Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

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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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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We have beans!

WOO HOO!  I spent the weekend in glorious Newport, RI (the place is positively DRIPPING with gilded cherubs!) and came home to some positive bean life!  All of my fortex beans are sprouting, and I have glimmers of life on my Uncle Aut’s and Kentucky Wonder beans.  So far nothing with the Scarlet Runners or the Rattlesnakes, but today is a warm, bright day, so hopefully it will coax them out.

Also saw lots of baby tomatoes, strong growth on my zuchinnis, and am racing to keep up with the growth on my potatoes- just did the first big hilling and already they look like they need it again!  This early summer rush is so exciting!

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I’m nervous about my beans!

This weekend and Monday I built all my bean trellises and planted my beans.  There is a stand of saplings on the south edge of the garden that Ann wanted taken down (and I was eyeing the perfectly straight, perfectly sized trees for their usefulness in the garden).  So Jeff came by with a chainsaw and hacked a bunch of them down and I had my pick of the best of the bunch.  They are perfect, and they ended up making BEAUTIFUL bean teepees!

I’m just so charmed with them!  They are about 9 to 10 feet high and each have 6 poles.   I ended up with 7 teepees all together, and after they were all completed on Monday, I finished up planting the beans.

I’m growing 5 Varieties this year.  Three teepees are planted with Fortex beans, which are the ones for Jeff and the restaurant, and the rest are all for me.  If I could only grow one thing, it would be beans.  I’m obsessed with them.  The others that I’m growing are:

Uncle Aut’s pole beans (this is an honest-to-god family heirloom that I’ve grown ever since I moved up here)

Kentucky Wonder pole beans (saved from last year’s seed)

Rattlesnake pole beans (sent to me by a dear friend from South Carolina who saved the seed from her garden)

Scarlet Runner beans (sent to me by Becky what, two years ago?  I’ve finally planted them!)  I’ve heard you can eat these, but I’m mostly growing them for the flowers and so I can get more seeds!

Each variety has their own teepee, so hopefully I’ll get a good yield from all these varieties.

But, as I said, I’m nervous.  Half went in the ground on Sunday and the other half of Monday, and since then it has been wet.  And dark.  And cold (I have THREE blankets on my bed right now!).  And now I’m worried about my little beans, buried under a bunch of wet, cold soil.  I hope they don’t rot- especially since I planted all I had of the Kentucky Wonders, Rattlesnakes, and Scarlet Runners.   We could use a day of good, strong sun, Massachusetts!

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Finally!  I have had a successful harvest in this difficult year.

On Monday, I left work a little early to head over to the farm and dig my potato plants.  They had been hit relatively hard by blight, so I was expecting a pretty sorry harvest, but I pulled up what was the most satisfiying, exciting haul I’ve ever had as a gardener. 

This was the first time that I’ve ever grown potatoes, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but when I stuck my fork into the ground and gave it a heave, I literally whooped with joy as several big, perfect fingerling potatoes came rolling out of the loose dirt.  When I scrabbled around a little bit more, I pulled out a good many more, several overflowing handfulls- and that from only one plant!  I was expecting to dig them all, but I ended up digging up less than half because I had so many that I couldn’t carry them all home!   If anyone was watching me, they probably would have though I lost my mind.  There I was on my hands and knees gleefully digging through the soil grinning like and idiot the whole time.  It was great!  (And thank goodness my garden is on an isolated hillside with no neighbors!)

I grew two varieties- Russian Bananna and French Fingerling.  The Russian Banannas were all very large potatoes (for fingerlings) and entirely mature.  I got between 5 and 6 per plant.  The French Fingerlings varied wildly by size.  Many of them were quite large, but there were still a lot of little baby potatoes on the plants as well.  I wonder if I had left the foliage up longer if they would have grown more?  Or is it just normal to have lots of little ones?

I don’t have  a scale, but I estimate that I probably dug between 15 and 17 Lbs. of potatoes out of the garden, and I’m hoping as many more are still waiting to be dug up.  I can’t believe how wonderful these were to grow.  And honestly, I planted them a little late and shallow and was pretty remiss about hilling.  I guess those first couple months of loads of water and cool weather was good for them?  Who knows…but I will always grow potatoes again.  What a satisfying harvest!

(Oh yes, and they are delicious!)

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Wow…another post about a pest, of sorts.  Though this, like blight, is actually another plant disease.

Here at my house my roommates and I have a small, messy garden.  I say messy because we crammed a lot of plants into a small space and they are doing aggressively well.  Certainly not a terrible problem to have, but everyday I have to go out and yell at the cucumbers to stop climbing up the tomato plants and for the Zucchini to stop shading the eggplants with its massive leaves.

The two squash plants (aforementioned Zucchini of an unnamed variety and Zephyr summer squash) are two of the most impressive, productive squash plants I’ve ever seen.  They are keeping the three of us- though one doesn’t cook, so I guess the two of us- in enough squash to choke a hog.  I love it!

But just moments ago I went outside to pick some and I noticed that the plants are absolutely covered with powdery mildew!  It came out of nowhere!  I didn’t notice it yesterday (hell, even this morning in my ritual glimpse I didn’t see anything!) so it’s come on quick and dirty.  Yikes!

I’ve never dealt with this before.  Will it spread to the other plants that are around it?  The tomatoes are literally touching the squash plants- are they in danger of catching it too?  I’m not sure what to do?  Anyone ever had a problem with powdery mildew in the past?

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First Harvest

Pitifully small and shockingly late, I had my first harvest yesterday.  I picked two small 8-ball zuchinnis which were promptly sauteed in a little olive oil and happily eaten.   They were excellent- I do love that variety so very much.

Things are finally turning into summer around here, though we are still having 60s in the evenings (even got down to 50-something last week!).  Cool weather isn’t so bad as long as we are seeing sun, and we’ve had some beautiful sunny days recently.  Hopefully that will crank everything into high-growing gear.  My cukes and eggplants are shockingly tiny, and I have only three little sad okra plants that are barely hanging on.  I fully expect them to die at any moment.

The only thing that’s been loving this weather are my potatoes, which are doing great.  (Well, at least I think so- I’ve never grown them before!)  So far I’ve been lucky to avoid late blight, which is taking a toll on lots of people right now, even some of my neighbors.   I did have to pull off a few leaves which were getting eaten down by Colorado Potato Beetle larvae.  I’ve heard that some other farms around us are having pretty bad infestations, so I feel pretty lucky that what I’ve seen in mild.  I’m told that nothing they are attracted to has been growing up on my hill in a few years, so maybe that’s why, but I don’t really care, honestly!   I’m just happy not to see many of them, not in the least because they are the nastiest looking bugs ever.  I literally did the heebie-jeebie dance after I pulled of a few leaves.  I don’t get grossed out by bugs very often, but yikes. 

For those of you that have been suffering through this bleak summer, I hope everything is growing well for you!

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