Vegetable Garden/Compost

Corn craze

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The vegetable garden is in high production right now with beets, carrots, squash, garlic, swiss chard, peppers and cucumbers all producing.  The beans were planted late and will be ready soon and the tomatoes were planted on time but late for this growing season.  Lots of green tomatoes and some 'sungold' cherry tomatoes but no volume yet.  DSC_0170
The corn smells sweet and the ears are swelling but we had a 'weather incident' here last weekend.   I wasn't home at the time the thunderstorm arrived but a few miles away, the sky darkened, the wind whipped and the rain came down in torrents.  I came home to deep puddles in the drive and the next day's morning walk revealed a curiosity in the corn patch. DSC_0155
  There are ten rows or so of sweet corn planted near the GFFSD or Stonehenge garden. Corn requires a bit of room.  I noticed that the uniform rows did not look quite uniform and as I got closer this damage was revealed to me. DSC_0159
  Cooper and Tucker found it exciting as well and from the other side of the garden, the damage looked quite uniform.  DSC_0160

I looks to me as if a giant came and stomped the corn.  It is quite geometric in shape.   The EM will be quite upset when he returns from his ME trip.  I am hoping the ears will fill out anyway but horizontal corn gardening isn't the optimum arrangement.  I guess I can call it 'topsy turvy' corn.  Who knows what really happened?  Any guesses?  DSC_0163
Here is a gratuitous dog/puppy picture.  Cooper is relentless in his pursuit of Tucker but, so far, Tucker is holding his ground.


Vegetable Garden clean up

High 48 F
Low  37 F
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The temperatures have turned remarkably colder with still no frost settling on the ground.  I confess, I am tired of looking at the impatiens which in the summer provided cheery color.  I did plant orange so at least they are blending with the fall colors but they look oddly out of place.  The oak leaves seem to be dropping at a record pace.  The oaks, white, red and pin, usually retain many of their leaves until the new buds push out in the spring.  I seem to remember from a long ago botany class something about abscission  layers* forming more thoroughly at the base of the leaves of deciduous plants when frost is delayed causing more leaf drop on those varieties which tend to hold their leaves through the winter.  I have no time to thoroughly research this tidbit but the leaves are falling.  
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This weekend the vegetable garden begged for a clean up. The tomato plants have stopped producing and the vines have withered.  The  tomato cages were a big help this year as was the straw mulch which reduced the weeds and the need for constant hoeing although that is a rather gratifying task.  The marigolds have yet to be frosted but since their demise is imminent and the garden needed lime and compost most of them had to go. DSC_0046 The Christmas beans on the tower did not develop and, in fact, only three seeds germinated.  I was hoping to get a handful or two but this is a long season crop and there is just not enough time here for them to develop properly.  I will try a different type next year, maybe soldier beans.  I had much less of a problem with pests this year.  I added calendula and marigolds as companion plantings which are supposed to attract beneficial predators and I think they did their job.  Squash bugs do remain a problem but I am determined to find a good, organic solution and starting with a thorough cleanup of plant debris can only help.  The parsley is still growing strong and the arugula and swiss chard will be put in the cold frame next weekend.  I have a feeling that once it turns cold here, it will stay  cold.  The basil looked ragged but the fragrance remained and when I pulled the still green but leafless stalks from the garden for a ride to the compost pile summer returned for an instant.  I mentioned in a previous post how many worms I have in the compost. DSC_0059 When you think of worms, the word 'fast' does not come immediately to mind as a description of their activity but these worms are frenzied and remarkably fast.  Each shovel of compost reveals a good amount of worms who, immediately upon their exposure to light, wiggle and dive back into the depths of the pile.  DSC_0048 Cleaned out and ready for next year, the veggie garden has served us well this summer.  The white plastic visible in the picture is a row tunnel which I will pull over the parsley to extend its' season.  The beleaguered corn patch, which ended up producing a couple dozen butternut squash, some pumpkins and embraced the extra tomato plants, was tilled and planted with winter rye. DSC_0050 The GFSD in  the background shows to good effect at this time of year and through the winter.  I have ordered more bulbs to continue the 'river' and the pick ax is sharpened and ready for digging.  Another busy weekend comes to a close with a few more garden tasks accomplished.   I still have the scent of marigolds tickling the memories of past seasons' garden cleanup. Dsc_0047 (2) I love the smell of marigolds,  Pungent, clear and reminding me of Dad and his garden which was never without marigolds.  Why did I wait so long to add them to ours?

* This from The U. S. National  Arboretum website:

Abscission Layere

an area at the base of a leaf stalk, fruit stalk, or a branch in which a layer of loose cells that are poorly attached to each other develops; the abscission layer causes a leaf, fruit, flower, or other plant part to fall away from a plant


Vegetables

High 86 F
Low 63 F

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The veggie garden is producing. The tomato vines are incredibly full and tallDsc_0020 and I am harvesting vegetables every day.   Dsc_0010 The beans need picking.  The EM has been away in Maine for a week so I have not really cooked a full meal as Tucker would rather eat chow out of a bowl and cucumbers right from the vine.  Tomorrow morning these will be picked along with squash.Dsc_0006   I did find the inevitable 'baseball bat' zucchini today.  Somehow it escaped notice. This one is small and ready for harvest. Dsc_0012 These have not really produced much zucchini...words I am sure that I may live to regret!  I planted Christmas beans on the tuteur in the first picture but only two germinated.  I wonder what that was about.  There are so many variables in nature that it is hard to pinpoint just why something has failed.  Did I fail to water at the right time or was this just bad seed.   Christmas beans are very pretty and if I get any, I will show them to you.Dsc_0054 The Bhut Jolokia pepper is the hottest pepper on record with over a million Scoville units on the heat index.  I think a Hazmat suit will be in order for harvesting and I intend on using these for a deer repellent.  Don't get mad, get even!  A gardener from the radio show mentioned this pepper as a very ornamental plant  and since the EM likes things hot he requested a few plants.  The seeds are expensive because each pepper only has a few in the cavity.  The will turn bright red if the season is long enough.  The other pepper plants, Hungarian wax,Dsc_0013 Spanish piquillo, Dsc_0014 and the bell peppersDsc_0015 are looking healthy and lush.  Time to harvest a few for the grill.  The hungarian wax are especially good grilled and the intensity of heat varies from pepper to pepper.  I am inundated with cucumbers Dsc_0008 at the moment although the vines are starting to show a bit of wear and tear.  I planted the above pickling variety and then a long, slicing variety.  The taste is so much more compelling than the store bought. Dsc_0023   The basil is lush and full with some of the biggest leaves I have ever seen.  I started these from seed and can't remember the variety. Better notes next year!  The tomatoes....worth waiting for!Dsc_0021_2   Now there are ripe ones to pick every day.  So far, the red lightening are the most tangy and delicious but the Mortgage Lifter, which is big and, sorry no picture as I ate it too fast, was almost as good.  Dsc_0022_2 The cherry tomato 'Sungold' also has exceptional flavor.Dsc_0026    A basket of veggies is a very satisfying sight don't you think? 


Orange is good!

High 82 F
Low 64 F
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The veggie garden is bearing fruit.  I picked this cabbage today Dsc_0244 and made a cole slaw to take to dinner this evening at my sister's house.  It was delicious!  The cucumbers are showingDsc_0246_2 and the flowers are filled with bees.   The beans are also flowering.  They are the purple beans which change to green when they are cooked. Dsc_0247 They are easier to see on the vines for picking purposes but aren't the flowers a pretty color?  The pepper plants are fruitingDsc_0258 as are the tomatoes.  I planted many different kinds of tomatoes. Dsc_0254 This one is 'Green Zebra' and since it never turns red I am wondering how  I will know when it is ripe.  Anyone have any thoughts on this?  The best observations today had to have been this tomatoDsc_0250 and also this oneDsc_0255 which is 'Red Lightening'.  I have not had color on tomatoes this early in many years.    I feel as though I have won a prize! 


Salad in a pot!

High 88 F
Low  54 F

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Vegetable gardening need not be expensive, complicated or high maintenance. It can look just like the picture above and serve as an ornamental and edible creation.   I confess I copied one of the local nurseries' containers but that was their goal when they planted their pots as they were 'mannequins' set up to sell lettuce and herbs.  This container is a 14" terracotta pot. I filled it with professional potting soil with a couple handfuls of compost added along with some organic fertilizer.  This contains one six pack of mixed lettuce  plants, a nasturtium and , in the center, a dill plant.  There is no end to the veggies you can grow in containers.  The pink plant in the background is in the garden behind the pot and it is a perennial geranium.   Here is another shot of this pot.  I made one for my son and his wife.  They are busy putting on a porch and haven't gotten to the garden just yet.   Dsc_0017

On another note, I am having a problem with this little beetle. Dsc_0020_2 Can anyone identify it for me?  It is feeding on the peppers and tomatoes and is leaving tiny, little holes in the leaves.  I have blown it up to a large size for and identification but it is pretty small. Dsc_0021 Less than 1/4" across with a shell like shield and a soft underbody.  Neem seems to be taking care of the problem but if someone knows what it is, please let me know!  I just looked at the calendar and tomorrow is bloom day!  I have to work tomorrow so mine will be late.  Oh, the pressure and there is so much in bloom right now.  Can't wait to see what everyone has in their gardens! 


Vegetables!

High  90 F
Low   54 F
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Tomatoes and peppers

We are all wilting here today with a ninety degree high after very cool temperatures all spring.  Yesterday's temperature never got higher than 58 F.  If I am wilting then I know the plants are  or, would be, if the ground wasn't still moist. The humidity level says 99 on my weather station.  This is a three shower day!  Sorry for complaining but it takes time to acclimate to the heat.  This is really just a quick post showing the vegetable garden. Dsc_0024 I have been planting since early April and the lettuce and swiss chard are looking great.  I have harvested lettuce for over a month now.  The swiss chard is almost ready and I did pick one small head of broccoli Dsc_0025 the other day for a snack.  No holes in the leaves from the cabbage moths yet but I expect I will see them soon. Dsc_0023 I also have dill in this bed.  I started dill from seed since it is available only in four inch pots which are pricey.  It does take quite a while to get to size but really, it is not a Proven Winner so why the high price?  I did pick some for the potato salad for this evenings meal along with lettuce for a green salad.  I love the fragrance of the dill on a warm, humid summer night. Dsc_0031 I guess I should go sit by the garden tonight as the conditions seem right for dill fragrance.  The green beans are not yet up and the cucumbers are too small to see in  photos. Dsc_0049 The corn has to go in tomorrow or we will be digging it instead of just picking it.  I have winter squash and some Jarrahdale pumpkins going in the corn patch.  Has anyone ever grown the Jarrahdale's?  They are supposed to be a great pie pumpkin with very sweet flesh.  I think I might like pumpkin pie if the pumpkin was fresh and not from a can.  I have added someDsc_0028 calendula flowers and marigolds for their companion planting properties.  I still need to add the straw mulch around the tomatoes and other veggies.  I have stopped thinking about the vegetable garden as a fait accompli and am looking at it as a continuous cycle of planting, harvesting and planting again.  I plan to plant turnips, carrots, beets and other crops later in the mid-summer and then some fall crops of lettuce. kale and brussel sprouts.   Let's see if this gardener's enthusiasm is actually put into action.  A girl can dream can't she?   


Late season veggies!

High 76 F
Low  59.2 F

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Late season lettuce crop!
I have never planted vegetables late in the season before this year.   I have planted garlic in the past and that is on order but last month I put in some lettuce, bok choy,Dsc_0010 collards, and radishes.  The lettuce is primarily arugula and the bok choy and collards I bought in six packs at one of the local garden centers. It is the only garden center that I have been to that actually had some late season vegetable packs.  It would be easy to start them from seed but it would take time that just doesn't seem to be available!  Anyway, here is what the vegetable garden looks like now.Dsc_0009 There is also some swiss chard towards the back and some beets among the white stemmed bok choy.  Oh, and there are a few weeds visible!  The tomatoes are done, the peppers have been pulled and the scarlet runner beans are huge!  The radishes were planted by seed strip which I found on sale at a store and they are starting to
produce. Dsc_0029 It is such a pretty vegetable isn't it?   The carrot project is also coming along.  I wanted to grow it in an untraditional container.  Here are a couple of shots of the progress.Dsc_0001
July 5, 2007 Started carrots
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July 16, 2007, carrot project continues
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September, carrots need thinning!

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Sorry it's blurry but I ate it before I could take another shot.  I think it will be just a bit more time before I harvest a meal of carrots but they do look very pretty in this type of container.  And, they smell good when you touch the foliage!  The next time I take a photo of these will be when they are ready for the dinner table!  Enjoy the weekend all!



Birdhouse potential!

High 84 F
Low 53.3 F

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Horse manure composting!
The mornings have been comfortably cool the past few days.  A reminder that we are on the down side of summer.  The afternoons can be quite warm, Dsc_0009
Tucker in repose
with high humidity.  'Dog days' so to speak.  Last week I posted about my Mom's garden and one of the pictures was this one of a birdhouse gourd. Dsc_0020 I have grown these off and on for a few years and planted them both in her garden and mine.  They are interesting, functional and have beautiful flowers and vines.  These gourds are hard skinned belonging to the Lagenaria group of gourds.  The flowers are white, ruffled, and lovely. They bloom at nightDsc_0002 closing up in the middle hours of the morning.Dsc_0001   The vines tumble and climb creating their own sculpture in the garden. Dsc_0016

I grow them without any special treatment.  I do add fertilizer when I plant them and perhaps if I side dressed them during the growing season there would be more gourds but they are really just for fun.  When the stem dries, the gourd can be harvested and dried in a well ventilated area.  It will take about six months for the insides to dry and shaking the gourd will result in a 'rattle' effect' when the drying is complete.  I have made some feeders out of them and maybe this crop will result in a few wren houses.  Have any of you grown this gourd?  It sure likes the hot weather and would be an ideal plant for all you Austin gardeners!   


Vegetables!

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No tomatoes yet!  As I have mentioned, I did get them in a bit late and since I started them from seed, they were a bit on the small side when I planted them.  I wanted to try some heirlooms and chose to plant  'Brandywine' and 'Black Krum.  I do have green tomatoes but I can't say that these are all that prolific.  Well, when I return from vacation, I hope to see some signs of color!  I have been enjoying broccoli, cauliflower, peas, green beans, basil, summer squash and, my personal favorite, golden chiogga beets.  Is anyone else growing beets?  Dsc_0057 The golden chiogga are so sweet!Dsc_0059 Dsc_0058 The swiss chard is ready but I haven't picked it yet.  Also, the corn is tasseled and it shouldn't be too much longer. Dsc_0013 There are a few pumpkins hiding out under the leaves.Dsc_0012 This one looks like the one that Cinderella's coach was made from.  It is one of the giant pumpkins. We will have to see just how big it will get!  Please comment if you wish but know that I am away until  the 5th and will miss reading all of your blogs.   


Fourth of July!

High 68.9
Low  56.3

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Independence Day brings with the red, white and blue, a day off right smack in the middle of the week. A bit disorienting but a day off is always welcome.  I thought it appropriate to pick the 'colors' for the above bouquet.  Also, that is 'Patriot' hosta as an accent.

No parades or fireworks here, just a small dinner with family and friends.  Low key after the big weekend party.  The EM did pose in the corn patch to make sure that the corn was at least 'knee' high.Dsc_0011   As he is over six feet tall and has high knees we are well on our way to sweetness! That bit of yellow does need some supplemental fertilizer!  Foliar feed this weekend.  Tucker posed with his party hatDsc_0009 and then promptly disappeared into the corn patch.Dsc_0012

It is feeling more like Memorial Day today than the fourth of July as temperatures are not even reaching 70 degrees and it is a bit cloudy.  I am hoping for much needed rain as I cannot keep up with watering and usually don't try except in the vegetable garden.  Today I did pick broccoli and more peas for dinner and then got out my hoe to do a bit of weeding.  This stirrup hoe with the red handle is my all time favorite.  Dsc_0013_2 I wish I had a hand tool that had the same shape as the stirrup hoe.  The stirrup hoe works with a push/pull motion which cuts the roots off right under the soil surface.  It is very effective. I have one that is similar but it has a round, open end instead of square, which I think would make more sense.  I guess I will have to start fashioning tools. The stirrup hoe is sitting next to the traditional hoe which has stood the test of time.  Good for really tough jobs. 
One last holiday picture although I know most of you reading are 'Echinacead out'.  This is the Echinacea 'Sunset' Dsc_0014 and the mixed coloration on the petals is quite interesting.  I love the Echinaceas but they do get tiring after a while.  This one changes color daily. It seems to be very vigorous and stands a good four and a half feet tall.  A bit taller than the regular Echinacea purpurea.  I did just read that the flowers are supposed to be fragrant.  I will have to go out and see if that is true.