lettuce again. I stopped growing it several years ago when I found snails on it. I may mix Bloomsdale and Black-seeded and intercrop the square beds this fall.

Piles of bean plants grace the lawn and wait mulching after they dry, a testimony to all the time spent picking beans. More yet to pick before a break.

Happy gardening!

Lark

Picking, eating, and freezing

•July 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Picking, eating, and freezing

What was left of hurricane Alex passed through northeastern Kansas these past few days. Most of us got 3 to 4 inches of rain, after an unusually dry few weeks. Needless to say, everything is green and growing, including the lawn and weeds.

Last night, I picked the first batch of carrots for 2010. I pulled the biggest ones I could find. That gives more space to the ones that are left behind. The biggest was about 7 to 8 inches long (excluding the root), but most were medium or small. I took a pic which I may get on later today.

I have picked all but two rows of snap beans at least twice. The third and last pick will strip I will strip the bushes, pull them out, and replant for round two. Blue Lake 274 has done very well, I plan to replant with that and then save seeds. Sometimes the melons or cucumbers planted next to them get handsy, and I have to redirect their energy to the cattle panel. I have green beans in my salad for about ten days now, and I froze a couple gallons this weekend. I should get several more meals or bags out of what is left.

Saucy tomatoes are bearing and are ahead of the other varieties. Nothing has turned red yet, but there are a lot of oblong fruit on the vines. They aren’t very big, but nice and firm.

The cucumbers (Burpless, Harris) has also started, I noticed a few small cukes when I was picking beans on Saturday. When they start coming in earnest, they will replace lettuce in salads. Usually, they produce a lot in the first few weeks, almost too many for me to use.

Although there are a few Giant Nobel plants coming up in the side yard, I went ahead and planted Zucchini in the empty places. They have really taken off with all the rain. I have been trying to move some out of overcrowded beds into beds with too much space.

The third picking of four rows of snap beans will occur by the end of the week I hope to also start more carrots in the space between the beans and the cucumbers or melons. Hopefully, the time before the new crop beans get started will give the climbers a chance to get acquainted with the cattle panels. The sawdust is helping to keep the weeds down for the most part. The worst weed infestation is in a bed with pole and snap beans. I have to pull grass out of there on a regular basis. The square beds with the zucchini do not have sawdust yet and I have to weed them as well.

I have already purchased 60 bags of humus/manure from Walmart, and these are stacked, half by the shed and half by the back steps. They are covered with plastic to try to keep them dry until I need them this fall. I think I will till the beds by the back steps after the zucchini is done, and then replant to bush beans, probably by the end of the month. The beds in the backyard will have actively growing plants until September or later.

I am enjoying green beans in my salad and have not been inspired to freeze them until this weekend. I only did it then because I had too many to eat in a few days. I hope to put a few more gallons in the freezer from batch one.

Happy gardening!

Lark

The heat is on

•June 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The weather is decidedly summer-like these days, hot (90 F or above) and humid. Fortunately, we have gotten rain pretty frequently lately, but I am sure that will end eventually.

The peas are history. They were finished last week, and vines yanked and stripped. Some of the pickling cucumbers that I had planted behind the Harris hybrid vines, which had gaps, have survived. I will fill in the gaps between those vines with another variety of pickling cuke. I had done the same thing behind the Oregon Giant peas, but only one of those cukes has survived.

The winner of the pole pea contest is Mammoth melting. Their pods stay flat and the seeds small even when mature. I did not care for the Harris hybrid or the heirloom variety from SESE. Their pods tended to look like English peas. Mammoth melting had the best growth habit and pod qualities. I have already ordered some for fall planting. I will only grow one kind so I can save seeds for next spring.

The combination of four varieties produced enough pods for about a dozen meals. I added the daily take, cooked in the microwave (sensor cook) to a large salad. A serving for me is probably more like four servings for an average family. I am a vegetarian and eat a lot of salad.

As you can see in some of the above photos, sawdust covers the open spaces between rows. I have already put down about three 32 gallon trash cans full, with plenty of space left to go.

This week, I am replenishing the Cyprus mulch on the walkways between raised beds. I have already put down more than thirty bags and have at least 20 to go. The weeds were either getting started in the mulch and putting down roots right through the landscape cloth, or coming up from the round beneath. Either way, there was way too many of them. I pulled out what I could find before I put down the fresh mulch. It always looks nice when it is new.

I have planted zucchini squash in the beds in the side yard. I have yet to pull the useless broccoli and plant that bed to zucchini. Some of the Giant Nobel spinach has germinated, but there is still a lot of space. I hate wasted space. I like it when every bed is full and producing.

The green beans started blooming about the time the peas were finishing up. I expect to start harvesting them in the next few weeks. I was too quick to plant green beans next to melons. The bush beans took off and shadowed the melons. I have to keep the beans from covering the struggling melons, at least until they start their way up the cattle panels. Burpless cukes are holding their own against the bush beans planted on the edge of their bed. They are already climbing.

I have replaced some of the peas with slicer cukes, which can be seen poking through the sawdust in one of the pics.

I am thinking of buying the yearly supply of manure from Wal-mart and stockpiling it next to the shed. Their supply is dwindling, and even though I won’t need it until later in the fall, they will be out well before then. I strongly believe in replacing nutrients that were used during the growing season each year. Now that I am growing peas and green beans, they will replenish much of the nitrogen that will be lost. I am tempted to see how well the beds do with just them as the nitrogen source and skip the manure.

The frequent rain has been good for the garden, I have not had to water for a week now. I do dump dish water on the 4’ x 8’ bed daily, because that one seems to dry out very quickly.

I am looking forward to green beans in the very near future.

Happy gardening!

Lark

Green glory

•June 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Asparagus and melon bed

Beds in backyard

Green beans and cucumbers

Pole and bush beans, carrots, melons

Sweet peas

Tomatoes