October 17, 2012

The Garden Is Gone

Grey Seeded Simpson lettuce.
Giant bed of Simpson lettuce.
The Swiss chard is getting gigantic.

The bitter melon was mowed down and has grown back. The fruit is unlikely to mature before winter.
I had to leave town without a watering contingency plan during the hottest part of the summer so it was not a surprise to come home to a burned up garden. Sorry no pictures of the dead garden because it has since been mowed down. It is amazing how quickly the grasses have taken over, it is as though there was never a vegetable grown in that spot.

The summer drought has finally ended and the weekly rainfall has wrought an unusual sight. Lettuce starts abound cutting a chartreuse swath through the lawn, little bush bean plants, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers are starting over again. They are terribly cute, but it is unlikely they will bare fruit even when frost comes late in our area. I have a terrible urge to plant a patch of winter radishes, since they are so juicy and mild when grown in the fall months.

July 13, 2012

Rain Showers in the Vegetable Garden

A nice heavy rain knocked down a couple of the Philippine Lady Finger okra plants

Stewart's Zeebest okra plant

Costoluto Genovese tomato almost ready to be plucked

The five thicker okra pods on the left belong to Philippine Lady Finger and the three on the right belong to Stewart's Zeebest. Usually I let the Stewart's pods grow to about 9 inches in length but these were picked small because the plants they were growing on are still tiny.

Swiss chard
We had a nice really heavy rain on Monday and the plants were just soaking it up. The okra pods has grown twice as fast since the downpour. A few of the Philippine Lady finger okra plants were knocked down but they are just fine after being righted.

The tomatoes are finally starting to look less brown and burned with many young fruits burgeoning and growing tips starting to swell again.

I haven't been very creative with the Swiss chard, this batch was sauteed in butter which I admit was a little bitter. The thick succulent leaves makes me want to wrap it around a meat filling. Hmmm.

July 9, 2012

Harvest Monday, July 9, 2012

Tuesday's harvest of green beans, okra, and tomatoes

Thursday, the first harvest of Zephyr summer squash

Thursday's harvest of okra

Two of the okra picked on Thursday were 9 inches long and still tender

Sunday, more sunburned tomatoes and a couple of summer squash

Sunday's okra harvest

Thank goodness it rained a couple times this week and put an end to the 108˚ F heat wave (42˚ C). The tomatoes have some sunburn on their fruit and two summer squash plants have succumbed to vine borers without ever producing any fruit. The beans and tomato plants have gotten fairly burned up in the heat, they're just a little crispy. And I've been finding tomatoes that have been nibbled or pecked at, looks like critters are finding their way through the bird netting looking for water sources.

The first summer squash of the season have been picked! The Zephyr hybrid summer squash is excellent, it has a wonderful texture and flavor that is sweet tender and firm when sauteed with a little butter. Not at all watery or spongy like summer squash can get.

The main green bean bed is definitely winding down production but the smaller plantings are just starting to flower.

This weeks harvest:
2 pounds, 14 oz tomato
2 pounds, 4 oz squash
1 pound, 6 oz green beans
1 pound, 5 oz okra

Total: 7 pounds, 13 ounces

Thank you for visiting. Check out Daphne's Dandelions and her Harvest Monday posts, where gardeners from all over the world take part and post their weekly harvest.

June 26, 2012

Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash and Zephyr Hybrid Squash

Yellow Crookneck or Early Prolific Straightneck summer squash
Probably Yellow Crookneck but where are the warts?
Definitely Zephyr summer squash

I'm not much of a summer squash grower. Zucchini yes but summer squash, not so much. The plants unerringly come to an early demise, usually before bearing any offspring. So to my utter shock the supposed zucchini babies turned yellow and formed a long thin neck. Ha ha! Summer squash. And even more amazing, one of them has been pollinated (hopefully).

Considering my inability to grow summer squash I have even resorted to trying out a couple of hybrids, Sunburst pattypan and Zephyr summer squash. And look, the Zephyr is forming babies too!

Interestingly enough. The Crookneck summer squash are the biggest most robust plants of all the zucchini and summer squash, even with being overcrowded in a hill with eight plants.

June 25, 2012

Harvest Monday, June 25, 2012

9 inch okra and the first tomatoes of summer
Saturday's green bean haul
Wednesday's green bean harvest
This has been a week for firsts, the first green beans and the first tomatoes of the season. And they are all delicious! The green beans are coming in strong, I was able to harvest three large bowls full this week but I didn't get a picture of the very first harvest on Monday. One small tomato and two large cherry tomatoes were plucked from the vine on Saturday, the tomato became part of a tomato sandwich whereas the two cherry tomatoes were quickly popped into my mouth. Yum.

The okra have been producing for a couple of weeks, four were picked on Saturday with the largest being 9 inches long and still as tender as can be.

Weekly total:
3.5 pounds of green beans
0.25 pounds of okra
0.4 pounds of tomatoes

Please, join us at Daphne's Dandelions where we share our harvests every Monday!

June 23, 2012

Stewart's Zeebest and Philippine Lady Finger Okra Growing in the Garden

Stewart's Zeebest okra have nice bushy plants
Philippine Lady Finger okra short and yet desperate to produce offspring
She may be tall and skinny but Philippine Lady Finger can crank out that okra
Free range silver beet or Swiss chard, slightly wilted by the heat and bright sun
The two varieties of okra may both produce long smooth pods but the growth habits of the plants can not be so different. Stewart's Zeebest seem more robust with thicker stems and more branching to form  bushier plants. Philippine Lady Finger produces okra much sooner, when the plants are just 7 inches tall, they are so thin and spindly looking but still make beautiful long smooth pods.

The free range Swiss chard or silver beet gets a little wilted and depressed in the hot afternoon sun but perks right up when the temperatures cool. I've been pulling a few leaves now and then to add to stir fries. Otherwise, I'm not sure what to do with it.

June 22, 2012

The First Female Zucchini Blossom and a Bit About Luffa and Bitter Melon

Can you see the tiny female flower with a tiny fuzzy baby zucchini attached to it?
A hill of cucumber plants with a single melon plant pictured at the bottom
Luffa plants starting to vine
Bitter melon vines are a bit grumpy from rough handling and weeding
The zucchini and summer squash are starting to form female flowers! The season of squash will soon be upon us. I am beyond thrilled considering last year not a single zucchini, summer squash, or patty pan was produced because of the infernal squash vine borers. Today, I saw the first squash vine borer moth outside the garden, it seemed like it was too big to get through the bird netting. Squash vine borers are red moths that look like red wasps and they fly around during the daytime laying a single egg at the base of plants. Infernal creatures. Alas, the bird netting doesn't extend over the back end of the garden where the wire fence is.

Three hills of cucumbers were planted and by the looks of it, they may be thinking about vining. Let's cross our fingers for loads of cucumbers this year. Cucumber and pineapple stir fry, baked stuffed cucumbers with cooked mushroom eggplant and ground pork, and fresh sweet pickled cucumbers here we come!

The two hills of luffa are starting to vine. Luffa belongs to the gourd family and come in smooth fruited varieties, or angled varieties which have long ridges. The young fruits are edible and may be cooked similarly to summer squash and cucumbers, and matured fruits can be used as exfoliating sponges. The angled loofah is too hard to peel so I'm growing a smooth variety.

The two hills of bitter melon are looking really good, they seem further along then the loofah. Bitter melon is quite the culinary treat. When they say bitter, they really mean bitter. Boiling the vegetable in a big pot of water helps to remove some of that knock you to your knees bitterness, then it can be sliced up and cooked with scrambled eggs or stuffed with ground pork and mushrooms and boiled in a new pot of water.

June 21, 2012

Green Beans from the Vegetable Garden and the Dreaded Japanese Beetle

3 quarts of green beans harvested Wednesday from the garden
Romano green beans growing on bush plants
Japanese beetle eating a green bean
The green beans are finally large enough to harvest from the garden. I was able to get 3 quarts on Monday and another 3 quarts on Wednesday, the colander holds 3.5 quarts. Monday's harvest went into a wonderful pork stir fry flavored with soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and hot pepper flakes. We've also been eating lightly boiled green beans as a side with most meals. Wednesday's harvest went into the fridge for safe keeping.

The Japanese beetles have been eating the leaves of the bush bean and okra plants, usually I'm too busy squishing them to take a picture. But here's a nice one with the beetle eating a trail along the length of a green bean. The infestation isn't too bad this year, thank goodness. The spring and summer has been really dry and there was a late cold spell in the spring which may have contributed to the low number of pests this year.

I don't enjoy squishing bugs, especially beetles because they crunch when you squish them. But squishing is better then using pesticides.

June 20, 2012

Caterpillars Eating the Broccoli and Cabbage

Broccoli or cabbage plant well chewed on.
On closer inspection two caterpillars on the small inner leaves can be seen eating the broccoli.
All the broccoli or cabbage in my garden are mystery plants given to me by a fellow gardener. They are mystery plants because my friend was unsure whether they were broccoli or cabbage seedlings because they had long ago lost their labels back when they were started by seed. This one looks more like a broccoli plant to me since it is upright and tall, at this stage cabbage leaves probably would have started folding in on each other.

Yesterday I picked off a giant caterpillar which was chewing on a large outer leaf, and today I found two smaller caterpillars eating away at the inner leaves of the same broccoli plant. There have been little white moths fluttering around the garden who may or may not be the source of the caterpillars. Either way they are easily squished by gloved fingers or a gardening trowel.

It is amazing how much damage one or two caterpillars can do to a single plant in just a couple days. The other brassica plants are undamaged. For now.

June 9, 2012

The First Okra of the Season

Philippine Lady Finger okra
Bush green bean flowers blooming
Bed of 4 varieties of bush green beans
First hill of summer squash or zucchini
Second hill of summer or zucchini
Third hill of summer squash or zucchini
The first okra of the season has already formed which is amazing since it's only early June. The okra plants are still itty bitty less than a foot tall but about half of them are blooming and forming okra. Since the plants are so small it takes a few days for the okra to grow big enough to harvest, but once the plants get bigger they will be cranking out pods on a daily basis. This year I am growing smooth podded varieties which I have never grown before, Philippine Lady Finger and Stewart's Zeebest.

The okra are the first of the summer vegetables to produce, even before the bush green beans which have just started flowering. Soon the blooming blossoms will give way to fresh green beans. The first of the bush beans were planted just a month ago in the first week of May.

The summer squash and zucchini are coming along nicely, little male fruitless blossoms are starting to form which soon will give way to female blossoms and fruit. Six hills were planted of all different varieties with 4 plants per hill but one hill was accidently planted twice so has 8 plants. The hill with 8 plants were planted with two different varieties so I don't know which ones to thin out. Six hills of summer squash and zucchini would be considered an overzealous amount usually but this area of the US tends to have major problems growing this kind of vegetable because of the squash vine borers, Japanese beetles, cucumber beetles, wilt and mildew. Last year not a single summer squash or zucchini was harvested because the plants were so devastated by the squash vine borers.

May 30, 2012

Interplanting Crops

Planting vegetables densely isn't a useful tactic in the humid southern states. When plants are too close together where there is high humidity it encourages mildew and rot to set in, and then there's the proliferation of garden pests hiding under the overgrown foliage. The first couple of years here I tried interplanting vegetables in large beds but low yields and high incidences of tomato fruit rotting on the vine has taught me the value of giving plants room to breath which gives cooling breezes a chance dry up some of that humidity.

In dry regions of the country interplanting vegetables is a useful tactic to conserve moisture as long as there's plenty of sunlight to go around. In the desert country of the high mountains from whence I was raised, nary a drop of rain flowed in the summer months of June through August. With most of the moisture falling as snow in the long brutally cold winter months.

May 29, 2012

Growing Bush Beans

The quiet, the tame, the ever fruitful bush bean.
The growing time, a bush bean story.
Silky and lustrous free range Swiss chard.
The quietly exultant chard.
The first planting of bush beans are filling in quickly with their first true leaves. I've been trying to space plantings every two weeks apart to extend the harvest since bush beans tend to bear in heavy flushes that last about two weeks, after which they need time to recover before bearing again. The beds are starting to fill up so bean seeds are going here and there in any bare space that is not filling in quickly. Summer is promising to shape up to be a dry one this year, so there's less fear of mildew and mold in regards to spacing plants in such close proximity. The bed that is purposed solely for the bush beans is twenty feet long with 6 rows of beans with half planted two weeks later than the other half.

Derby, Contender, Romano, Masai, and Blue Lake 156 were the bean varieties that were originally planted in the bean bed but a few rows didn't come up. It was probably Masai and Blue Lake 156 that didn't germinate because they were the oldest seed, so those rows were replanted with Kentucky Wonder which managed to come up beautifully.

The Swiss chard or silverbeet are ranging free, meaning they had grown back on their own in odd little spots. The chard in the top photo has been stepped on a few times because it's right dab in the middle of a walkway. It's still pretty and fun seeing it grow.

May 28, 2012

Okra Starting to Form Flowers

Stewart's Zeebest okra are already starting to form blossoms.
In a few short weeks okra pods will be forming!
Okra are such beautiful plants, amazing how in one summer they can form into little trees.
The okra that were started indoors are already forming blossoms even though they are only a five to seven inches tall (13-18 cm). Since the okra have been going through the same trials and tribulations as the tomato plants (birds) it's amazing how well they have done. The okra seeds that were planted directly into the garden have all sprouted except for one or two which makes about a 90% germination rate but suspiciously the toothpicks that were placed around those unsprouted seeds to deter cutworms, were bent over. I'm thinking it wasn't cutworms. The newly sprouted okra have just started forming their true leaves.

Most people in this part of Kentucky eat okra as corn meal breaded deep fried golden nuggets which can't be described as health food. During last year's okra glut I lost a lot of weight eating okra everyday in every way imaginable. Curried okra, stewed tomato okra, grilled okra, baked okra, okra stir fry with green beans and radish pods, till finally I let a few pods mature on the plants to shut down fruit production. Why, why didn't I think to freeze or dry the excess okra rather than continuously gorging myself daily on the pods?

May 27, 2012

Pollinating Open Pollinated Heirloom Tomato Plants

The main stem of this Brandywine tomato plant terminated in this weird flower stalk.
The tomatoes burgeon in silence.
Tomato fruit are rarely ever alone.
Cosmonaut Volkov, even the stem of the fruit have been chewed on by the birds.
A spindly Cosmonaut Volkov tomato plants is still able to produce substantial offspring.
Finally, tiny little tomatoes are forming on the tomato plants. Yay.

The Brandywine has put out a huge truss of blossoms, but the first to produce flowers and tomatoes were the Cosmonaut Volkovs. I've been shaking the branches of every plant that has open flowers every few days, to help with pollination.

Open pollinated and heirloom tomato plant seem to vary in the formation of their flowers which can affect their ability to self pollinate. The stigma can grow outside the petals of the flower, out of reach of the pollen on the stamen thus necessitating a pollinator or some kind of vibration that causes the pollen to fall from the anther to reach the stigma. So if you notice blossoms dropping and low fruit formation take the time to gently shake or tap the branches of your tomato plants. Usually the wind helps with pollination but sometimes wind can be hard to come by.

The year that had the highest tomato yield was also the year the garden had the oddest little insect pollinator that seemed to only visit tomato blossoms. Bees in this area have little interest in pollinating tomatoes or cucumbers, they're easily seduced by the deep permeating sweetness of the clover blossoms or the large showy squash and okra flowers.

Hmmm. Since there's a fence around the garden and bird netting over the garden, we won't be able to use our usual tomato support structure which happens to be our own weird interpretation of the Florida weave. It looks like we might have ground tomatoes this year. Although, letting tomato plants sprawl on the ground tends to lower yields.

On an interesting note, my husband chased away a couple of birds from under the netting, vile plant eating devils, it looks like the little ones are able to hop through the fencing at the end where the bird netting doesn't touch the ground. At least it keeps the larger ones out. The little ones seem to only go for small newly sprouted plants and newly planted seeds. The damage is a lot less, a couple of plants here and there versus the total annihilation of dozens of tomato plants.