May 30, 2016

Around the Garden and Tomatoes in Bloom

I wanted to show some pictures of this and that in the garden, yesterday was another 95 degree sultry day (35 Celsius) and it's not even summer yet. Here's a Pink Berkley Tie-Dye in bloom. They produce large delicious tomatoes that are purply-pink with beautiful bright green striations. For such a large tomato it is usually one of the first to produce ripe fruit, usually right behind Paul Robeson, a tasty but much smaller tomato.
Black Krim is also blooming. One aspect of growing primarily heirloom tomato varieties is that the pistil, the female portion of the flower, can stick out past the stamens where the pollen resides. So the flowers won't necessarily get pollinated unless by a insect pollinator or by mechanical means such as wind, or in my case in the mornings I go along lightly tapping the plants with a bamboo pole to encourage the pollen to drop onto the pistil. Once I started doing this there seemed to be a lot less flower drop from the tomatoes.
The newly planted Sun Gold cherry tomato is also forming flowers. Just about every tomato plant has blooms except for the ones especially stunted by flea beetles feeding on them.
Even the notoriously late fruiting Pink Brandywine is forming flowers. Actually Brandywine ripens fairly early for me, but our summers are hot hot and humid which Brandywine seems to enjoy.

About half the tomato plants ended up being killed by birds and replaced with my extra 'emergency' plants, and 23 plants were given to friends and coworkers this year. Once soaker hoses were set up in the garden, all bird activity ceased. Maybe they think they're snakes or it's later in the season and more food is readily available.
A little pole bean is getting close to the top of its trellis on its way to the sky.
A beautiful carrot bloom. The bees are too besotted by the sweet clover to pay any attention to the carrots.
A buddy of mine gave me a couple of Crimson Sweet watermelon plants which were planted beneath the tomatoes. I gave her a bunch of broccoli plants, who got the better deal? :)  They've already formed their first tendril and it looks like they're starting to vine.

I'm also growing a yellow-skinned white-fleshed Korean 'Ginkaku' melon that's supposed to be sweet sweet with crispy flesh, they are just starting to get their first true leaves and will get planted under the eggplants and peppers.
Big dog footprints. They are everywhere in the garden, he/she actually smashed one of my eggplants. It'll be fantastic when the fence gets put in.
Pretty pretty zucchinis, I can't wait for the bounty of summer.
Both types of zucchini I'm growing this year are Italian varieties: Striato D'Italia and Fiorentino.
Eggplants are much loved by flea beetles. Awhile after watering I dusted the eggplants and broccoli with diatomaceous earth.

The heat and humidity is already setting in and it's not even summer yet! Early morning and the temperature is already 85 degrees. Ugh. I'm about 2 weeks behind in planting and the tomatoes are 2 weeks behind in blooming, looks like we'll be getting the first ripe tomatoes at the very end of July. Mayhap the hot weather will help them along.

Once nighttime temperatures get above 75 degrees, most peppers won't set fruit. So I need to get them in the ground now. The first flush of flowers need to set before it gets too hot, otherwise it'll be the end of summer before we get any peppers. No peppers will definitely interfere with our salsa making plans.

May 26, 2016

Almost Done Planting the Vegetable Garden

It's been so hot this week, 95 degrees Monday and 91 Tuesday (33 Celsius). This is the point where I have to get plants in the ground, otherwise they'll perish from thirst while I'm at work. It's supposed to rain the next few days and then straight back to 90 degree weather. I managed to plant 18 sweet peppers which are sharing a bed with the eggplants, but there's still a whole bed of hot peppers or chillis left to plant.

I was going to get some pictures of tomato blossoms forming and planted peppers, but I missed my chance before the rain.

There was an incident where an animal dug around the pepper tray dispersing seeds left and right, but I think I can differentiate the different pepper varieties by growth habit and leaf morphology.

Sweet Pepper Varieties:
Jimmy Nardello
Carmagna Rosso
Corno Rosso

Hot Pepper Varieties:
Numex Joe E. Parker
Numex Big Jim
Aji Lemon Drop
Santa Fe Grande

I found some blossoms developing on a few tomato plants, looks like a race between Black Cherry, Sun Gold, Jersey Giant, and Goldie. In prior years Paul Robeson is usually the first tomato to ripen. And in other news, I squished 7 flea beetles on the eggplants... So it begins.

Once the hot peppers are in, there's only winter squash, melons, wax melon, and okra that need to be seeded in the garden. And some basil and more Asian greens that'll need to be transplanted. Then it's just watering and weeding and watching things grow. Soon I'll just puttering about in the warm days of summer, instead of the frantic gasping springtime rush.

May 23, 2016

Planting Eggplant Seedlings in the Garden

Eggplants were planted today in the garden. They're a  mixture of Asian, Italian, and Middle East varieties. The 16 eggplants were planted about 18 inches apart which only filled half their bed so sweet peppers will fill the rest of the bed.

I had re-seeded a few of the eggplants due to low germination, so there's a bunch of 'extra' seedlings that are barely more than cotyledons.
Aswad eggplant

The peppers didn't get planted today. I was a little sore after spending yesterday in the garden, so my working pace was slow.
Purchased Crookneck yellow summer squash. 

But I did manage to get the summer squash and zucchini seeded and laid down some soaker hoses. I did give in and purchase a little container of Yellow Crookneck. The lure of early squash harvests was irresistible.
To the left is the newly planted and seeded row of zucchini and summer squash. Underneath the mulch the clay soil is still pretty wet and still cool.

That big swath of weeds to the left will get tilled in and mulched once we get a fence put in. I'll be giving an accounting of the exact varieties planted in the garden later this week.

May 22, 2016

Bush beans Have Sprouted and Replacing More Tomatoes Due to Bird Damage

The bush beans have been sprouting. So exciting. There's 2 rows of snap/French beans and 2 rows of dry beans. But the Black Turtle beans are a complete no show. Bummer.
Yesterday I replanted 22 tomato plants that were destroyed by critters. So in all, I've had to replace 44 tomato plants. It's mostly birds I see in the garden so I always blame them.
Funny enough, the tiny emergency tomato plants have gained quite a bit of size so they're actually good sized plants.
Flea beetles have been going nuts on the tomato plants, sucking so much life out of the plants they actually haven't been growing. The weeds that the flea beetles normally feed on are gone and the eggplants haven't been planted yet, so I've had to dust the plants with diatomaceous earth. I managed to crush about 2 to 5 beetles on each plant before I dusted them.

Now that it's supposed to be dry for a week, the diatomaceous earth should work. Hopefully.

May 21, 2016

Transplanting Asian Greens and Kohlrabi in the Garden

Cold weather damaged Brussels sprout.

We had a few days of cooler weather that seemed to have damaged some leaves on the brassica plants. Most of the leaves that have turned red have started to dry up and fall off.
Broccoli plant touched by cold.

I wonder if the plants affected by the chilly temperatures will be stunted. I have emergency seedlings that were protected on the south side of the house, so have been debating whether I should replace the plants that were affected by the cold.
Fung Jen Chinese cabbage.

I spent a few days last week planting Asian greens and kohlrabi here and there amongst the broccoli and Brussels sprouts. It was really easy and kind of fun transplanting the little seedlings in whatever space I could find, there must have been close to a hundred that were transplanted.
A pretty Tatsoi seedling.
Little little Yu Choy.
The tall and stately Mibuna.
I'm growing to new varieties of kohlrabi, Kolibri and Winner, in the hopes of getting a sweeter and bigger kohlrabi.
And the crazy eyed Mizuna.

It's been rainy and overcast this week, so the perfect time to plant out young seedlings into the garden. Next week it's supposed to be in the 80's (27 degrees Celsius), I'm going to try to get all the peppers and eggplants planted in the garden tomorrow. After that there'll only be squash, zucchini, melons, and okra left to plant.

May 14, 2016

An Update on Trellis Plantings

Pole beans have finally started vining. They do seem to take awhile, gaining some size with their first true leaves, before shooting straight up to overtake their poles while on their way to the sky. The dry pole beans seem to have faired better, germination wise, than the snap/green pole beans which had to be re-seeded in places.

I'm growing 3 types of dry beans: Old Mother Stallard which are a beautiful burgundy and white swirled bean, Spagna Bianco a very gigantic white Italian bean, and Lingua di Fuoco a Borlotto type bean.
This is a bitter melon seedling, very pretty with its bright chartreuse coloring. These have been seeded since May 1st, but it took two days in the 90s (32 degree Celsius) before they decided to pop out of the ground. The young green fruit can be shockingly bitter, but as they ripen to yellow/orange their insides sweeten. Eventually the ripe ones will split open showing their vivid scarlet insides and spilling their seeds to the ground.

Most people eat the bitter green fruit cooked. I've seen it scrambled with eggs but my grandma stuffs it with ground pork, mushrooms, and glass noodles before boiling it.
Luffa seedlings look just like cucumber seedlings but on steroids. Their vines are rampant but I just let them run on neighboring trellises or fences, and their fruits can be huge.
The true leaves on loofa even look like cucumber leaves. And their fruit are just scrumptious. One of my favorite vegetables ever. Just lightly sauteed with garlic and salt, it's just so good. I haven't had much success growing it, so am trying for a third year. I usually only end up with a couple fruits by the end of the season, I have a feeling they're fruiting is daylight sensitive.
I used up some ancient cucumber seeds while planting the trellises, and of course the oldest seeds didn't germinate. Only 3 out of 6 varieties decided to sprout, so I purchased some more cucumber seeds and replanted a couple trellises. Fresh cucumbers are one of the pleasures of summer, right up there with green beans and tomatoes for me.

The plants don't last long because of the various viruses spread by squash bugs that always infest the plants by the end of summer. But its always a joy when they're around.
A few of the snap beans are starting to vine as well. I was afraid Rattlesnake had rotted in the ground but after those two 90 degree days they've decided to come up. I had even started replanting the trellis with Greasy Grits beans before I noticed.

The other two varieties I'm growing are Meraviglia de Venezia a yellow type which is supposed to be very early, and Smeraldo a green romano type. I do like my fat snap beans.
There's beetles that feed on bean plants in this area. They come out at night. Mostly.

I've also seen little holes around the bamboo poles and little foot prints which could be squirrels.
Between tomatoes and broccoli I've had to replace 32 destroyed plants. Almost 20 tomatoes. Just today I replanted 5 tomato seedlings and one broccoli, although there's another broccoli that probably needs replacing. It's a good thing I have so many extra plants.

There must be a different flea beetle that bothers tomato plants. Luckily tomatoes grow fast enough they seem to be less affected by the damage, compared to eggplants.
Half of the broccoli seedlings have been replanted. Big sigh. My husband cut some bamboo poles for me so I'm going to be setting up floating row covers in the next few days.
But the Brussels sprouts are doing really well. They're much bigger than last year upon being set out. Last year was my first time growing them and it was a big bust. Sad sad water deprived plants. They're right next to the broccoli this year so I'll be keeping them well watered.
Aphids and flea beetles have found my seedlings so I've been dusting with diatomaceous earth. I spent some time today repotting pepper plants into individual containers. You can see how tiny some of them are to the left of the tomatoes. I had to re-seed a bunch of them due to low germination. A few of the plants have weird crumpled leaves, distorted by aphids feeding most likely.

May 9, 2016

Tomato, Broccoli and Brussels Sprout Seedlings Planted in the Garden

A tomato plant nipped at the stem, most likely by birds.
The tomatoes, broccoli, and Brussels sprout were planted in the garden on May 5th and 6th. And immediately birds and animals started doing their thing. So far I've lost 17 plants: one Brussel sprout, 6 tomatoes, and 10 broccoli. Maybe it's a good thing I started so many plants from seed to begin with.
These are the 3 tomato beds. In the back I hung aluminum pans from the bamboo trellises in an effort to ward off critters with noise and reflected light.  But yet the devastation continued.
A broccoli bed on the right and Brussels sprout bed on the left. I've been replacing the plants as they get destroyed and today I went and bought a bunch of pinwheels and stuck them around the beds. If this doesn't help, they'll have to be covered with Agribon row cover till the plants are big enough to withstand larger animals.
The 21 broccoli plants were spaced 2 feet apart (0.6 meters). I was reading a garden forum and they talked about spacing broccoli a foot apart which resulted in more main heads but little side shoot production. I might try that for fall planting and see how that goes.

21 Brussels sprouts also got planted with the same two foot spacing. Online they were saying sprouts need to be spaced 3 feet apart which sounds like a lot to me. I just can't imagine them needing more space than broccoli plants.

There are 6 rows of tomatoes with plants 18 inches apart within each row and rows are 2 feet apart. I did a major goof, after planting half of the first bed I realized I'd forgotten to add crushed eggshells and coffee grounds to the planting holes. So those tomatoes weren't amended. I'll also be top dressing with epsom salt.

I was talking to a friend who actually farms on shared family farm. Last week every single one of his tomato plants were eaten down to the nub by deer. He had to replant them all. And then he strung up an electric fence.

May 1, 2016

Tomatoes and Brassicas All Potted Up

Since the ground has been too soggy to do any planting, I spent the weekend re-potting the tomatoes and a few tiny eggplant seedlings into individual containers. Hopefully the garden will dry out by the end of the week and I can get some planting done by Thursday and Friday. I've been saving eggshells and coffee grounds all winter, so there should be enough for each tomato, pepper, and eggplant to get a nice sprinkling in their planting hole.
I found this grocery store sweet potato sprouting in the kitchen, so it's spending time outside suspended in water. Once some roots form, the starts will get planted in a couple big pots in front of the porch. My sister in-law said she did this last year and got 20 pounds of sweet potatoes from a single planter.

There's a couple Crimson Sweet watermelon plants a friend gave me hiding behind the sweet potato.
I've been re-using these styrofoam cups for years. The plant labels are made from yogurt container lids, rubbing alcohol should take the permanent marker right off so I'll be able to re-use them too.
The broccoli and Brussels sprouts got re-potted last week. I still have no idea when's the best time to plant Brussels sprouts. My friend keeps telling me they need to be started in June or July to ripen in November, but they're just so slow growing. And the winter light is so weak, I can't imagine them growing much once fall hits. But I'll go ahead start a few in early summer just incase.

That's eggplant and peppers in the back-right, I had to re-seed a few varieties which are still sprouting.
Today, I started some Italian basil, Siam Queen basil, cinnamon basil, kohlrabi, Simpson lettuce, Chinese leek, mizuna, tatsoi, mibuna, pak choy, choy sum, gailaan, and Korean melon. I usually plant basil in the pepper patch, peppers are just so well behaved they don't seem to over-power other plants.

My husband has been giving me a hard time about the number of tomatoes and broccoli I started. He's right, but a lot of the seeds were ancient and I wanted to make sure there were at least 2 of each variety. But unless I want on a garden made up entirely of tomatoes and broccoli, a lot of them will have to be re-homed.

Tomorrow my partner is installing a dishwasher. In the 17 years we've been married we've never had a dishwasher, except for a small on-the-counter one which lasted just over a year. I'm so excited!

I wanted to mention. This year has been the year of the clover. Clover is carpeting the ground and blossoming everywhere with their pretty pink or white pompom flowers. The last time this happened I had an epic gardening year, tomatoes and peppers abounded and eggplant plants grew 5 feet tall. I am very hopeful.