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Archive for June, 2010

Anyone who lives in New England remembers what last summer was like.  May was cold and wet.  June was cold and wet.  July was wet and cold.

The only thing that I grew that did well was potatoes, and several things just up and died like my eggplants and corn and lima beans and okra.  Admittedly, most of that was probably due to neglect, but the cold weather certainly didn’t help things.  It was a challenging year to grow hot-weather crops, and combined with the late blight that spread quickly and wildly all over the eastern US, it spelled disaster for a great many Solonaceae.   Our CSA had an embarrassingly small tomato crop last year, but we were luckier than some neighbors, who had to pull up their entire tomato crops.

I was certainly a little nervous to be growing primarily crops that need lots of hot, sunny weather to thrive, but I didn’t need to.  This has been a GLORIOUS spring and summer for hot crops.   Lots of days of very hot (for up this way, at least…) weather, full sun, and the occasional soaking rain.  It’s been wonderful, and my plants are very happy because of it.

ALL of my tomatoes are fruiting, the big standout being the Arkansas Travelers, who have set a truly startling amount of fruit, even so early.  And yesterday I noticed the first ones making the change from bright green to mild yellow.  I’ll be seeing red soon!

The ones that will ripen first are the Sungolds, of course.  We’re supposed to have hot, sunny days for the rest of the week.  If I get lucky, I’ll be picking the first of these by the end of the week, I bet.

The biggest tomato so far is actually on a surprising plant- one of the last ones that went in the ground.  These little guys are still quite short- just under 2 feet (the vast majority are up to about 3.5 ft high at this point!), but this Black tomato is biiiiig.  I was tempted to pick it off green, since I should be letting this plant put energy into growing, not setting big fruit, but I couldn’t help myself.  I want this one to ripen- and ripen early!

(I know, I know…I shouldn’t be touching wet tomato plants- but this was the only one that got handled and then I left the garden!)

Other things are happy, too.  Check out my Serrano Peppers!  These guys have grown like crazy over the past two weeks, and are dripping with flowers and eeny little peppers.  These are the biggest of all of them.

And my first potato flowers!  YAYYYYYY!  I cannot WAIT for fresh potatoes!  Soon, my sweets…soon…

Someone’s been gnawing on them…haven’t seen any buggies on these though- guess I need to take a closer look.

How’s about all that GREEN!?  Isn’t it glorious?  How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?

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Glad I didn’t suck it up and cram another tomato in to make an even 90, because one up and decided to kick the bucket anyway- so I would have been back to 89.

No idea what happened here- one day it was as happy as the neighbors, lots of blossoms, strong growth- one of my better plants, in fact.  And now it looks like this:

This all happened over the course of about 4 days.  On Saturday morning I noticed he was looking a little droopy, so I gave him a good watering.  Perked up, but by the end of the day was sad looking again, even though all the others next to him were happy as ever, without a drop of irrigation.   I stopped at that point- no use worrying over a plant that can’t hold it’s own.  By Tuesday morning he looked like this.  Bye bye- we hardly knew ye!  

And the strange part is- it is the only one.  The only one in the whole garden that isn’t doing well (or at least holding steady- apologies to those little guys I just threw in the ground so recently…).   The tomatoes on either side are chugging along, nary a wilted leaf or droopy flower in sight.  No idea what happened to him.  A garden mystery!  Any guesses?

(UGH.  I wrote this post last week and somehow forgot to publish it, and yesterday I found ANOTHER tomato doing the same thing- and this one with two big, lovely fruits on it!  WHAT IS HAPPENING?!  And the one picture above is now almost invisible and gone.  It is TOTALLY dead)

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Berries, berries, berries.  In other words:  BEST HARVEST EVER!   The cultivated blueberries are ripening, the black raspberries are in full gear, and I am in heaven.  I adore berries.  They are my favorite fruits.  And I buy them exactly never, because I cannot believe how expensive they are (and they are usually gross from the supermarket anyway).  I’ve been going out ever day and harvesting the berries as they ripen.  We don’t have a lot, especially since the blueberries are only starting, so I’ve been freezing my daily harvests until I have enough to make some jam.  At the moment I’ve probably picked about 2 pints. 

Most days I forget to bring a vessel out to the garden with me (as I’m usually running into the garden the moment I get out of my car) so lots of my shirts have berry stains on them now.  Oh well!

I did a lot of weeding last week (though not nearly enough…sigh) so I actually got a nice veggie harvest when I cleared a big patch of Purslane from the base of my watermelon plants.   Wait?  Purslane?  That vigorous weed?   Yup- if you haven’t tried Purslane already, you really should.  I think it is quite tasty, and I hate most greens, and on top of that it is CRAZY good for you.  And it makes weeding a little more fun.   Toss it into a salad, soup, or stir-fry. 

I think Purslane is a particularly beautiful plant- that shimmer isn’t a trick of the light.  The succulent leaves literally sparkle. 

Want to share your harvests?  Go see Daphne!

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Free fertilizer?

Thomas over at A Growing Tradition (which, by the way, is a blog I just found and has quickly become one of my favorites!  You should go read him if you aren’t already!) posted a VERY interesting question today and I wanted to route you to it- and ask your opinion.  It’s a pretty well known fact that human urine is a good source of nitrogen- an element essential to a healthy garden- and it is free and safe.   So, to pee or not to pee? 

Odd that he would bring this up, as I JUST had an experience with pee in my garden.   A (male) friend of mine was visiting  two weeks ago and we were out walking in the garden.  He needed to pee, and instead of sending him into the house, I sent him over to the compost pile.  Urine is an excellent activator to compost piles, giving it a burst of nitrogen and turning it into a “hot” pile, so it seemed silly to waste it.  I honestly never though about using it directly on the plants, but it makes perfect sense. 

I know there are probably a lot of people who will be blown away by the “ick” factor, which I don’t have at all.  Human urine is sterile- you can drink it, for a brief period, in life or death situation- and frankly it sits way better with me than unknown cow manure fertilizer or manufactured nitrogen, though I certainly use composted manure in my garden.   The only reason I don’t use it for composting is because it would take me a long time to carry a bucket full of pee from my upstairs bathroom all the way out to my compost pile, and I am living there at the generosity of Ann, who may not be appreciative!  I wouldn’t use it on my vegetables this year because I am growing these for the consumption of others, but I would have no qualms using it on veggies that I would be eating myself. 

So, take a trip over to Thomas and weigh in!

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First, the ethics.

So just say that there is a stand of magnificent, overburdened raspberry canes about 300 yards from your house.  Say these raspberry canes are behind a stone wall in an obviously disused and abandoned farm, complete with derelict heavy garden equipments and the skeleton of a greenhouse.  Say these raspberries have been picked by no-one.

Say the only way in is guarded by a big old “NO TRESPASSING” sign hung across the only entrance.  What do you do?

While you ponder this, let me thank the raspberry gods for the sprawling nature of their lovely plants, and the builders of the stone wall, who made it low enough for several canes to hang over.

There were more, but 300 yards is a long way to go with these beauties winking at me.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, OUR raspberries (of the black variety) are just starting to trickle in, and I picked the first outliers of the blueberries.  Ok, maybe not the first, because those 7 or 8 got eaten right at the bush this weekend.  Truly, I’m impressed these stayed alive long enough to be photographed.

Asparagus is still growing, though it is certainly slowing down.  We’ll only get a few more harvests out of it this year.  It has taught me one thing, though.  The MOMENT I settle down in a place I know I’m going to be for a while, it will be the first thing I plant.

Want to show off your harvests?  Go visit Daphne!

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This is my daddy eating a pepper that he grew last year in his garden.  I didn’t want to try it because I was afraid they were hot so he ate one first and said “See, they aren’t even a little hot.”

I ate one- it was hot.

If I remember correctly, this was taken the day before Thanksgiving last year in Daddy’s garden.  Yep- peppers at the end of November.  Alabama, people.

We actually picked all of these because I think there was a frost warning (I’m obviously chilly since I’m wearing a hat and vest) and ended up with a few grocery bags full.  These were VERY prolific pepper plants, but I can’t remember what kind they were.

Anyway, I’m rambling here when I’m trying to write a father’s day post to my Dad, who I’m sure is the reason I love to garden.  I can remember rolling my eyes and whining about the gardens that he had when I was little, but it looks like something rubbed off!  Thanks for the genes and the know-how, Daddy!  Love you bunches!

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Last night I did some much-need upkeep in the garden.   Unfortunately that upkeep was infanticide, as it was high time to thin my zucchinis and give the tomatoes a haircut.

I hate this task- pulling up little babies that I’ve cultivated with such care (or, you know, the ones I unceremoniously crammed into the soil and forgot about until they peeked up), especially when they seem so vigorous!  I’m growing three varieties of Zucs this year- 8 Ball (my personal fave), Cashflow, and Plato.  Never grown the second two, so we’ll see how they do.  So far I have NOT been impressed with the Cashflow, which had awful germination.  With the other two, about 85% of my seeds came up- Cashflow was about 40%.   In fact, in several of my hills (in which three seeds were planted) I didn’t have ANY germinate and I had to transplant a baby from another hill.  Transplanting squash is a big no-no, of course, especially when you are digging one out and moving it.  They don’t like to have their roots bothered.  I dug my spade in as far as it would go and dropped the whole plug o’ dirt into the hole that I made.  So far they are all doing ok, but do look a bit puny.   Hopefully they hang on…

I did end up pulling out more than half of the other two varieties, though, which was heartbreaking.  They were doing so well…AH WELL!  Culling is a necessary task of a gardener, and I know the plants I left will benefit as well.

I also did major pruning of all my tomatoes.  They’ve been in for quite a while now- long enough to grow some strong and impressive suckers.  I was cutting off branches that had flowers on them, even!  I just kept repeating my mantra of the day “it’s for the best, it’s for the best, it’s for the best…”  Trimmed plants are happy plants!  And I know what it will be like if I wait until they are bigger- I remember trimming the tomatoes at the CSA I volunteered at that hadn’t been touched (or trellised) for nearly two months- it was a nightmarish tangle of tomato vines- and all the plants were weaker.   I know I won’t have time to fiddle with these damn things in the height of summer- so they get their first haircut early!  I’m trying to train them all to two main growing branches, and I feel good about starting early.

Here are some pics!

These are the Arkansas Travelers.  They’ve set an impressive amount of fruit already!  The largest is the size of a golf ball.

Azoychka- the big, yellow Russian variety, though I can’t imagine it is large enough yet to support a big fruit.  Perhaps I should pick this one off so it focuses energy on leaf and stem growth?

And the reliable Sungold:

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