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Archive for the ‘Veggies’ Category

Here’s my cute little harvest from yesterday afternoon:

Lots of tomato varieties!  I think I’ve gotten at least one tomato off of all my plants now, with the stars being the Black Sea, Black Sea Man, and Sungolds.  That big, gorgeous yellow one is the Azoychka, but this is only the third tomato I’ve picked so far.   They aren’t doing well.  Hardly any more fruit set and not growing much either.

I’ve also got some zuchinni there- all 8-Balls.   My Zucs are disappoing this year.  The plants are mostly still VERY small with the exception of 5 of my 8-ball plants, but those are now being stricken with what I think is the same Fusarium Wilt that killed off some of my tomatoes early on.  I thought it was Squash Vine Borers (same symptoms) but when I cut open the stems there was nary a sight of them.  Very sad.  I’m pretty bummed. 

I also dug the first potatoes yesterday, mostly because I was just curious to see what they were doing.  The week or so of VERY hot weather and no rain stopped them in their tracks about two weeks ago and I haven’t seen any new growth.  Most of them never even bloomed.  I dug some up to see what they looked like.  Well-formed tubers, but not many.  What you see there is the result of THREE plants. 

I did have one little victory!  Remember that big Black Sea tomato I posted a few weeks ago?  Well, he finally ripened:

He had some cracking around the top, but the bottom was beautiful- and don’t you love those striations?

He was heavy, too!

That may be the record for this year!  I have  yet to see any that are that big on the vines so far, but we’ll see. 

Share your harvests!  Check out Daphne and tell us what you’re growing!

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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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So here’s my big, dark gardening secret:  I hate tomatoes.  I mean I loathe them.   I think they are the most repulsive, awful thing in the world.  And oh my, do I hate myself for it.  I want to like them so badly.  They are so beautiful, and healthy, and versatile.  They are easy to grow and a dream to cook with.  And I am so jealous of those of you who love them.  Every year I promise myself “This is the year!  This is the year I will learn to love tomatoes!”  And, alas, it never comes true.

I just think they’re gross.  The texture, the flavor- it doesn’t matter how they are prepared.  Fresh off the vine, cooked to nothingness in a sauce, sun-dried…hell, I don’t even like ketchup!  But I grow them every year, because how can you not grow tomatoes?!  Usually it’s 2 or 3 plants, but then I tell the chef at an Italian restaurant that I’ll grow a garden for him…

We have, and I finally planted the last of them yesterday, 89 tomato plants (Yes.  The unevenness of that number makes me cringe- I think I’ll have to cram an odd one in somewhere just so I can say 90).  EIGHTY NINE.  That is so many tomatoes…so many.  They are still small now, but I know in a month I’ll be out in that garden cursing and weeping as I try to keep up with the trimming and the trellising and the horn worms.  But my screams will not be heard as I am lost forever in a tomato forest!

Anyway, I’m digressing!  When Jeff asked what varieties we should grow I just wrinkled my nose and threw a Totally Tomatoes catalog at him.   He got the message.   He ordered the seeds, his stepmom started them for us, and I had not a care in the world about them until they all made their way over to my house and I stood and looked at them and went “OH MY GOD!  WHY ARE THERE SO MANY!?”

I informed him, nicely of course, that there was no %&^&%# way they were all going to fit, so he said variety was more important.  I chose the best looking 12 or 15 of each variety (or less, if we had less) and planted those.  The rest have been slowly given away (or grown spindly and sad on that same picnic table- WOULD YOU LIKE SOME TOMATOES?!).

We are growing many different varieties this year- I have about a dozen+ plants of each variety, though two have quite a few less.  They are:

Sungolds (of course!)- the ubiquitous and wonderful cherry tomato and one of the few I have ever managed to eat without wanting to barf all over the garden.

Sungellas– a hybrid of sungold that produces “golf ball sized” fruits

Azoychka– a bright yellow Russian variety

Arkansas Traveler– a medium-sized standard red

Rainbow– a large-fruited orange tomato with red spots and streaks

Black– another Russian variety with mahogany colored fruits

Black Sea Man– yet another Russian variety, this one with dark green skin and pink shoulders

Rose (though I only have three of these)- a beautiful pink Amish variety that is similar in texture and flavor to Brandywine (the only tomato I have ever eaten that I actually LIKED).

And finally, a mysterious variety labeled “HR.”  I have no idea what that means- any guesses?

So far there are lots of fruits on the Sungolds and one rather large fruit on the Rose.  All of them are flowering with the exception of the Black Sea Man and the “HRs”  which were the ones neglected until yesterday.  Everyone seems to be really happy so far, with the bizarre exception of a few plants (in totally random locations) that are being nibbled on by some critter.  We have lots of deer out here, but I didn’t think they would do anything to tomatoes- maybe I’m wrong?

The few plants that have been nibbled on are in totally random spots and only three are next to each other.  This happened about a week and a half ago and I haven’t seen any other bites.   Only two or three branches were eaten off each of them (though of course they were usually my main growing branches).  Anyone seen this before with theirs?

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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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Observe:

 Somewhere in there is an asparagus patch.  A good one too!  About 12 years old and much neglected for a few years, but still produces an impressive amount. 

Even through the thick weeds and tall grass, shoots were still springing up joyfully all down this row.  You can see one right there in that picture, at the very bottom on the left.   I knew that with a few hours of hard labor, there would be a good reward with these guys.  So, Saturday morning I lathered on the sunscreen, threw on my favorite hat, and spent a few hours in the garden for the first time this year.  It was a GLORIOUS day- very sunny but not too hot with a nice breeze, and it felt good to get my hands dirty. 

The soil here is magnificent- dark and loamy and FULL of earthworms.  You can tell it was well cared for.  Ann told me when they bought the place about 20 years ago, it was terrible.   You can see it is under the powerlines, and the power company had done everything they could to keep the land clear of growth.  She said it was basically gravel.  But her husband worked hard amending the soil.  They had animals- horses, sheep, and cows, so lots of manure was turned in every year.  It took a long time, but the quality of the soil now speaks to the ability for it to build back up eventually.  Nice to know you can turn anything into a productive plot with some good old fashioned horse poop. 

Ann and I spent a few hours out there.  There was, at one point, a row of strawberries along the asparagus, but it had been lost to the weeds.  Lucky for us we found a number of little plants that have been fighting the good fight, so we dug them up to transplant to a better location.  We left some in among the asparagus that looked well-established, so maybe I’ll get some bonus strawberries this year!  There were certainly some casualties:

but in the end we had a much prettier plot:

And much happier asparagus!

They were tough weeds, a strong enemy, but we won the battle.  The war marches ever on (does it truly ever end with gardeners?), and I sure hope I can keep on top of them this year (HA!).  The weeds did get one good dig in- in my eagerness to get out in the garden, I forgot to put sunscreen on that little stripe of skin between my shirt and my pants, so I came away with an impressive strip of sunburn- Doh!  Won’t make that mistake again…I hope…

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Victory!

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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My first crop

I planted my first crop of the year today, and it’s an experiment:  Okra!

I LOVE Okra.  Well, I should say that I love fried Okra.  There aren’t really many other ways that I like it, though a few pieces in a little gumbo never hurt me.  You can occasionally find it up here, but it is outrageously expensive.

Now this certainly isn’t Africa- Okra’s homeland- and it isn’t Alabama (which is a heck of a lot closer to Africa than Massachusetts!), but I’m going to try my hardest to grow some this year.  Any of you New Englanders ever try growing it?  Was it a failure?

I started three varieties today- Alabama and Cowhorn, two heirloom varieties that were sent to me last year by my dear friend Liz who works at a historic site in South Carolina with a big heirloom garden (she sent me lots of other goodies too, and I can’t wait to get them planted!) and also a mystery variety that I got in Howling Hill’s seed swap.   HH, do you know what variety they were?  I think I was the first stop off of your seed swap this year, so they must have come from you!

So they are sitting pretty in my window sill- we’ll see how they do.  I may have even planted them too early.  Daddy tells me that he direct sows his in May (which means it is already steadily in the 80s and 90s but here it is still coolish).  I did save seeds of each variety in case it doesn’t work but I do hope it does.  Even if I can get one big handful of freshly fried Okra, I’ll consider it a success!

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