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One of the Joys of Maturity


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July 23, 2017

One of the joys of getting a bit older is having the time to putter around in the garden. Below is my garden blog. This site also contains sections of recipes and features about specific, and often obscure, gardening lore.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sugar Snap pea plants emergingI was able to skip my morning watering chores this morning, as we had strong thunderstorms come through last night. We received 1.20" of much needed precipitation.

When watering yesterday morning, I was pleased to see that our Sugar Snap peas planted a week ago were finally emerging. I'd put down a lot of seed since we'd been in a very hot, dry spell, and lots of pea plants are now coming up. The blend of Eclipse and Encore short peas seeded to the other half of the row haven't emerged as yet, so I'll still be visiting our pea row each morning, watering can in hand.

Sweet Corn

Blanching sweet cornAfter all the stress of a hot, dry spring, our early sweet corn is now producing. The plants are short and the ears are a bit smaller than usual, but we've picked around four dozen ears in the last few days. We've enjoyed corn on the cob and also have frozen a bit of it.

The three rows of our early Summer Sweet 6800R are almost played out now. I'll be pulling the stalks this week to make way for our fall brassicas.

Our main season sweet corn has also been stunted by a lack of moisture. The plants are now tasselling and silking, so I'm hopeful we'll have some corn with deeper, more flavorful kernels soon. But after totally losing our sweet corn to critters the last two years, I'm pretty happy with what we've gotten so far.

Sugar Cube Muskmelons

Sugar Cube melonsI've mentioned Sugar Cube melons here several times recently. While I've noted the variety produces small, sweet melons, I hadn't offered a picture reference so far this season. So when cutting a couple of the melons last week, I stuck a ruler on the cutting board and grabbed a shot to share here.

Buckwheat

Our second planting of buckwheat this season is up and looks pretty good. The storms last night knocked over some of the plants, but there should be enough to still created a good smother crop.

Buckwheat and East Garden

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Friday, July 21, 2017

With the heat index hanging at 107° F, I got my watering chores done early this morning. While out in the East Garden, I also did my usual scan for deer and/or raccoon damage to our sweet corn and melons. Once again, there was none, although a deer had left a "present" on the mulch around the melons that I almost stepped in. It appears that our combination of deterrents is working, or, we're just really lucky.

Nite Guard Solar Predator Control LightWe have four Nite Guard Solar Predator Control Lights hung, Irish Spring soap hung in cheesecloth bags on a trellis and chunks cut on the ground, and repeated, heavy sprays of our homemade Not Tonight Deer. We're also making our dogs stay outside at night, as they may provide some additional deterrence.

Canned whole tomatoesAvoiding the heat outside, I canned the tomatoes I picked yesterday. I had to pop outside to pick a few more tomatoes to fill the canner to its seven quart capacity for wide mouth quart jars. I might have used regular jars, but found I was nearly out of the regular size canning lids. No longer having a water bath or steam canner, I used our pressure canner today with the lid on, but not sealed.

I'll need to can at least one more batch of whole tomatoes to give us enough to last over the winter. After that, I may move on to canning tomato purée and juice.

Last night after devouring an ear of corn on the cob, I blanched the remaining five ears I'd picked and froze it as cut corn. There were no more ripe ears evident on the plants today.

Later

I forgot when I wrote earlier today that I started some fall lettuce yesterday. I seeded Coastal Star, Sun Devil, Crispino, Pandero, Skyphos, and Nancy. The lettuce is germinating in our basement under plant lights, as it will come up better in the cooler conditions there. In two or three weeks, I'll probably start some more in case we have an extended gardening season with a late first frost.

Raised Beds

Thursday, July 20, 2017

When I came inside around two this afternoon, the heat index was way over a hundred. On the positive side, I picked tomatoes, sweet corn, and melons today. On the downside, our deep well ran dry this afternoon for the first time in two or three years. Fortunately, after leaving the pump turned off for an hour, it recharged the pressure tank without incident.

Earlirouge tomatoes Early sweet corn Melons

I picked lots of tomatoes today, all from our six Earlirouge tomato plants. We continue to have little blossom end rot, although we're getting some cracking on the tops of the tomatoes, probably from the uneven moisture we've had. I selected four of the best tomatoes for seed saving. The rest will get canned as whole tomatoes.

I was surprised to get six ears of sweet corn today. It's a few days early even for our our shortest season sweet corn to be ripe. While the ears were fairly small, the corn was delicious.

While we're staying ahead of the deer and raccoons with our sweet corn, I had to cut out a bunch of corn plants with corn smut. Smut can be either soil or wind borne. Since I planted on clean ground, I'd guess the smut blew in. I carefully cut the infected stalks and put them in a heavy trash bag.

Corn smut 1 Corn smut 2 Corn smut 3 - at ground level

All of the smut I cut out today was in ears or on the corn stalks, with one infection at ground level. Corn smut can also appear on corn tassels. Once the smut breaks open, it spreads spores in the wind. When that happens, a general infection of a whole area can happen. Walking ones rows and cutting out the smut is about the only way to control it once it gets started. There are no chemical controls that I know of.

Our cantaloupe are now ripening in some volume. I dropped some off at our local food bank, but retained two Sugar Cube melons, our favorite, for Annie and I. The watermelon I cut didn't turn out so well. When I cut it, there was just a bit of pink at its center. I still need to fine tune my thunking skills.

Habitat for Humanity

Monday, July 17, 2017 - Garlic

Trimming garlic leaves and rootsOther than an occasional quick inspection, I'd let our curing garlic be "out of sight, out of mind" this month. Onion tops falling over in the garden made me realize that I really needed to trim, bag, and store our garlic to make room for the onions on our makeshift drying table in the garage. The garlic had been curing well over the two weeks recommended by the Boundary Garlic Farm, an excellent source on all things garlic.

So my first job today was to begin trimming the dried leaves and roots from our softneck, hardneck, and elephant garlic. I trimmed the leaves about three inches above the bulb. The roots got trimmed pretty close to the garlic bulb, as I hadn't done a very good job cleaning dirt out of the roots at harvest. I rubbed off what remaining dirt I could.

Bagged garlicWhile trimming the garlic, I sorted it to be bagged by type (elephant, softneck, hardneck). I also sorted out cull garlic that showed any sign of rot or a split wrapper that encourages early rot. While there were quite a few split wrappers in the elephant garlic, there were only a few in the regular garlic.

We store our garlic in old mesh potato bags hung from the ceiling of our plant room. The room runs a little drier than ideal for garlic storage, but we always seem to have some good garlic left each spring.

Our take today after the culls were sorted out was a little over twelve and a half pounds. We produced that amount in four, fifteen foot rows, spacing the garlics seven to nine inches apart in the row with the rows about eight inches apart. It doesn't take a lot of space to grow a good bit of garlic.

We certainly won't be using twelve pounds of garlic over the next year. We'll keep the best of it for planting in October. We'll give away a good bit of it. The culls with split wrappers went to our local food bank today with some excess yellow squash and tomatoes. Garlics with split wrappers are still good to use, but can spoil fairly quickly. In the past, we've used them to make garlic powder.

Our how-to feature story, Growing Garlic, tells how we grow our garlic, from planting to storage. We've successfully purchased good bulbs of garlic for planting over the years from the Territorial Seed Company, Sow True Seed, Botanical Interests, Burpeeicon, and Johnny's Selected Seeds (who apparently no longer sell garlic bulbs). The quality of garlic bulbs sold varies widely, and many seed houses sell out fairly early in the season. If you're planning on ordering garlic bulbs for planting this fall, you should get your order placed in July or August to assure getting the varieties you want.

Burpee Gardening Supplies & Gifts

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Our Senior Garden in fog - July 16, 2017Row seeded to peasWe don't start many days here in the summer with fog. There usually isn't enough moisture in the soil and air to produce foggy conditions. Well, the causeway across the nearby Turtle Creek Reservoir often has fog, but there's also the coal fired powerplant there dumping lots of hot water into the reservoir.

But today started with a heavy fog that didn't clear until around 7 A.M.. I was up early to enjoy the view and also to get an early start on finishing up my pea row renovation project I wrote about yesterday.

With my planting trench dug and watered yesterday, I was able to quickly seed and water the row before the sun moved over the woods to the east. (I was working gloriously without my usual, hot, sun protective clothing.) I seeded half of the row to Sugar Snap peas which will use every bit of the five foot high trellis netting. The other half was seeded to short peas, a blend of Eclipse and Encore. While the short peas don't need any support, they will benefit from growing on a trellis. It helps keep the peas up off the ground, preventing rot.

Sun shines on new plantingI'm not too sure of the wisdom of planting peas after peas. But this planting is more of peas after weeds, so we may do okay. At any rate, I finished the planting at around 9 A.M, just as the sun moved high enough to shine on the newly planted row.

We got by last night without any more damage to our sweet corn by deer. Our dogs did a lot of barking last night, so they may have been more of a deterrent than my spray of homemade Not Tonight Deer and spreading Irish Spring soap. We're within a few days of our early sweet corn varieties being ready to pick, although they're putting on awfully small ears.

We also have cantaloupe and watermelon ripening. Granddaughter Katherine and I picked a watermelon for her to take home yesterday. Later, I found our first ripe Sugar Cube cantaloupe. Cut in half, the small Sugar Cubes are just right for Annie and I each to have a half for breakfast.

REI

Saturday, July 15, 2017 - Full Size Earlirouge Tomatoes

I wouldn't want to leave the impression that we only get small tomatoes from our Earlirouge tomato plants. I wrote on July 6 about our first tomatoes of the season from the plants, all relatively small tomatoes. In the days after that, we continued picking small, but flavorful tomatoes, but also notice later tomatoes set on the plants were normal sized.

Earlirouge plants filled with tomatoes

Earlirouges aren't huge tomatoes like the beefsteak superstars Better Boy and Delicious. But they do put out a lot of 2-4" tomatoes that have good flavor and deep red interiors. After a couple of BLT feasts featuring the tomatoes earlier this week, I had a cheeseburger for supper last night with lettuce, a thick slice of Earlirouge tomato, and mayonnaise. The first bite was incredible.

JLP Cucumbers

Trellised Japanese Long Pickling Cucumber VinesImmature Japanese Long Pickling cucumberOur succession planting of Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers following early peas has taken off with the inch of rain we had recently. The JLPs really don't need the double trellis I use to support and contain our early peas, but since the double trellis was in place, I saw no reason to pull one of them.

I've picked two JLPs so far this season, but neither one was up to my standards of what I'd want for a slicing cucumber. Both had blemishes on the skin.

Generally, I pick JLPs for table use at about 12" long. I let them get a bit longer for pickles. And for seed saving, I leave them on the vine until they yellow, sometimes reaching 24" long!

Since we have a good supply of Japanese Long Pickling seed on hand in frozen storage, our first major pickings of the cukes will go towards pickle production. It doesn't take a lot of these long cucumbers to make a batch of Bread and Butter Pickles. With lots of dill seed on hand, I may try my hand at canning sweet dill pickle slices this year.

Flowers Around Our Main Raised Bed

With a good rain, the flowers we grow along the borders of our main raised garden bed have come into full bloom. It makes looking at and working in the garden a visual treat.

Main Raised Bed - July 15, 2017

We have vinca, geraniums, petunias, marigolds, and lots of snapdragons in bloom in the bed.

Reality

Mulched row of zinniasWhile all of the above was funsies for today, my real gardening work was weeding and mulching our eighty foot row of zinnias in our East Garden. We might have had a plant in bloom already, but I saw that the top of it had been bitten off! Deer visited our garden last night, doing only minimal damage. I think they didn't like the taste of our homemade Not Tonight Deer! I applied another heavy spray of the stuff today, along with cutting two more bars of Irish Spring soap to deter the poachers.

Throwing soil into the zinnia row with our rototillers had held back most weeds, but there was a good amount of grass to be pulled before I applied a heavy layer of grass clipping mulch along the row. The zinnias should now crowd out any remaining weeds, as they are vigorous growers.

Pea row ready for plantingMy second, and more taxing, job of the day was finishing digging out all the weeds that had grown up in our row of Sugar Snap peas. I used a heavy garden fork to lift the weeds before banging the soil out of their rootballs.

After digging and composting the weeds and remaining pea vines, I made a wide furrow down the row and poured in twenty-five gallons of water. Yes, after an inch of rain, most of our East Garden is still quite dry. I then put the trellis netting, which I'd lifted for tilling, back in place. Had I had more energy, I might have re-seeded the row today. As it is, I'm lucky to be able to write this posting with all the sore muscles I have from the digging and manhandling the tiller down the row and around the T-posts holding up our trellis.

I hope to seed the row, half and half, to Sugar Snaps and a blend of short Eclipse and Encore peas tomorrow. I goofed and got the labeling mixed up on our short pea saved seed. So I decided to just make it an Eclipse/Encore blend and use the seed for what will hopefully be a late harvest of sweet peas for freezing. I'm still saving, and keeping carefully labelled, seed from our rows of Eclipse and Encore peas in our main raised garden bed.

I failed to get any pictures today of the mulched zinnia row or the renovated pea row. (Images added on Sunday.) I got too involved in what I was doing and too tired to go back and take any pictures. Well, actually, I had the time, but me and my sweetie were enjoying an hour together drinking cold beers while sitting on the glider on our back porch at sunset.

Work never looked so good. See SKECHERS Work Collection!  SKECHERS Work - Made to Last

Thursday, July 13, 2017 - First Watermelon

First ripe watermelon of 2017Burpee Seed CompanyI cut our first "ripe" watermelon of the season today. Ripe is a relative description for the melon's maturity, as I took it at 66 days from transplanting. Burpee lists the Mama's Girl Hybrid variety as 65-70 days-to-maturity from transplanting. It obviously wasn't completely ripe, so its flavor suffered a bit from my impatience. A Burpee product shot at right shows what it may have looked like if I had waited a few days to pick it.

While working the melon row yesterday, I first happened upon what appeared to be a fully ripe Farmers Wonderful or Crimson Sweet watermelon. The melon "thunked" ripe, and its underside had yellowed. It took all of my self control not to pick the melon, but I wanted to check the varieties' days-to-maturity figures before plucking a very healthy looking melon from the field. It turned out that either variety would be about 16 days too early to be ripe. Then I noticed the Mama's Girl that also thunked well and had a yellow belly.

Wondering what was wrong with our previous earliest watermelon variety, Blacktail Mountain, I began searching that area of the row for melons, as none were immediately visible. Spreading some of the dense leaf cover of the variety revealed clusters of melons that had been hidden from sight. They're not quite ripe as yet, but we have some sweet watermelon to look forward to.

Mowing, Sweeping (grass clippings), and Mulching

Grass clippings piled by East GardenWhile I don't get a posting up every day, there almost always is something to do in the garden each day. I've been occupied the last several days with mowing, collecting grass clippings, and mulching with them. The first of the grass clippings went on a flowerbed along the side of the house so that I wouldn't have as much weeding to do there. Then I dumped several loads of clippings from our lawn sweeper along our melon row, as the watermelon and cantaloupe vines were getting to the edge of the previously mulched area. While not a hundred percent effective, the grass clipping mulch when spread thickly holds back most weeds until it begins to seriously decay late in the season.

I also mulched several of our sage plants I use as corner and halfway markers for our East Garden plot. I'd accidentally mowed down one of the plants, so I got started mulching them with the replacement plant that went in. Not mulched was a new hill of Slick Pik yellow squash I squeezed in at the end of our potato row. Our previous hill collapsed last week, more likely from insect damage than disease or old age. I'll need to start another pot of Slick Pik transplants this week, as the excellent tasting and producing variety doesn't last all that long.

Pumpkin patchI was relieved this morning to be able to spread some more grass clippings around our pumpkin patch. When finishing mowing yesterday afternoon, I saw that many of the pumpkin leaves were day wilting. There's a very thin line between day wilting and dead. After pouring ten gallons of water on the base of the pumpkin hill last evening and a little (very little) overnight rain, the plants rebounded today and looked pretty good.

Taking a bit of a gamble, I direct seeded some watermelon into the open area left in our melon row where I'd pulled a couple of failed hills.

I'm working a little each day at digging out our spent Sugar Snap pea vines and all the grass weeds growing in their row. The soil in the East Garden where they're growing is dry and rock hard about four to five inches down. If I get the row cleared soon enough, I'll replant it to peas, as I already have the trellis in place.

Our second planting of buckwheat appears to be taking. There are a few bare patches, but it looks as if I got pretty good seed coverage of the 40' x 80' section planted to the cover/smother crop.

East Garden - buckwheat geerminating

One of the wonderful things about this time of year is that there are more things to do in the garden than one has time to complete.
That's a good problem to have.

Shelling seed peasElevated Raised BedsI wound up shelling seed peas last night after midnight. We're getting a good crop of them from the few plants that germinated this year. Having planted the Eclipse and Encore varieties in close proximity, there probably was some crossing in pollination. Since we were seeing signs of inbreeding depression setting in, some crossing may improve the peas' rate of germination. Of course, such crossing makes this crop of peas not pure, but a landrace variety. I still have some pure pea seed from both varieties left in frozen storage.

Target

Sunday, July 9, 2017 - Hummingbirds

My wife took this video with her iPhone this morning. Besides the numerous hummingbirds, their sounds and birds in the background make it interesting. Most distinctive of the extraneous sounds is that of a woodpecker working on the dead tree at the back of our yard.

I think the second brood of hummingbird babies of the summer have left the nest. I'm having to fill the three feeders that hang from our porch at least once and often twice a day.

Sweet Corn

Early sweet corn tasselledOur early varieties of sweet corn, Jaws and Summer Sweet 6800R, have fully tasselled now and are shedding pollen. The plants are a bit shorter than usual, possibly because of our lack of regular rainfall so far this season. I'm not sure what kind of ears we'll get from the corn. A Purdue publication notes that, "Ear size determination of the uppermost (harvestable) ear begins by the time a corn plant has reached knee-high and finishes 10 to 14 days prior to silk emergence." Kernels per row is set a week or so before silks emerge, according to an Iowa State publication. It also adds, "Potential kernels per row are highly dependent on growing conditions prior to silking while actual kernels per ear are determined by conditions during and after silking."

With the early corn fully tasselled and putting on ears, I was out at twilight on Friday spraying the corn with our homemade Not Tonight Deer. After rain overnight Wednesday/Thursday, I feared that our previous smelly protection might have washed off. And while the original, commercial Not Tonight Deer was quite effective at deterring deer from eating our sweet corn, I don't remember it being particularly effective with raccoons. sad

Yesterday, I cut more Irish Spring soap around the corn.

Other Stuff

I started to dig carrots on Friday, but found that they are not quite ready, despite days-to-maturity numbers that said they should be. Our sugar snaps are done, as powdery mildew has taken over the vines. While not good rotational practice, I may work up the soil along the trellis and replant sugar snaps for the fall.

Green beans up Kale up Peas for seed crop

Our row of green beans and short row of kale are finally up and doing well after lots and lots of watering. And we're now picking peas for seed saving in some volume from our rows of Eclipse and Encore peas. Neither row germinated well this spring, so we're foregoing eating or freezing any of the delicious, supersweet varieties in favor of saving seed for next year. All of the pea varieties we planted this year germinated more poorly than expected. There are a variety of causes possible, but starting next season with all fresh seed will eliminate one possible cause for the disappointing stands of peas.

Japanese Long Pickling cucumber vines Melon row Row of kidney beans and tomato/pepper row

Our Japanese Long Pickling cucumber planting is doing well. I've picked one very early cucumber already.

I created a gap in our row of melons by pulling two hills of vines that had died. I'm not sure what got them, but it didn't spread. And, we got a Diplomat honeydew and a Roadside Hybrid muskmelon from the vines before they died. I'll probably direct seed a short season variety of cantaloupe or watermelon into the gap.

Our row of kidney bean plants and the caged row of tomatoes and peppers are holding up pretty well. I have one cage empty where a tomato plant died. Hopefully, these plants will come in for a nice, late season harvest.

Ali Baba melon with Crimson Sweet in foreground Mama's Girl Hybrid Athena melons

We have some very nice melons set on the vines now. While the vines runnering over each other makes identification of the various melons a challenge, the light green Ali Baba melon above stands out. It also has a small Crimson Sweet watermelon in front of it. The center shot is of Burpee's new Mama's Girl Hybrid. At right are Athena melons.

Stayman Winesap tree with applesGranny Smith apple treeOur spindly dwarf Stayman Winesap tree may bear its first fruit this year. The poor tree has had a hard time getting going, but finally appears to have taken well. The semi-dwarf Granny Smith tree near it is filled with apples, as is the volunteer apple tree in our East Garden area. I fear all the apples may be pretty buggy, as I haven't been very regular spraying the trees this year.

We lost our "semi-dwarf grew-through-its-grafts" standard Stayman Winesap tree to fire blight years ago. We've eagerly awaited the new Stayman Winesap tree to produce, as Stayman Winesap apples haven't been available around here for some time.

Rounding out this photo tour of some of our garden plots is a shot showing why we have difficulty keeping nice flowerbeds.

Jackson and Daisy in a flowerbed

At least Jackson and Daisy look comfortable laying in our new planting of short daisies.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017 - Our First Ripe Tomatoes

I picked our first ripe tomatoes this morning, only...they were all just slightly larger than a large cherry tomato!

Our first ripe tomatoes of 2017

The lower parts of our six Earlirouge tomato plants are now filled with such small tomatoes. They'll work just fine for canning, although they are a bit small for slicing. But there are also some normal sized Earlirouges, about 3" in diameter, on the plants. I'm guessing that as the season progresses and we hopefully get more timely rainfall, we'll get lots of normal sized tomatoes from the plants. If not, our second planting of tomatoes in our East Garden should begin to mature around the middle of next month.

The good news beyond having ripe tomatoes at last is that the tomatoes show no signs of blossom end rot or any other tomato irregularity. We gave each tomato hole a heavy dose of ground egg shells at planting to help ward off blossom end rot.

Even with the small tomatoes, Annie and I should be able to get enough slices to have our annual first tomato celebration of bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches. I moved a pound of bacon from the freezer to the refrigerator a few minutes ago.

Earlirouge tomatoesEarlirouge and pole beansThe Earlirouge tomato variety was in my opinion the best of many good tomato varieties developed by the late Jack Metcalf at the Agriculture Canada Smithfield Experimental Farm, in Trenton, Ontario, in the 70s and 80s. The semi-determinate variety produces lots of canning sized tomatoes with excellent flavor and deep red interiors. It's also a dependable early variety, rated at 65 days-to-maturity from transplanting. Today, we're at 67 days from transplanting our six plants. Unlike some early hybrids and determinates, Earlirouges, if disease free, will continue producing all season long.

From our first year of growing the Earlirouge variety in 2013, we've found that the variety tolerates rather poor soil and somewhat shady growing conditions. We grew our first crop of Earlirouges in an isolation plot back by the barn. The soil there is only so-so, and there was more shade than I would have liked. The plants that year produced a bounty of 3-4" tomatoes.

Sadly, we've also discovered that the Earlirouge variety like the other Metcalf varieties we preserve, Moira and Quinte, have limited disease resistance. I now drench the soil for our tomatoes at planting with Serenade biofungicide, as well as regularly spraying the plants with that product. We lost our Earlirouges last season to late blight and have had anthracnose and bacterial spot in previous years. Better crop rotation, hot water treating our saved tomato seed, and regular use of Serenade have pretty well gotten rid of the anthracnose and bacterial spot. Blight, well, it can blow in, so preventative sprays are a must in our area. Both Copper Fungicide, a product considered organic, and Fungonil, definitely not organic, can also be effective in controlling plant diseases.

A Bit of Rain

We had rain showers last night that have continued around us all morning. So far (at noon), we've received about a quarter inch of rain. With cool and cloudy conditions continuing, I'm hoping to get outside soon and begin digging our spring carrots. I need to work up an appetite for those BLTs.

Late Update

AmazonThe BLTs were incredible. Rather, the tomatoes in our bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches for supper were incredibly flavorful. That judgment may be due to the tomatoes being the first homegrown tomatoes we've had this season. After a winter of occasionally trying store bought tomatoes, the return of real tomatoes grown in the garden is always a pleasant culinary shock and treat.

As a bonus, we used lettuce from our last head of Coastal Star romaine lettuce for the sandwiches. Cut weeks ago, the lettuce was still good, possibly because of it having been stored in our refrigerator in a Debbie Meyer Green Bag. We're still using carrots harvested last fall and stored in the fridge in green bags, although some of the carrots are a bit hairy. Grin

Charity: Water

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 - Tilling

MTD Tiller
John Deere tiller

Hilled potatoesI started hilling our row of potatoes today. The plants where I had taken some new potatoes were looking a bit droopy. I didn't get much of the row hilled, as I was hilling in "breaks" from tilling our sweet corn patch. With off and on showers this evening, I'm feeling pretty good about what chores I undertook this week and those I put off.

On Monday, I did a second tilling of the 40' x 80' plot previously planted to buckwheat to turn in the last of the buckwheat stems. I set our pull-type tiller to its lowest setting and made slow, thorough passes over it to incorporate the last of the buckwheat trash into the soil.

When done, I quickly broadcast about two and a half pounds of buckwheat seed over the plot with my Earthway Seedericon. Then I set the tiller to just fluff the top of the soil and whizzed over the plot to bury the seed a bit. WalmartBuckwheat seed doesn't absolutely have to be buried to germinate well, but doing so cuts down on birds eating the seed.

This was our second seeding of buckwheat to the plot this season. I plan to till this planting under in five to six weeks before making a final planting that I'll let fall over when ripe or frost takes it to add some winter cover to the ground.

Our 25 foot square patch of sweet corn has remained relatively weed free so far this season. The dry weather we've had has allowed me to till the area several times. This afternoon, I spread a little 12-12-12 fertilizer along the corn rows and tilled it in. While spreading the fertilizer, I got down on my hands and knees and pulled many large grass plants growing in the rows that previous tillings couldn't get.

Many of the corn plants are tasselling, and a few are silking (putting on ears with corn silks at the top of the ear). As large as the corn is now and with some rain we're getting this evening (with more predicted for tomorrow), this will be the last pass with the tiller that I'll be able to make through the corn rows.

I actually feel pretty lucky to get to do this late of a fertilization and tilling of our sweet corn patch today. Usually by this point, the ground is too wet or the plants too tall to rototill, so the corn goes with what fertilizer is left from planting time. Since nitrogen washes out of the soil fairly easily, corn often suffers towards maturity from a nitrogen deficiency. Lower leaves and parts of the plant begin to yellow and brown, a condition known as "firing." Firing, unless severe, won't kill ones corn, sweet or field, but it shows the plants are missing something and yields will suffer. Our sweet corn plants weren't firing yet (some is normal), and in fact, they look pretty good.

Having tilled under some of our protection against deer predation, I cut and spread two more bars of Irish Spring soap around the sweet corn, our sweet potato plants (which deer apparently love almost as much as sweet corn), and our row of kidney beans.

Leftover new potatoes, peas, and sweet cornI did find some new potatoes for our Fourth of July dinner. Some of the Red Pontiacs I dug were more full sized potatoes than what one would normally call new potatoes. But all of the spuds, big and small, were quite sweet, especially when cooked with Sugar Snap peas and butter. I added an extra ear of cut corn when I put up the leftovers last night. Tonight, the potatoes, peas, and sweet corn tasted even better than last night.

The peas came from the Sugar Snap peas we had picked over the last few days, I washed and strung them all yesterday. (The original Sugar Snaps we grow have to be stringed before cooking, freezing, or even eating them raw.) Many of the pods were twisted and distorted. Those pods got shelled like any other shelling pea. After using some of the peas to go with our new potatoes, I blanched and froze the rest of the Sugar Snaps. The podded sugar snaps made two pints with another pint of shelled peas going into an existing bag of previously frozen shelled peas.

I started my day of tilling by turning over the area where our garlic had grown. I'd let it sit a week or so after digging the garlic. So my first job this morning was to spread a little lime and fertilizer over the 3' x 15' area and till it in. I'll soon be direct seeding our fall carrots into half of the area, with the rest of it reserved for fall lettuce.

Gloxinias

While I don't write much about them at this time of year with all of our other gardening activities, I do enjoy walking through our dining room each morning, seeing our trays of gloxinias in full bloom. I spent an hour or so over the weekend trimming off spent blossoms, moving plants done blooming to the basement, and bringing plants beginning to bloom down from our sunroom.

Gloxinias in our dining room - July 5, 2017

As our gloxinias finish their first blooming cycle, I give them a mild shot of balanced plant fertilizericon and move them under our plant lights in the basement. Some of the plants will have another blooming cycle, while others just build corm strength before entering their necessary, annual period of dormancy.

Despite my best efforts, most of our gloxinias have detected the coming of summer and have begun to bloom. We probably won't have many plants in bloom this fall or winter. I chose not to start any more gloxinias from seed last month which would have ensured some bloomers through the fall and winter. Having overplanted last June, I'm actually sending plants in bloom to work with my wife for her co-workers.

Annie was already the most popular and sought after computer tech in her district for her incredible computer skills, and well, just who she is. The gloxinias have moved her to near sainthood status with her co-workers.

I need to hand pollinate some of these plants for seed saving, but also need to cut down our gloxinia population to a manageable number!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017 - Independence Day (U.S.)

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Annie and I are celebrating this holiday by ourselves. We're not really big on parades and festivals, so we'll probably feast on grilled hot dogs, sugar snap peas (from our garden), and sweet corn (not from our garden). If I'm lucky, I may find some new potatoes to dig this morning and cook with the sugar snaps. The last time I tried to find new potatoes was a bust, as our hot, dry weather has slowed potato development.

We'll also probably pull out the DVD of the 1972 musical, 1776, for a bit of timely entertainment. If we had it, we might veg out on the HBO John Adams miniseries, but Annie loaned our copy to a friend, and it hasn't found its way home yet.

Both titles are quality entertainment. But then, you have to remember that my opinion is influenced by my original teaching certifications in U.S. and World History and Bible. Yes, the great state of Tennessee issued teaching licenses for Bible in 1971. I recertified in Indiana in elementary education and later in special education and taught there for my whole career.

Early cantaloupe and honeydewOther than hunting for those elusive new potatoes, my gardening today will be limited. I'll probably spend the day with my sweetie watching TV and snacking on melons. We've already picked a honeydew and a cantaloupe. I took the melons a bit early, as their vines are in trouble. But both the Diplomat honeydew and Roadside Hybrid cantaloupe are delicious. And Annie brought home some watermelon from the grocery, since our watermelon won't be ready for several weeks.

My best wishes go out to you for a safe and happy holiday. Living in retirement with time to garden and goof off is truly a blessing. I'm hoping that you are experiencing the same.

We'll be missing our kids and grandkids this holiday, but they all have lives of their own. That's also part of getting older, but watching them all grow up is wonderful.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Sunday, July 2, 2017 - Spray Days

Sweet Corn tassellingTomatoes ripeningSaturday turned out to be a spray day. With the rain we had on Friday and our early sweet corn beginning to tassel, I gave all of our corn and our newly emerged row of kidney beans a good dose of our homemade Not Tonight Deer! I feared that the rain may have washed off our previous applications of the smelly and presumably bad tasting stuff.

Our formulation of rotten eggs, white pepper, and a few other things smells about like the old, discontinued commercial product when sprayed. So far, we haven't experienced any more deer damage to our corn since some initial nibbling two weeks ago. I also didn't see any deer tracks in the freshly tilled, moist soil of our East Garden. Of course, our local deer may have all been "eating out" on other folks' sweet corn patches, only to come back to ours in the near future.

Using the same sprayer, one reserved for biologicals and such (no insecticides), I mixed a gallon of Serenade biofungicide. It went on our tomato and potato plants as a preventative against plant diseases. While spraying, I noticed several small tomatoes showing some orange/red coloring. It shouldn't be long before we can feast on BLTs.

I also sprayed our squash and pumpkin plants with Serenade. It seems effective in combatting and preventing powdery mildew disease, something most fungicides can't do.

First Japanese Long Pickling cucumberI'd planned to spray our melon and cucumber vines with insecticide in the evening after the blooms had closed and honeybees were back in their hives. A long job of cleaning buckwheat residue from our mower deck wore me out, so the spraying got put off.

I found our first Japanese Long Pickling cucumber of the season yesterday. This one will probably get chilled and sliced soon. We need to can bread and butter pickles and sweet pickle relish this season, along with saving seed from the endangered variety.

Today, I sprayed the melons and cukes with Neem Oil and Copper Fungicide. Both are organic products that shouldn't hurt the bees too much. Neem Oil is reputed to kill cucumber beetles on contact, the insect pest that currently is causing us the most concern with our vining crops. While pretty effective, Neem Oil doesn't seem to have much residual killing power, so repeated sprays are necessary to prevent an infestation.

I brought in our dried Red Creole onions from our garage drying table last night. Red Creoles bulb a good bit earlier than our other onions as they are a short day variety best suited for southern gardens. We grow them here because they taste great and produce small onions a full month before our other onion varieties. The short, double row of Red Creoles produced a little over a pound of early onions with a few more that I missed still bulbing in the ground.

Garlic on drying table

With a makeshift drying table full of fresh garlic, I dumped all of our old garlic on the compost pile. Most of the remaining bulbs had dried out and were not what you'd want for cooking. We obviously need to find a storage area with a little more moisture in the air.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Lots of tomatoes ripening
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Carrots ready to dig
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In July, we get our first ripe tomatoes of the season. Annie and I always celebrate our first ripe tomato by having bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches. I bought bacon and lettuce at the grocery yesterday, as our last harvested head of spring romaine lettuce in the fridge might not hold until the tomatoes come in.

The six Earlirouge plants I transplanted on April 24 are loaded with green tomatoes. The plants all look healthy right now, a relief after losing our Earlirouges last year to blight.

We've already seen our first ripe Earliest Red Sweet pepper, but it had rot on one side, so our taste buds are still waiting on this treat.

We picked our first melon, a honeydew, several days ago, but should have ripe cantaloupe soon and watermelon towards the end of the month. We may begin picking our early sweet corn late this month if we can keep the deer and raccoons away from it. Our full season sweet corn won't come in until sometime in August.

Our double row of spring carrots are now ready to dig. I've already stolen a few early ones for cooking. We'll also direct seed our fall carrots this month.

Sugar snaps look like snow peasWe'll continue to harvest yellow squash and sugar snap peas. I'll be squeezing in a replacement Slick Pik yellow squash plant somewhere in the garden to replace our now failing hill of the variety. Our sugar snaps have suffered from a lack of soil moisture, looking more like snow peas when picked. After a very welcome inch of rainfall last night, I'm hoping to get a normal picking or two before renovating the row and replanting it to sugar snaps for the fall.

Our rows of onions should mature this month. Our Walla Walla sweet onions have really suffering from a lack of soil moisture. Our other onion varieties are now beginning to bulb. And our Red Creole onions, picked last month, are just about fully cured on a drying table in our garage.

Snapdragons in bloomLots of fat pea podsI'm thoroughly enjoying the snapdragons in bloom growing along the trellises for our short peas. Sadly, we won't be relishing any of the supersweet Eclipse and Encore peas. We had extremely poor germination of the varieties this year. The few short vines we have are now filled with plump pods, but we'll be letting the peas dry for a seed crop for next year.

Seminis/Monsanto hold plant patents on the Eclipse and Encore pea varieties. While they no longer produce seed for sale, Monsanto is known for vigorously enforcing its plant patents. With no seed available for the varieties (until the patents expire around 2021), I'm pretty careful about preserving our seed for the varieties. If I live long enough, I'll happily share seed for the Eclipse and Encore pea varieties when it's legal.

As spring crops come out, we'll be planting more kale, lima beans if we have enough growing season left (green beans if not), and crowder peas. We'll also be transplanting some lettuce for fall, but may not get it in the ground until next month. Planting fall lettuce too early invites bitter lettuce and bolting from the summer heat we still have in August and much of September.

July is usually a month of bountiful harvests. We're looking forward to filling our canning shelf and freezer with delights from our garden plots. We also hope to share some of that bounty with our local food bank.

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