June 28, 2013

Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplants

Pink Brandywine tomato. Distinctive large beefsteak tomatoes with crimped edges at the top and potato leaved foilage. I couldn't get a closer picture because of the tomato fencing.
These tomatoes are also supposed to be Brandywine but the tomatoes are not beefsteak sized nor are the plants potato leaved. I have 4 tomato plants from two different packets of seed that do not look like Pink Brandywine. Hmmm. We will need a taste comparison to solve this dilemma.
This is the biggest tomato in the garden that I can reach. An Ananas Noire or Black Pineapple tomato, it is unbelievably huge. I've been giving this and Big Zebra a gentle squeeze now and then, they're getting dense and heavy so hopefully will ripen soon.
Sweet bell peppers, ever stocky and robust.
The demure Santa Fe Grande pepper.
 The unassuming Jalapeno pepper.
 And the simpering Hungarian Hot Wax peppers.
 Thai Long Purple eggplant
 Bangladeshi Long eggplant, I thought it was supposed to be green with purple streaks.
 Applegreen eggplant, I'm really not sure when to pick these.
I just wanted to show the giant leaves on the Cambodian eggplants. The leaves are almost 4 times the size of the Bangladeshi Long eggplant leaves beside it.
The Cambodian plant isn't very tall and it is just starting to form flowers. I am very curious how big the eggplants will get on this variety.

The summer harvests are finally underway, I picked 7.5 pounds (3.4 kg) of beans from the bush beans earlier this week. A single zucchini at a little over half a pound, and a tiny round green Thai eggplant. It took hours to pick that much green beans let alone wash them because most are of the fuzzy variety, bush beans may be a bear to harvest but they are so much earlier than pole beans. The beans will go in a steak and green bean stir fry, green bean casserole, and green bean saute. I also traded a couple of pounds of green beans for a couple dozen country eggs. Pictures will be shared come Harvest Monday.

To be honest. I am growing 33 eggplants from 10 varieties, but I don't eat or cook a lot of eggplant. I eat a lot of tomatoes, peppers, okra, beans, cucumbers, squashes, etc. But I mainly grow eggplant because it is a challenge for me to grow. I have a feeling it's going to be a banner year for eggplants, and I am starting to wonder how many ways are there to cook eggplants?

June 27, 2013

Okra, Pole Beans, and Cucumbers

The okra that are about knee high are just starting to form little okras, and the plants are forming side shoots as well which means more growing tips and even more okra. Most of the other okra plants are shorter than this because of replanting due to low germination.
The Cherokee Trail of Tears pole beans are thick and lush and have completely overtaken their 6 feet tall bamboo stakes (1.8 meters).
Lots of purple flowers and a few tiny beans can be found under the Cherokee Trail of Tears canopy.
The Chinese yard long beans are much further behind in comparison. The two varieties planted are Green Noodle and Mosaic yard long beans. The Mosaic yard longs beans have yet to blossom and are just starting to climb their poles.
The Green Noodle yard long asparagus beans may not be the most vigorous but they are producing beans much earlier than the other two pole bean varieties.
The Japanese Long cucumbers are coming along nicely, the blossoms have been hand pollinated.
Sweeter Yet F1 hybrid cucumbers are just starting to form.

I have only seen 3 bees in the garden this year. Usually there are bees everywhere in early spring visiting clover blossoms and Asian greens that have been allowed to bloom. Although, I have seen little insect pollinators visiting tomato blossoms this year. Bees are just so necessary for the pollination of zucchini, summer squash, winter squash, and okra.

Hand pollinating has been part of my daily regimen, but I am having mixed results. Zucchini and squash blossoms seem to be fertile for only a few hours in the morning, I have managed to get one zucchini and lots of dead baby squashes. Cucumber blossoms seem to be fertile for most of the day, so lots of growing cukes. I pollinate squashes and cucumbers by stripping the petals from the male flowers and dabbing the stamens at the center of the female flower. I use a q-tip on the okra which are perfect flowers containing both male and female parts in one blossom.

June 21, 2013

There is a Rabbit Living in the Garden

 All the kohlrabi plants have been eaten by the rabbit.
A little wild brown rabbit with a white fluffy tail is living in the garden. She hides under the bush bean patch or Cherokee Trail of Tears pole beans and then runs away whenever I head towards her. There has also been evidence of a nibbling rabbit in the garden. Looks like she is partial to kohlrabi leaves, too bad they were just starting to bulb. The Asian greens are just now getting nibbled, so I have started harvesting them.

With the addition of a nice handful of green beans and a Hungarian Hot Wax pepper an udon noodle soup might be in order for the day. I love a big bowl of spicy noodle soup with lots of vegetables and an egg or two.

June 17, 2013

Fruiting Vegetables in June

Ananas Noire or Black Pineapple tomato, a multi-colored tomato. None of these plants bore fruit last year which was an awful year of droughts and record heat waves, but it looks like we may finally get to taste this tomato this year.
This is supposed to be a Pink Brandywine tomato plant, but the leaves are not the normal potato leaves associated with this variety. From the same seed packet I got seven that were potato leaved out of eleven plants.
The bush beans are loaded with itty bitty beans. So exciting! I love green beans from the garden.
These zucchinis need to grow faster, so I can eat them. The Black Beauty zucchini plant isn't very large, so it is taking some time for the two pollinated zucchinis to size up.
Let there be eggplants! A Bangladeshi Long eggplant story.
Peppers have such silky smooth fruit. These charmingly upright specimens belong to Hungarian Hot Wax.

I am terrible about watering the garden. My instinct is to wait till the plants look thirsty, maybe wilt a little. It's a habit from farming in the desert, which I am trying to fight against since water is so plentiful and cheap here. The plants really seem to respond to heavy watering with lush growth, but I also want to balance that with flavor. Tomatoes taste so sweet and unbelievably intense when they are grown on the dry side. Maybe I will increase watering to 3 or 4 times a week, and then taper off when the first flush of tomatoes start to change color.

Everything is growing fairly well so far, which makes me happy.

June 16, 2013

A Vegetable Garden in June Overview

Yay! The last bed in the garden is finally planted with winter squash, melons, and pattypan squash. I thought it would never happen but it is finally done. I also finished laying out the soaker hoses. Normally I overhead water but with the humidity here that encourages powdery mildew. I am really looking forward to a time when the only real chore is harvesting.

Here's an overview of how the garden looks today. Pictures of what is fruiting in the garden will be saved for another day.
The Cherokee Trail of Tears pole beans in the front have already reached the top of the 6 foot bamboo poles. They are far ahead of the Chinese long beans which are just starting to vine in the next two tepees.

There are two rows of okra to the right. The okra are growing ever so slowly. I had to replant most of them due to spotty germination. Luckily Stewart's Zeebest and Philippine Lady Finger produce fairly early.
You can see here the Chinese long beans are all eaten up and a bit stunted. I suspect ants are the culprit but have run out of diatomaceous earth to use against them.
Luffa is growing amazingly well. They don't naturally grow up the bamboo, I have to attach the first couple of tendrils to get them climbing. The vines trailing on the ground are sweet potato, they are interplanted everywhere in this bed.
This tepee contains bitter melon on the left and cucumbers on the right. The bitter melon has lots of flowers, alas they are all male flowers so no fruit yet. The cucumbers have lots of female flowers forming but very few male flowers. This lack of male cucumber flowers has weighed greatly on my mind. But the bitter melon, not so much.
Here is a picture of one of the tomato beds, there are 3 beds with over 60 plants. The tomatoes are doing well with many little tomatoes everywhere.
This bed has a mixture of bell pepper, sweet banana, jalapeno, Hungarian Hot Wax, and Santa Fe peppers. They are all starting to form blossoms and most of the hot peppers already have fruit.
It seems like it is going to be a banner year for eggplants. I have never had eggplants grow so well, the plants are bushy with gigantic leaves and many blossoms.
So, I was walking in the garden and a bird flies out from under the bush bean bed, then as I got closer a brown rabbit takes off from out of the same bean patch. Luckily, it doesn't look like there is any damage from wildlife and there are lots of little beans on the plants.

June 3, 2013

Giant Beetles Eating the Bush Beans

Big fat black beetles about an inch long and half an inch thick have been munching on the bean plants at night. I don't know where the bugs go during the day, but I mostly see them at night. Mostly.

I went ahead and dusted the plants with diatomaceous earth to see if that will kill the beetles.

June 2, 2013

Tomato Plants are Setting Fruit and the Eggplants and Peppers are Blossoming

I have been ill for the last two weeks with a terrible summer cold, so the garden has been neglected except for a couple instances of watering. Since feeling a little better, I spent Saturday and Sunday catching up on weeding. Even with a couple big rainstorms last week the vegetable plants are doing well, many of them blossoming or setting fruit.
The Paul Robeson tomato plant has set fruit!
The pepper plants are beginning to blossom. The only ones that haven't formed any flowers are the Cayenne.
The pepper blossoms belong to this Hungarian Hot Wax plant. Notice the sprouted mushrooms at the base.
Even the eggplants are blossoming. Amazing!
The purple stems and flowers belong to this Bangladeshi Long eggplant. Can you see the pulled up mushrooms?
Look, tiny fuzzy zucchinis on the Black Beauty zucchini plant. 
The Black Beauty zucchini plant isn't very large but it is forming lots of blossoms.
It is only the beginning of June and almost all the tomato plants have blossomed and most have already set fruit! That means I might be eating tomatoes by the end of June. I already know what I'm going to do with those first few fruits.

The eggplants and peppers are blossoming as well, which is amazing to me because the seeds weren't even started until March this year. That means it has only been 2 months since the seeds sprouted. The leaves on the Bangladeshi Long eggplant are 8 inches long, 10 inches counting the stem. Since we had a giant shade tree cut down in the backyard last year, the garden now gets about 12 hours of full sun a day. I am thinking the amount of sunshine is making a huge difference in the growth of the plants, plus the soil was highly amended and mulched this year.

I still haven't finished planting the garden yet. The lettuce starts need to planted in the ground. The winter squash, melons, and patty pan squash all need to be seeded. Hopefully, I can get all that done on Tuesday.