Monday, June 30, 2008

End of June Garden Update

I was surfing around through some garden blogs and it occurred to me that I should post an overall garden update what with it being the last day in June and all. I don't have my camera right now so pictures will have to wait, but here's the lowdown on my edible backyard:

Veggie garden:
* lettuce has turned bitter and tonight I will dig them up for the compost pile
* carrots are getting bigger but still not big enough to eat
* green onions, like carrots, not big enough to eat but they're getting there
* zucchini plants (2) each plant grows 3-4 zucchini at a time; they have been staying small and then turning yellow and deflating so just yesterday morning I started hand pollinating them
* Red Norland and Irish Cobbler potatoes don't look so good; growth seems stunted and plants are turning yellow; don't know if it is time to harvest
* sweet potato plant has leaves that look healthy and are spreading; don't know what is going on underground since I didn't know to separate the slips when I planted
* yellow onions are tall, robust, and starting to flower
* bush beans look healthy, lots of flowers, and I noticed the first tiny bean today
* pumpkins have prominent male blooms every morning and lots of vines with immature blooms just waiting to open (I'm hoping they're female blooms)
* baby watermelon vines are spreading out every day with lots of pale yellow flowers and several pea-sized fruits
* muskmelon vines are spreading out like the watermelon with slightly darker yellow flowers and today my son found our first fruit - it's the size of a large kiwi!
* cucumber plants (2) are spreading out and growing up the side of my fence with lots of flowers and tiny baby cucumberlets; today I saw two different large cucumbers in the later stages of ripening
* bell pepper plants (10) have lots of tiny buds and most plants have one ripening pepper
* spaghetti squash plants (4) are vining out and are smaller than the other squashes since I planted them later from seed, but they are making good progress
* tomatoes are out of control due to fertilizer; plants are more like bushes and every single plant has a least a few green tomatoes on them; I am starting to worry about what to do with all the cherry and grape tomatoes once they ripen because there are LOTS; also lots of romas (I think I'll be canning this year)

Berry garden:
* strawberries continue to ripen berries on a regular basis although they wouldn't win a marathon
* blueberries are taking forever to ripen but finally a few ripen each day
* blackberries just started turning and we haven't been able to pick any yet
* raspberries are ripening one or two handfuls of berries per day; I pick them and freeze them until I get enough to do something with them

Today's local weather:
High temp: 75 F
Low temp: 55 F
Sunny and breezy

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Thinning pumpkins and buying annuals

I'm still sad about the demise of my lettuces, but I decided I have to move on. As you can see, my pumpkin bed was starting to get out of control and it is still only June! So yesterday, I did what I had been putting off doing. I thinned the pumpkins. When I planted the plants, I realized there were too many in too close quarters, but I wasn't sure how they would do and I planted extra in case. I figured I'd pull out the extras if they ever got too crowded. Yesterday was that day.

I took out half of the plants and they are still stretching to the limits of their space, but maybe they aren't so cramped now. Of course, with all of those plants out of the garden, my compost bin is filling up. And I have decided to start hand pollinating my squashes using the instructions from the people on the Vegetable Gardening forum at I was getting 3-4 zucchini at a time per each plant but they never got more than 3 inches long and then started deflating and turning yellow. I think poor pollination was the problem. I'll see if my hand pollination changes things at all.

I also finally went shopping yesterday for some annuals to put in containers on my back patio. That was the area that I've most neglected this year. This is the time of year when we start spending a lot of time, especially evenings, on the back patio and I wanted to spruce it up. Here's what I bought:

* Butter Daisy (Melampodium paludosum)
* Dahlietta Series Dahlia (Dahlia hybrida Dahlietta Series)
* Blue Salvia (Salvia farinacea)
* Periwinkle (Vinca) (Catharanthus roseus)
* Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densifloras "Sprengerii")
* Petunia (pink)
* Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) (gold)
* Serena Angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia "Serena Series")
* Dichondra
* Wave Series Petunia (lavender)
* Spike Dracaena (Dracaena indivisa)

I planted them in containers placed around the corners of my patio. Once I'm sure they've adjusted to their new homes and are thriving, I'll take some pictures to share with you.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 74 F
Low temp: 58 F
Isolated thunderstorms afternoon and evening

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bitter lettuce

I am so disgusted. Isn't this a beautiful bed of lettuces?
A week ago we were eating from this bed and it tasted great. Suddenly, day before yesterday I made a salad from it and the lettuce was terribly bitter. We couldn't finish the salad. The next morning I wondered if maybe it was a fluke and I'd just happened on a bad plant. So I went out and sampled different plants, different varieties, different ages of plants. The verdict was undeniable. It is all bad. Such a waste. I am going to have to dig it all up and put it in the compost bin.

I knew it was only a matter of time before my lettuce couldn't handle the heat; I just didn't think it would be this soon.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 82 F (current temp at 6:15pm)
Low temp: 63 F
Partly cloudy

Friday, June 27, 2008

First bell pepper

I found my first bell pepper yesterday. The day before it was only a blossom. Now my bell pepper plants (I have 10) are filled with flowers. Hopefully I'll have a bumper crop.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 85 F
Low temp: 72 F
Partly cloudy, chance of thunderstorms late in the day

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hail Damage

Yesterday we had a storm come through and it started out with about 10 minutes of pea-to-nickel sized hail. I stood helplessly at my sliding glass door watching my garden get pelted with ice balls. This morning I went out to investigate the damage.
This is a pumpkin leaf that obviously became perforated by the hail. Several of the large leaves were like this.
Here you can see how one of my cucumber plants was damaged. It has the same holes in the leaves as the pumpkin, and it also has a broken vine. I hope that doesn't keep it from growing.

Overall the damage could have been much worse. Most of the plants showed no damage at all and those that were damaged look like they can probably shake it off and survive. I was lucky. This pumpkin still looks pretty good, don't you think?

Today's local weather:
High temp: 75 F
Low temp: 56 F
Sunshine and mixed clouds with slight possibility of thunderstorm

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Growing season

I took this photo of my vegetable garden this morning at 9:15. I can't believe how much my garden changes in one week's time. The regular sun and warm temps combined with all the rain we got a few weeks ago are working to make everything grow by leaps and bounds. I've taken to drinking my morning coffee on my back patio so I can enjoy the garden and watch the birds who've made my backyard their home. Our backyard has a totally different feel this year and it is so much more welcoming and alive.

My lettuces are plentiful and I'm to the point now where I worry that we won't be able to eat it all before it bolts. I'm going to my UU Christian Circle meeting this afternoon and I'm planning to take them a big salad made from my lettuces. I can't wait for my tomatoes to turn red, but that's still a ways off. It's frustrating because I see my tomato plants filling up with green tomatoes, but they aren't red yet. Here's a close-up shot of one of my grape tomato plants.
However, I do have a cucumber ready to pick and add to my salad.
I also have a zucchini that's ready to pick. I'll have to find some way to use it in tonight's dinner.
You might notice in some of the pictures that I've added grass clippings to mulch some of the plants. I know that organic gardeners recommend mulching plants as a way to regulate soil temperature and prevent weeds, but I had trouble finding something to mulch my plants with that is available this time of year and that won't stunt their growth. The folks on the organic gardening forum at suggested I use grass clippings. So I told Jeff to hook up the bag that came with the mower and collect them for me when he mowed the lawn. One mowing provided enough mulch for just under half of the garden. Next time he mows I'll mulch the rest of the garden. I hope it works. If nothing else, it looks nicer.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 80 F
Low temp: 58 F
Partly cloudy with afternoon/evening thunderstorms

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Signs of life

I just took this picture about 15 minutes ago. It is one of two zucchini plants that are getting huge. They each are 2-3 feet in diameter and now this morning this one has a huge flower. Yesterday I also saw these signs of life:
Two weeks ago I thought this cucumber plant was a goner. The base of its stem had gotten white and brittle. I posted a picture of it at its worst at the top of my May 31, 2008 post. However, I noticed that the leafy growth on top was still green and growing so I left it alone. Yesterday I noticed two healthy-looking yellow flowers on it. The other plant has flowers too. Talk about Phoenix rising from the ashes!

This muskmelon plant also has several flowers.

One of my garden tasks yesterday was to tie the tomato plants to the trellis. They are getting big and bushy (thanks to the fertilizer I added a couple of weeks ago) and will topple over soon without support. Anyway, while twining I found this - my first green roma tomato. See it there in the middle just below the horizontal trellis bar? All of my plants have blooms on them and one of the grape tomato plants has three little tomatoes. I'm expecting more every day.

I'm so overjoyed because I've tried gardening in the past, but I just wasn't doing it right. My plants, if they lived at all, were spindly, unhealthy, and bore little fruit. This year the plants are doing what they're supposed to! Everything is getting bigger and bigger each day. The things that I think have made the biggest difference are 1) the fence has kept rabbits out of the garden, 2) the organic fertilizer has really fed all the plants, and the neem oil soap has kept the little bugs off of the plants.

We have recently been deluged with rain. In fact, south of us towns were underwater. We lucked out and only got drenched and then the water ran off. It has been raining a lot more than usual for several weeks now. While this has had horrible consequences for many homeowners in my area, my garden has benefited. I haven't had to water my garden for a couple of weeks now. Mother Nature is taking care of it for me. And those steady, deep rains are far better than anything I can do with my hose.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 90 F
Low temp: 72 F
Partly cloudy, hot and humid.

Monday, June 2, 2008

New routines

Today begins the first full week of summer vacation for us, so I am now home during the weekdays. I decided to start some new routines of daily household (including garden) maintenance.

My chores for today included weeding the spinach/squash bed, planting more onion sets in the place where my original spinach never came up, and replacing the grape tomato plant that got broken in two over the weekend.

Over the weekend we finally set up our compost bin. I'm really excited about it and I get so tickled every time I have to take something from the kitchen out to add to the compost.

Also, I'm worried about a couple of things. My bush beans were getting eaten by something. I never figured out exactly what it was, but I bought some spray made from potassium and neem oil. I covered them that evening and I haven't noticed anymore evidence of them being eaten since.

I am also afraid I have some kind of disease or fungus in one corner of the garden, but I can't identify it from all the gardening books I have. My cucumber plants stems are white and split, but the plants aren't dying. In fact, the leafy tops are growing and sending out more healthy looking growth each day. I did spray it with the same stuff as the beans in the off chance it might help. I have no idea if this is something the cucumbers can overcome or if I need to get the plants out of the garden. I wish these things were easier to diagnose! I also noticed my muskmelon plants showing the same symptoms - white, split stems. Sigh. If anyone reads this and has any thoughts about what might be happening, please leave me a comment.

Oh, and my spaghetti squash and pie pumpkin plants finally sprouted and look healthy. My zucchini plants are getting huge and I need to harvest some of my lettuce.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 84 F
Low temp: 66 F