Thursday, May 31, 2012

Snap Pea Harvest

Planted in mid and late March, the Cascadia snap peas are ready to eat!  Straight off the plants, or very, very, briefly steamed, this is the one vegetable the entire family loves.
I made a chicken stir-fry just in honor of these peas last night.  Then tonight we ate them raw, straight from the garden to our taste buds!  I eat them as I water too! 
Cascadia Snap Pea First Harvest
Pretty Snap Peas!



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tomato Obsessed

I mentioned a while back how I broke my best tomato plant, the Legend, off with my hose.  So, yesterday I went back to the "Tomato Lady" to get another.  She was having an end-of-the-season sale, so tomato plants were only $2.50.  These plants are big, sturdy, and come in so many varieties.  They are nicer than the ones I bought at the Garden Fair, which were sold by Master Gardeners and Retail nurseries.  

This photo shows the Legend as I bought it.  Great thick stem!  No need to bury it halfway up.

Legend II, for my second try!
Originally I was going to get a Cherokee Purple or an Early Girl.  But, the "Tomato Lady" convinced me to give Ace a try.  For one, she didn't feel her Early Girls were doing well, and after hearing what tomatoes I already had, thought I needed one like Ace.  It too is very sturdy.  Wonderful sturdy stems!  So many in the stores, and surprisingly the Garden Fair, are leggy. 

Ace Tomato
Legend II was able to be planted in the old Legend growing bag, but Ace needed a place.  One of the Wonder Bells was still small, so I moved it from a large-large pot, to a smaller-large pot, and put the Ace in its place.  Tomatoes need larger pots than peppers, so it should work out fine.

Legend II
Ace 


I have to stop this tomato obsession!  I now have 7.  Legend, Ace, Momotaro, Costoluto Genovese, Yellow Brandywine, Japanese Trifele, and a Sungold (cherry).  
Red, orange, yellow, and purple-black!  
What a pretty salad this will make!  
(Hmm...there seems to be a poem in there somewhere...)


Friday, May 25, 2012

A Change in the Weather

The Cascadia peas are the only one happy with the change in the weather.  We had days in the high 80s and even 90s, then suddenly cold rain.  There is ever snow on the low hills behind town!  I had to go to the Amtrak station in Klamath Falls yesterday morning and ran into fairly heavy snow flurries! Of course, that highway does go a bit over 5,000 feet, but we are a few days from June for goodness sake! While the reports say this is not seasonal, and we should be back to average soon, I still worry.  This had better not be leading to a late frost like happened last year.  I wasn't living here, but apparently everyone had to replant their gardens.  I have put too much time into it to do that!

Today's Updates from the Garden:

1) The bush beans, both Jade and Capitano, are up.  Jade is two days ahead of Capitano.

Jade Bush Bean
Capitano Romano Bush Bean


2) Cascadia snap peas are forming pods.  I should be able to pick a fair amount this weekend!  This is the one vegetable the entire family enjoys, both cooked and right off the bushes.

Cascadia Snap Peas
3) The Cinderella pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, turban gourds, cucumbers, and the tiny pumpkins all continue to grow slowly but surely.  They should take off once the weather warms for good.  The nights are still pretty cold, which doesn't do them any good.  These were all grown from seed and haven't been in the ground for even a month. I fuss over them so it feels like forever already!

4) The tomatoes, pepper, and cucumbers are also growing, some better than others.  Of the mail-order tomato plants (Momotaro, Sungold, Costoluto Genovese and Stupice) Sungold is the best so far.  I gave up on the Stupice and tossed it a few days ago.  Momotaro is coming in second, followed by Costoluto Genovese.  The Japanese Trifele and Yellow Brandywine look good, and were the biggest (other than Legend which came to that tragic and untimely end with the hose) to begin with.  The mail-order plants started with such a handicap (being so small) I can't see them making up lost time.  They were more expensive too, inch per inch of plant.  By that I mean $3.75 is an average price, but the plants were tiny.  The Legend was $4.00 but much, much larger.  I went out this morning to the parking lot where it was sold, looking to buy another, along with either an Early Girl or a Cherokee Purple, but the lady wasn't there. The rain might have keep her away;  I will look for her tomorrow.
As for peppers, Quadrato D'Asti Rosso is doing nicely.  The California Bell is right up there too, but again, the mail-order Wonder Bells, while noticeably larger, just can't overcome their small starts.

Quadrato D'Asti Rosso
Wonder Bell


5) I am not sure what eggplants are supposed to look like two weeks after transplanting, but while my Orient Charm doesn't seem to have more leaves, the leaves have changed color (more purple in them) and are thicker and sturdier.

Orient Charm 5-11

Orient Charm 5-25
All in all things are looking good.   Plus this rain keeps me from having to water!  I wonder if rain water is more beneficial than city water?  I will have to look that up and let you know.  I would guess it is, depending on what is added to your city water.  For the majority of the year mine comes from Big Butte Springs, natural springs requiring minimal treatment.  During the summer months water from the Rogue River is added, which needs more treatment. 





Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Garden Update: Lots Happening!

Good news and bad news in the garden this weekend.

GOOD NEWS:

1) The pea blossoms have progressed to tiny pea pods!  I forgot how fast they mature once they bloom.  Now the entire pea bed is blooming.
Cascadia Snap Peas - first pod 5-20-12 
2) The lemon cucumbers from the high school sale are growing well.  I have had the worst luck with lemon cucumbers.  First round was grown inside in peat pots.  They all came up, but all but one died before transplant.  That one died after transplant.  Then, I bought 2 from the Garden Fair.  One died, one is growing so-so.  The 3 from the high school are taller, and sending out tendrils.  Those Future Farmers of America are doing alright by cucumbers!
Lemon Cucumbers 5-20-12

3) After comparing photos I see that most of the tomatoes have actually grown a lot!  I keep seeing them as tiny, but side by side, you can see they are taking off.  
Sungold 5-4-12
Sungold 5-20-12
Sungold is a good example, but the Japanese Trifele is the winner in growth. It did start larger than Sungold, so maybe I am judging unfairly. Notice the potato leaf shape on the Japanese Trifele.





Japanese Trifele 5-6-12
Japanese Trifele 5-20-12


4) Direct seeded cantaloupes and watermelon are up.  Cinderella pumpkins were up when I watered this evening.   

Strawberry berry stem 5-20-12
5) Strawberries are thick with developing berries.  The plants are sending out runners.  Since each plant has a few of these stems full of fruit, I will assume they are June bearers.  I don't know for sure, but they all look like they will be ready within a short time of each other.


BAD NEWS:

1) The Legend tomato is no more. It was the biggest, and best so far.  I snapped it off with the hose, not looking at where the hose was going.  Oh, well, I really didn't like that grow-bag I had it planted in anyway... and that isn't just "sour grapes." 
Legend Tomato 5-20-12


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oh Boy! Oh Boy! Oh Boy! I Am So Excited!

MY PEAS HAVE BLOSSOMS!  I went out this morning, and there they were!  
(Did you know pea leaves taste very much like pea pods?)

Cascadia Snap Pea Blossoms
Planted Early March and March 27



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pick a Peck of Pickled Peppers

Well, not pickled peppers, but green and sweet red peppers.  I went and bought two more pepper plants this past weekend!  Good thing I planted some of the bush beans or I will run out of room for them. 

I passed a sign on the way to the drug store Sunday, "Plant Sale."  So, naturally I had to stop on my way home.  The people moved into the home just last winter with the hope of growing vegetables for the Grower's Market (some cities call them Farmer's Markets), and were selling transplants of peppers (hot, sweet, green, red) and tomatoes (oh, they were hard to resist, they had some nice heirlooms).  I limited myself to just two plants, which happened to be half off.  I got a California Wonder Bell and an heirloom Quadrato D'Asti Rosso.  Wow, what a great name!  Quadrato D'Asti Rosso...  It is a sweet red pepper.

Two California Wonders... Boo and the Pepper!

Quadrato D'Asti Rosso
Didn't I tell'ya Boo loves to be in the thick of things?  Here he is, once again, making sure his adorable mug is in the shot. Boo is my "all-time favorite" dog, and he knows it.
He is one of our "Craigslist Treasures" along with one of our other dogs, Edward.  Go Craigslist!  

Where did I put them?  Well, I am out of room.  So, something had to give.  Something had to go.  I picked the tomato Stupice, which is not growing well at all.  If a plant is not going to be productive I have decided  not to waste space and water on it.  That tool care of one of the new peppers.  I had one of the black plastic pots I got full of soil free a few weeks ago, that will work once I can scrounge up some new soil, as what was there turned out to be sterile and a poor pH.  The amount of soil I have used this spring is mind boggling! I bought some top soil (how silly to buy top soil...) and mixed it with some bagged garden soil I bought in error, thinking it was ready to use.  Silly to buy garden soil too, but what can you do when your natural soil is poor. 

I removed the Stupice tomato, but am giving it another chance by replanting it in a small pot to see how it does.  I dug in some steer manure (the store was out of chicken, my preference), and planted the California Wonder.  If is fine to plant peppers next to tomatoes, as they are both members of the nightshade family.  The Quadrato D'Asti Rosso is in the plastic pot, if it gets too big I will put it somewhere else, probably in the shrinking bean bed.

California Wonder Bell Pepper
Quadrato D'Asti Rosso Sweet Red Pepper
I have a story, a rant really, from the Plant Sale, nothing to do with plants, so feel free to disregard.

Do you ever feel that you were supposed to be somewhere that you had no plans to be, and normally wouldn't be?  That happened to me.  Earlier that same morning I got the peppers I was browsing Craigslist Pets and there were two dogs needing a home ASAP, as the woman was losing her house in a week (or so she said).  There was a pug and a pug/Boston terrier mix.  At the Plant Sale I saw these very same dogs in a truck.  Unbeknownst to the owner,  his wife, who was mad at him, had put them on Craigslist!  When he had left the house she was tossing his stuff outside into a pile to get rid of, but he had no idea she was including the dogs.  He said he had wondered why she was taking their photos before he left.  Good thing he took them with him.  I don't care what a spouse does to you (cheat: leave him, abuse: press charges, etc.) you DO NOT try to sell his pets!  That is just beyond human decency.  I do not live in a small town, our population is 75,000, and the dogs were from a nearby town, so the odds of seeing these dogs were not in my favor.  I was not planning on stopping somewhere I had never been before, and had to make a u-turn to do so.  If I had spent less time, or more time, at the drugstore, I would have missed seeing them altogether.  I believe I was somehow "meant" to be there, see the dogs, and let the man know what was going on.  I know it doesn't matter in the large scheme of things, nothing that would change the world for the better, but to that man, and those dogs, it mattered. 



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Green and Yellow Bush Beans

I got my bush beans planted today.  Messy work.  I wanted to try the inoculant on them this year, even though it doesn't seem to have done the snap peas any favors.  No pods yet.  Anyway, after wetting the peas I rolled them in the inoculant, which makes for a brown gooey mess.

Jade Bush Beans in Inoculant
I was lazy and didn't build a formal "Square Foot Garden" square foot measurer.  I just lay two rulers down on the soil!  9 holes poked with a finger in each square foot, then later with a stick as it was so ooey-gooey, 9 seeds dropped into the holes, and patted them securely in.  Water.  Repeat in 2 weeks.  (I am conscious of the fact that I am not supposed to use the numerals 9 and 2 in those sentences, MLA demands we spell out the words, but this is a casual blog, so no nit-pickers allowed.)

Square Foot Gardening Holes
I lost track of how many I planted.  That is a mistake I often make.  I cover the seeds and then forget where they were!  I will count them when they sprout. The germination rate for these seeds is high, minimum of 80%. 
There are both green green beans (Jade) and yellow Romano beans (Capitano). Both varieties are bush beans.  I have grown bush beans before with good success, one of the few things I can say that about!  I love the look of pole beans, but they are too much trouble.  The yellow are in the watermelon bed, which may turn out to be a mistake if the watermelon ever grows. I am counting on the beans to be tall enough to hold their own by that time. 

Bush Bean Bed (shared with two tomatoes, catnip, flowers, and an eggplant!)
The lower left-hand corner of the above photo will be planted in 2 weeks.  That is called "sowing for a continuous harvest," on the packages!  Maybe there will be enough to freeze some. I don't know how to can.  Canning them changes their taste tremendously too.

My grandmother canned pole green beans (back when they were called "string" beans) every year.  She would plant on Good Friday; I don't know why.  On family visits she would, without fail, serve her home canned green beans and white bread, no matter what the main dish.  The beans were no longer green, but sort of grey due to over cooking. My grandmother didn't trust her own canning!  She would open a jar (since "canning" is in glass jars not cans, why is it called "canning?"), pour the beans into a pan, and simmer them for hours to kill any bacteria.  I don't know if it would have done so, but none of us ever got sick, so either it worked or her original canning was done correctly.  After she died we found a pantry full of canned beans.  She wouldn't put the new jars to the back and move the one's from the year before to the front. She just added more and more jars to the front of the shelf of beans.  Not knowing how many years ago the beans had been canned ("jarred!") we through them out.   My mother remembered lean years as a child when all they had to eat for dinner was green beans and bread.

Her soil was some of the best in the world.  Really.  Salinas, California, where she lived, has some of the best agricultural soil anywhere.  Coincidentally, my brother lives in another fertile area of California, where, not so fortunately, developers continue to pave it over.  My soil?  As mentioned before, I live in an agricultural valley, the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon, but my own back yard soil is clay.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Movin' Right Along...

Now that I have the Muppet's song stuck in my head...

You know, or maybe not... "Movin' Right Along" from the real Muppet Movie.  Real, as in 1979, with Jim Henson himself as Kermit, featuring a cameo with Charlie McCarthy (oh, please don't tell me you don't know Charlie?).   If you want to see some great Henson stuff, besides Muppets, try The Storyteller.  There are Greek myths and European folktales.  The folktales are not those familiar to Americans.  Yes, a puppet figures into it, but not as a character in the stories themselves, but as the pet of the Storyteller himself.  Fantastic stuff.

Anyway, back to my Garden Adventure, two months and two days in.

I am removing my recommendation on using recycled plastic buckets.  Unless you know for sure, to an absolute certainty, that the buckets were not used for chemicals or toxic cleaning products, do not use them.  My buckets were from dish washer soaps and the like, and I rinsed them well. But, as the plants in them are now either dead, dying, or doing poorly, I have to consider the possibility that the soil has been contaminated by chemicals that soaked into the plastic.  I have had to re-purchase and plant new Lemon Cucumbers (or are they just picky?) and may have to do the same with the Summer Dance cukes.  The new Lemon Cucumbers came from a FFA (Future Farmers of America) plant sale at a nearby high school yesterday.  I planted them in a large pot of potting soil, the only soil I have left.  Hard to fathom I am out of soil, as that pile of four yards looked as though I would never be able to get through it.  I added an upside down tomato cage for them to climb, and threw in a marigold for color.

Lemon Cucumber - dying - is it the bucket?
Lemon Cucumbers -  new trio










I also got some snapdragons (my son likes to make them bite, but I think he broke one of their "jaws" already!), African marigolds in yellow and white (called Crush Pineapple and Crush Pumpkin), which I planted in all the raised beds to discourage bugs.   Some portulaca, a gazania (what will I do with ONE gazania?), lobelia, and a zinnia.  I absolutely love Crystal Palace lobelia!  My favorite color.  My front door is nearly that color.


Even though the Cinderella Pumpkins, Cantaloupes, and Watermelon transplants look fine (not much bigger, but not less healthy) I went ahead and directed seeded too.  I can always remove some if it gets crowded in the beds.  I planted the zinnia in the pumpkin/cantaloupe bed.

Cinderella Pumpkins, Zinnia, Marigold and in back of bed, Cantaloupes
The asparagus continues to produce, but I am leaving some skinny spears to mature so the bed looks messy and abandoned.  I discovered something funny about asparagus by accident.  I wanted to keep it fresh, so placed some newly cut spears in a glass of water on my kitchen counter.  The next morning they had noticeably grown!  My kids didn't believe it, so I repeated the process and marked the original height.  Sure enough, they grew!  I think they do it in the refrigerator in plastic bags too.  They tend to get all bend over when I break them to fit.  Weird, huh?

I had to buy some bug spray for the blackberry leaf-eater problem,  and the apple tree aphids.  I can't tell yet if it worked.  I also got some organic (?) snail bait since I have seen slime trails on several early mornings on my strawberries.  OH!  You should see how many blossoms and teeny tiny fruit the strawberries have!  I am so excited!

As I said, "Movin' Right Along!"

 





Sunday, May 6, 2012

Transplanting a Bit Early


The last frost date is May 15, and today is the 6th.  I checked the 10 day forecast, and no freezing nights are expected, so I went ahead and transplanted a few of my peat pot veggies.  Only a few, I held some back in case it does get a little cold for them still.  Also, I plan to direct seed most of them too.  I was envious of the transplants at the Spring Garden Fair this weekend.  So many were much larger than mine.  That is why I bought  lemon cucumbers there when I had such poor luck with them myself.

I transplanted 2 gourds, 2 or 3 each of Jack Be Little and Baby Boo pumpkins (I now don't remember which container is which), 2 Summer Dance cucumbers, 3 Cinderella pumpkins, 3 watermelon, and one cantaloupe.  Also, the two lemon cucumbers I bought at the Fair, which you can see where so much larger than my own wimpy seedlings! 

Summer Dance Cucumbers (poor tiny things)
Turban Gourds



Since I dried the gourd seeds myself, I am quite proud of the fact they are growing so well, so far.

Either Baby Boo or Jack Be Little Pumpkins
Either Jack Be Little or Baby Boo Pumpkins
I planted these tiny pumpkins and failed to note which variety they were when I planted them.  Simple... white fruit, they are Baby Boo, orange then Jack B.

Sugar Baby Watermelon
Charentais Cantaloupe

The Cantaloupe are teeny, tiny.  The directions on the packet were to direct seed only, which I will, but in general  cantaloupe can be transplanted, so I am trying both.











I find it hard to believe how much smaller watermelon plants are than pumpkins.  The pumpkin plants look much happier in the ground than in the crowded peat pots.  I may have purchased "Garden Blend Soil" but I am disappointed in it.  The soil in the peat pots was hard as a rock, and in the garden crusts over on top.  I dug in either chicken manure or a compost blend in all the beds and containers. 

Cinderella Pumpkin

This is a shot of part of the garden. Behind the camera are the cedar raised beds, one 4 x 8, the other 4 x 4.


Notice Boo got in the picture yet again!  Such a ham... 














Spring Garden Fair and More Tomatoes

This weekend was the 33rd Spring Garden Fair at the county fair grounds. My daughter and I went earlier today.  Lots of plants, people, gardening classes (we didn't attend), gardening supplies for sale, chicks, koi, vegetables, etc.  I couldn't resist two more tomatoes!  A Yellow Brandywine, which has orange colored fruit, and a Japanese Trifele, which will be nearly black when ripe.  My daughter says tomatoes should be red, and these are not normal, but I wanted to try something new and rather "exotic!"  The Japanese Trifele is mis-named, as it isn't Japanese at all. It has origins in Russia.

Yellow Brandywine Tomato

Japanese Trifele Tomato
We also bought an eggplant. I can't explain that, except that I thought it might be fun to grow. I have eaten eggplant a total of one (1) time in my life, and that was prepared like lasagna, drenched in sauce and mozzarella.  This one is a Orient Charm, a long purple or bright pink variety.  It shouldn't be planted out for another few weeks.  My bush bean planter is becoming smaller and smaller as I add extra vegetables not in my original plans. 

Orient Charm Eggplant

Cilantro
The herb garden has grown this weekend too.  At the Garden Fair we were able to find out cilantro and a new mint, Wooly Applemint.  It smells just like the mint that used to grow in my mother's yard, and my daughter has fond memories of chewing the leaves!  It needs a garden marker stone of its own now.  I wanted Lemon Mint, but no one had it.  One man said he had Orange Mint, but he didn't bring any to the Fair.  Big help that! 

Since all but one of my lemon cucumbers died, I  bought one at the Fair. It turns out the pot held two plants!  Bonus!  

Wooly Applemint

Friday, May 4, 2012

GUESS WHAT? MY PLANTS ARRIVED!

My tomato and pepper plants arrived today!  Yesterday I got an email that they had been shipped.  Since I am only about 140 miles from the nursery the shipment came quickly.  I had just gone out to dig in some compost (a plant and manure blend) bought this morning at Walmart when the FedEx drove up.  The box was small, but the plants were very well packed, protected and in perfect shape.

They are a bit smaller than I expected.  If they don't produce exceptionally well, more so than any I have had before, I won't mail order them again.  The $4 plant I got on the corner down the street was so much larger.  The peppers are Wonder Bells. 



So, they are nestled into their new homes, with wire cages still to be fine-tuned.  They are too large to push into the ground far enough, but seem sturdy upside down.  I wanted the square kind, but could only find them for about $10.00 each, and that is just out of my budget.











The photo on the left is the Momotaro tomato.  Funny name.  Momotaro is a Japanese folk tale hero.  Momotaro means "Peach Boy."   Look it up, funny story too!  On the right are Sun Gold (a cherry tomato) and one of the peppers in the yellow pot.  That pot is one of my bargains from a few weekends ago!
The last photo is the other pepper and Stupice and Costoluto Genovese.  I am not sure why I bought the Costoluto Genovese (I do love that name though!) as it is a juice tomato.