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.