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.

May 10, 2012

The Moon

The moon has been eery lately. Cast in mists with a yellowy glow. The darker shadows of the treetops grasp at the bright orb.

May 9, 2012

Sprouting Bush Green Beans

The bush green beans are popping out of the ground after only being planted for a couple of days, 4 out of six rows have come up with the last two rows being planted with the oldest seeds. The heat must really be stimulating the germination of the beans. It is so much easier to directly sow bean seeds into the soil rather than starting them indoors since the plants grow so quickly.

I really need to get the corn seed into the ground but the rain over the last couple days keeps thwarting me. Once the corn starts growing then the pole beans can be planted around the corn stalks.

May 8, 2012

Planting Eggplant & Replanting Okra Seeds

The weather here has been hot hot. Up around 88˚ F (31˚ Celsius) and humid to boot. I've been out in the vegetable garden braving the heat to plant 28 eggplants and six rows of bush green bean seeds. The eggplants are from all sorts of fun varieties from the Middle East, Asia, and Italy that were all started indoors from seed. The bush green bean varieties that were planted include Derby, Contender, Masai, Blue Lake 156, and Romano. After laying down one and a half packages of Dragon Tongue beans I happened to look down at the package and realized I was planting a pole bean variety amongst the bush beans. Luckily, the seeds were all still laying on top of the soil as a way to keep track of spacing and were easy enough to pick up.

None of my zucchini, summer squash, and okra seeds have sprouted after being 3 weeks in the ground, so I dug around and found some empty squash seeds in the soil. Ugh! The birds probably pulled up and ate the little sprouted seedlings as soon as they popped out of the soil, since they were planted before the bird netting was set up. I went ahead and soaked some more okra seeds in water for a couple days before planting because their seed coats are so very hard, in just two days little white roots could be seen poking out of all the Phillipino Lady Finger okra seeds whereas the Stewart's Zeebest didn't even look like they had swelled at all. Either way, into the ground the okra seeds went today.

The tomato plants are still very short from the birds eating the leaves and growing tips but oddly enough they are still managing to flower even under such duress. How exciting.