July 19, 2017

An Epic Year in the Vegetable Garden

Apologies for not posting, but we have been having the best year in the garden ever. I have been gardening for over twenty years, and I have never seen anything like this. Yesterday I gave away 90 pounds of tomatoes between family, neighbors, and coworkers. And yet, there are still tomatoes on the counter. So far we have canned 44 quarts of salsa and 14 quarts of tomato juice.

I have even started picking green tomatoes for people to fry up, which I never do. The plan is to pressure can the rest of the tomatoes in juice and make some green tomato pickles. A friend of mine says she has canned so far, 130 quarts of snap beans and last year they had only canned 50 quarts. And it's not even the end of the season yet. People in our area are abandoning their gardens and telling neighbors to come pick what they want because they're done canning for the year.

Months ago I scheduled to be off the last week of July for canning because that's usually when tomatoes start coming in strong. Instead I'll be pulling out the bush beans since rust is moving quickly through the patch and rabbits are nesting there. And I'll be clearing out most of the zucchini and summer squashes, and the greenhouse.

So here's a few pictures of what we've been harvesting.
I ordered a Victorio food strainer to help with making juices and sauces, and found it much more efficient than a food mill.
The winter squash beds are inaccessible but a few are growing along the fence. I'm hoping there's lots of them hiding in their patch.
This year we're growing Queensland Blue winter squash, Black Futsu pumpkin, Thai Rai Kaw Tok pumpkin, and Yokohama winter squash,
We won't be having any melons this year, since they're all overshadowed by the massive tomato plants. And the leeks were squished by the rampaging zucchini plants, but maybe they'll recover once the zucchini gets pulled.

July 3, 2017

Harvest Monday, 7/3/17

On June 26th we harvested tomatoes with Black Brandywine as the biggest one weighing 1.418 pounds. Also pictured is Granny Cantrell's German Red, Paul Robeson, Cosmonaut Volkov, Black Prince, and Taxi.

Black Brandywine continues to produce early heavy tomatoes. Cosmonaut Volkov and Paul Robeson are producing the biggest tomatoes I have ever seen from them, which tells me they don't like our normally hot spring weather. But there are some gigantic Pink Brandywines starting to ripen that should weigh more.
Also harvested June 26th: beans, Butta zucchini, and basil. My husband was elated to see fresh beans coming in from the garden.

I picked the basil thinking it would go well with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, but with more than 5 pounds of tomatoes harvested a day it looks like salsa canning is scheduled for Friday.

 June 27th: just under a pound of beans and some cherry tomatoes.
June 27th: Butta zucchini and Zephyr squash.
June 27th was a good day for tomatoes with more than eleven pounds shown here.
On the 27th: the never ending parade of squash continues.
 Harvested June 28th: almost seven pounds of tomatoes.
Also harvested June 28th: under three pounds of peppers. The peppers were a disappointment this year. The plants are big and lush and the peppers themselves are huge but the yield is dismal. In 2013 my first harvest of peppers was 12 pounds with almost the same number of plants. We haven't gotten a single pepper from Numex Joe E. Parker yet.

On the June 29th we were running around getting ready to can salsa the next day so I didn't get to photograph 17 pounds of tomatoes, almost 3 pounds of beans, and just under 4 pounds of squash picked that day. I'm trying to process the salsa only when our kiddo is out of the house because the fumes from all the peppers and onions can get pretty bad.

With all the tomatoes coming in we're going to try pressure canning tomato juice and sauces. It'll be great, we can add the tomato juice to our fresh vegetable juice blend. My favorite is carrot, celery, and apple that we run through our juicer. We'll probably can some crushed and whole tomatoes for  soups and chili.

Harvested this week:
41.644 pounds tomatoes
8.918 pounds squash
5.686 pounds beans
2.720 pounds peppers
0.294 pound cherry tomatoes

Total Harvest: 56.542 pounds

Please join us at Harvest Monday hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres, a happening place full of vegetables and their gardens.

June 26, 2017

Harvest Monday, 6/26/17

Harvested June 19th: Marrow zucchini, Butta Zucchini, Sophia summer squash, Fat Cherry tomato, and Sungold cherry tomato.
Harvested June 20th: Fiorentino zucchini, Butta Zucchini, Sophia summer squash, Chocolate Cherry tomato, and Sungold cherry tomato.
Harvested June 21st: Butta zucchini, Fiorentino zucchini, Striato D'Italia zucchini, Zephyr summer squash, and Sophia summer squash.

Also Harvested June 21st: Taxi tomato, Black Prince tomatoes, Black Cherry tomato, Fat Cherry tomato, and Sungold cherry tomato.

Good news, shockingly enough I have large tomatoes ripening in June. I've grown Black Prince before so it's actually a shock that it's this early. Taxi is a new lemon yellow tomato. Both varieties set lots and lots of fruit although Taxi is a much smaller plant. With a couple tomatoes ripened, I picked up some lettuce, French bread, and sour dough bread which will incidentally go great with bacon and tomatoes.
Harvested June 22: Taxi tomato, Black Prince tomato, Black Cherry, Fat Cherry, and Sungold cherry tomato.
Harvested Saturday, June 24th: Fiorentino zucchini, Striato D'Italia zucchini, Marrow zucchini, Zephyr summer squash, and Sophia summer squash.

It rained heavily all day Friday which kept me out of the garden till Saturday evening and I was greeted by boat-like creatures of the zucchini variety. The bowl they're sitting in is actually massive.
Also harvested Saturday: Granny Cantrell's German Red, Black Brandywine, Paul Robeson, Black Prince, and Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes. The pink tomato is the Granny Cantrell tomato.

I was really surprised to see all these tomatoes ripening after the rain, I don't think we have ever harvested large tomatoes in June. Even Pink Brandywine is showing color so we'll get to taste them in a day or two. The biggest tomato picked so far is a Black Brandywine weighing 1.138 pounds.
And our cherry tomato harvest for June 24th.

We've eaten a pile of BLT's with the Black Brandywine and Black Prince tomatoes. And then a zucchini and tomato medley, next on the list is zucchini bread. Black Brandywine has a very savory salty flavor with hardly any seeds, Black Prince is much more juicy with a bit of a tang. Even with all the rain they're still tasty tomatoes.

Both Butta zucchini plants have split open along their main stem. It's likely that the stems were weakened by squash vine borers and then a huge storm battered the plants till they split open. But even with the severe damage, the plants are still producing and we'll see if they can recover.

There's quite a few plants infected with what I now know for sure is Tomato Speck which also infects the stems and fruit of the plants. The infected plants got a hard trim and dosed with Seranade, I was forced to apply the Serenade even though it was forecasted to rain in the next day or two. The disease had already infected 8 plants total: two Taxi's, one Black Brandywine, two Ananas Noire, two Manyel, and one Pilcer Vesy. The bacterial disease presented first on the Manyel plants, making me suspect the disease is seedborne and then has spread by aphid vectors. Next year the seeds will be treated with a diluted bleach solution before planting.

Harvested:
18.08 pounds zucchini
7.214 pounds tomato
2.632 pounds summer squash
0.974 pound cherry tomato

Total harvest: 28.9 pounds (13.109 kg)

If you're curious about weight breakdown by variety, I have that listed under the 2017 Harvest Totals tab.

Please join us for Harvest Monday hosted by Dave from Our Happy Acres, a place for gardeners and vegetable enthusiasts.

June 19, 2017

Harvest Monday, 6/19/17

Green Winner kohlrabi, purple Kolibri kohlrabi, and 4 little Sungold cherry tomatoes.
A couple more bolted tatsoi heads, and 3 little Butta zucchinis.
A mixture of Black Cherry, Fat Cherry, and Sungold tomatoes. More Butta zucchini and the first Lunga Fiorentino zucchini. Male squash flowers are starting to open up so we'll get some pollinated squashes soon.

We had a huge rainstorm Sunday, it rained so much all day. Yay to not having to water the garden. Usually green tomatoes can heal when they split open after a big rain, it's when they're ripening that it's a worry. But I probably need to go ahead and top the Black Cherry plant, it's too top-heavy even with added supports. And I'll probably end up tying its cage up to a wooden fence post. My partner thinks we should tie all the tomato cages together in each bed to create more stability. It's an interesting thought. Has anyone else tried something like that?

And I can't believe it's almost July already. This summer is progressing way too rapidly. We planted almost 3 weeks later than normal, so everything feels like it's happening at a rapid pace.

Harvested:
0.904 lbs. zucchini
0.298 lbs. tomato
1.054 lbs. kohlrabi
1.364 lbs. tatsoi

Total harvest: 3.62 lbs. (1.642 kg)

Please join us at Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave at Our Happy Acres. Where gardeners from around the world share their joys and trials of vegetable gardening.

June 18, 2017

A Tour of the Vegetable Garden in June

Our shadiest bed is home to Mizuna a leafy green, 3 eggplants ravaged by flea beetles, and kohlrabi. Mizuna and kohlrabi are normally spring vegetables but they're trooping along even with temperatures in the mid 90's (35 degree Celsius).
The hot pepper bed needs to be weeded badly, they're high on my list along with the leeks and fennel. The plants next to the wood fence are tall enough they're starting to get a lean to them, so they'll need to be staked soon. There's 42 pepper plants in this bed.

The peppers are a lot taller this year, even the jalapenos and lemon drop are getting to be tall plants. It's might be due to the weather because in hotter years they tend to be shorties, either that or maybe it's because they're spaced closer together. It makes me wonder if the yield will be affected since they're putting more energy into growth rather than fruit production.
And two bush bean beds have merged into one ginormous bed. You might not be able to tell, but there's a small fence around the bean bed made with 2 foot tall bamboo poles and string to keep them from flopping in the paths . At least the bush beans are starting to bloom, but I wonder how I'll be able to harvest them.

Snap beans are one of my favorite things from the garden. We sauté snap beans in olive oil with onion and long strips of carrot, add a little chicken stock and cook it down till the liquid is absorbed, so good. And of course, they're fantastic in stir fries.
And the fennel which is in another shadier bed is actually starting to bulb. I'm just as shocked as you are. They were so tiny and root bound and it's been so hot lately, but they're still managing to do their thing. There's some pole beans in the back of this bed, and yes that is a wall of Cosmonaut Volkov and Peron tomato plants to the right.
And the winter squash are starting to vine, there's a patch of them on either side of the greenhouse. It's been years since I've grown winter squash and I had forgotten just how massive they truly are. These were planted May 14th, to the left is Queensland Blue and to the right is Thai Rai Kow Tok. In the front are summer squash and zucchini which I use to block the winter squash from traveling into the rest of the garden.
Another winter squash bed with Yokohama to the left, Black Futsu to the right, and summer squash in front. I read a review on Black Futsu where someone harvested 37 squashes from a single plant that was growing in their tomato bed.

This is actually the shadier of the squash beds as some reviews of Yokohama and Black Futsu suggests they prefer a bit of shade.
The zucchini and summer squash bed is starting to encroach on the leeks. That's a bale of straw hiding beneath the leaves of the zucchini plants on the left.

I've planted lots of zucchini, patty pan, and summer squashes this year because squash bugs and squash vine borers usually kill or weaken most of the plants.
Against the 3 feet tall wire fence is planted a few Beck's Big Buck okra that were planted out as seedlings, the winter squash Queensland Blue is definitely crowding them a bit.
Here's a better picture of the row of okra, the three plants directly seeded on May 19th are still pretty small in comparison and above you can see a wilting vine of winter squash probably hit by a vine borers.
I'm still trying to keep the bottom of the tomato plants trimmed, but they are pretty unruly at this point. Various fungal disease are showing up in 3 of the tomato beds. I've tried spraying with a copper fungicide but will be trying Serenade, an organic control for fungus and bacteria.

I'm starting to suspect tomato speck is my main problem as the stems and fruit are infected as well. I've dug up one Manyel plant and heavily trimmed another of the same variety. It's possible we got some contaminated seeds and then the red tomato aphids are spreading the disease. I've never actually had aphid problems before in all my years in western Kentucky. Usually there are droves of ladybugs but there's only been a handful in the garden this year.
The tall tomato plants in back are supposed to be the determinate Celebrity (F1). They are considered a vigorous determinant or semi-determinant, but still they've grown way above the 54 inch cages. We've had the perfect spring and the plants are bigger than I've ever seen them.
This  Black Cherry tomato plant is taller than the 6 feet wooden fence. I've had to stake the cage with 3 bamboo poles.

I am mildly optimistic even with the diseases traipsing through the garden. It looks like it might be a banner year, which will hopefully be dubbed "The Year of the Tomato". I've taken a week off at the end of July with the hope of canning lots and lots of salsa.

The weather cooled off Saturday, so I actually got some weeding done for the leeks and peppers. Hopefully I can finish weeding the peppers, fennel, and winter squash beds before it rains Sunday afternoon.

And interestingly enough, something is parasitizing the aphids. I usually squash them with gloved fingers when I find them, but lately I've been finding their little tan mummified bodies with no young juicy ones in site.