May 20, 2013

May 19, 2013

Chinese Yard Long Beans Germinated in Just 3 Days

I noticed the other day the Chinese yard long pole beans have germinated in just 3 days. Amazing.

Usually I pick regular snap beans when the seeds bulge a bit because I like the added texture, but the Mosaic long bean variety needs to be picked before the beans start filling out the pods, otherwise the pods get spongy. And since the seeds are very small they wouldn't make good shelling beans. I am also trying Chinese Green Noodle asparagus beans this year to see if there's a difference in longevity. Maybe long beans just require more water than regular snap beans to stay juicy.
The reseeded Cherokee Trail of Tears pole beans have germinated in the nice warm weather we have been having. The first time I planted them, a cold front came in and only one bean sprouted. Which goes to show, beans need hot temperatures to germinate otherwise they rot in the ground.
Hmmm. The future holds cucumbers for stir fries, baked stuffed cucumbers, and marinated cucumbers. Yum.

The cucumbers have all germinated as well. I planted Sweet Success (F1), Sweeter Yet (F1), and Japanese Long cucumbers around a bamboo teepee support. I am thinking about planting cucumbers all along the tomato rows and letting them climb the fencing, which will increase the chances of getting a good cucumber harvest. It's so difficult growing cucumbers here, they grow few fruits and the vines die early due to mildew and beetles, so I'm trialling a couple F1 hybrid varieties to see if they perform better.
The bush bean bed is filling nicely. Normally I plant the bush beans in a single block with 2 to 4 inches between plants, but this year I wanted to keep track of production between varieties. Plus, it will be nice to see if giving the beans more room will actually increase yields.

The mulch really seems to be helping with the weeding. Instead of hoeing, it's just me and my trusty hand trowel digging up the few weeds that manage to make it through the thick layer of mulch. The mulch does make it harder to plant because layers of mulch has to be pushed away before digging a hole, but it is so worth the decreased number of weeds. Yay, I am finally winning the war against weeds.

The sweet potatoes have yet to start vining, but when they do they will create a dense living mulch ground cover that doesn't seem to compete with taller plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Unlike winter squash vines which seem to bulldoze their way through the garden smothering all others in their path.

May 18, 2013

Gardening Tool Fears

So I have this weird little fear when it comes to use larger gardening tools like a sharpened shovel or a hoe which my husband keeps sharpened with a grinder and file. There's always this thought in the back of my mind that I'm going to inadvertently cut off a toe or two with these gardening instruments. These thoughts probably stem from that bizarre Johnny Depp movie, Secret Window, where he uses a sharpened shovel for nefarious reasons.

The whole movie is unrealistic and has a weird surreal mood, but then that shovel scene is shockingly real.

Ugh. Just thinking about that movie gives me shivers. Also, I am very clumsy. So the fear of maiming myself is probably justified.

May 16, 2013

First Tomato Blossom

The first tomato blossom of the season. Can you see it?
Here's a closer look at the blossom in case you missed it in the first photograph.
Putting up the rest of the tomato fence supports took more time than I anticipated, so I didn't get as much planting done as I had hoped. The tomato plants at the end of the fencing will be supported by bamboo poles.
 The eggplants are slowly getting bigger.
The Bangladeshi Long eggplant has been nibbled on by slugs. I went ahead and sprinkled all the plants with Sluggo, an organic slug bait.
 This Hungarian Hot Wax pepper has also been chewed on by slugs. All the peppers seem to be gaining size ever so slowly.
In comparison the tomatoes are sizing up much faster than the other plants. This is the Pantano Romensco tomato that is blossoming. My gardening friend usually pinches off the first blossoms to let the plants get bigger before fruiting. Does anyone else do this?

I normally just let the plants fruit in their own time because I like having early tomatoes, but not if that inhibits growth and fruit set in the long run. Has anyone noticed a difference when they pinch off the first tomato flowers?

The tomatoes are being sandwiched between fencing to keep the plants off the ground. The fencing got trimmed a little short, so the tomatoes at the end will have to be supported with bamboo poles. There's Agribon floating row covers over most of the garden, it seems to help keep the birds out.

May 15, 2013

A Mid May Vegetable Garden Update

Bitter melon has an interesting seedling, very similar to beans. The inner seed becomes the first cotyledon leaves, and when the seedling pushes out of the soil it already has it's first set of true leaves. I love the bright green chartreuse color of the plant, which is the exact same chartreuse color of young bitter melon fruit.
The beginnings of a luffa plant, they always grow so slowly at the beginning. I think a luffa seedling looks very similar to a winter squash right before it vines and goes crazy. I'm hoping to train both the luffa and bitter melon up the bamboo poles.
Beauregard sweet potato slips are the only variety they offer around here, they grow really fast once they start vining and put down potatoes everywhere the vine happens to root. The birds have been menacing the sweet potato slips and nipping off their leaves. You can see the leaf victim in the bottom right corner.
The okra seeds have taken forever to germinate. After being in the ground for 3 weeks the Stewart's Zeebest okra have finally decided to germinate now that we have had some consistently warm temperatures in the 80's (28˚ Celsius). None of the Cowhorn okra have come up so I went ahead and replanted that row with Philippine Lady Finger okra. And I also filled in the gaps in the Stewart's Zeebest row.
The reseeded bush bean bed has sprouted. In about 30 days there will be green beans! I planted 4 varieties this year: Romano, Blue Lake 274, Royal Burgundy, and Tendergreen Improved spaced in rows 18 inches apart. I never thin out the bush bean bed, they seem happy enough at 2 to 4 inches apart in their rows.
A Royal Burgundy bush bean seedling. The stems are a pretty purple color.

I started the bitter melon and luffa seeds in pots because the seeds were very old and I didn't have very many to begin with. There was 100% germination and 3 bitter melon seedlings and 6 luffa seedlings got planted next to their bamboo pole supports a couple days ago on May 13th. Last year I tried growing them on the ground but they really seemed to hate it and the plants stayed very small, and a couple years before that I trained them to climb okra but they never managed to fruit.

It's pretty early in the morning yet about 8:45, and I need to get out in the garden today and plant the summer squash, zucchini, winter squash and melons.

May 6, 2013

Finished Planting the Warm Weather Seedlings

Most everything was under cups in preparation for a few days of cold temperatures.
Brandywine tomato freed  from its cup confinement.
The leaves of this Pantano Romanesco tomato are all scrunched from being forced into cups.
Tomatoes right before covering them with Agribon floating row covers.
The warm weather plants that were started indoors are finally all planted out. That's 64 tomato plants, 42 hot and sweet pepper plants, and 33 eggplants planted. Whew. My back is tired. At first the plants spent time under plastic cups to protect them from a few cold nights, plus any uncovered seedling ends up getting destroyed by birds. So far five tomatoes and two peppers have been loss to bird activity.

It's supposed to be warming up the next couple of days, so I went ahead and took the plastic cups off of all the plants and then immediately recovered them with Agribon floating row covers. Floating row covers can damage growing tips on peppers and tomatoes, so it's important to have a support system in place, I'm using cups which will later be put on stakes when the plants get taller.

One pole bean and not a single okra has sprouted after 10 days, but some critter has been digging around the pole bean and okra bed. I dug around a couple of the poles and only found a single bean, it has been wet and rainy the last few days so maybe the beans have rotted in the ground. Either way the whole bed will have to be reseeded.

Four rows of bush beans were directly sowed in the second to last bed at the rear of the garden. The last bed in the back is reserved for summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and vining plants. I have 6 edible luffa sprouts and 3 bitter melon sprouts that have just germinated! How utterly exciting. I haven't gotten the luffa or bitter melon to fruit here in Kentucky and these are the last of the seeds, they grew just fine in the desert so I'm not sure what the problem may be.

There is still buckets of spinach, lettuce, and Chinese greens to be planted. It's a chore, but a happy chore.