Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Autumn Approaches

Although autumn has not officially started here in the Northern Hemisphere, the signs that it is just around the corner are everywhere.  The weather is cooler, trees are starting to turn colors, and hibernating critters are frantically collecting as much food as possible for the coming winter.  The plants in my garden are showing signs that they are wrapping up for the winter as well.  Some dieing, others ripening the remaining fruit on their branches, and still others kicking into high production gear.  Everyday I head out to the garden now is a bit of an adventure, albeit in a different way from Springtime.

Once again, I neglected to post on here in a speedy fashion, and have actually been thinking about posting for quite some time.  I told Tom that it is almost like delaying a homework assignment, only there is no due date!  I guess my procrastination is showing.  How embarrassing!  Good thing I don't apply the same tactics to my garden work!  After the trimming of pumpkin leaves in my last post, it came to my attention that I should probably do a LOT more trimming.  So all of the pumpkin vines and both remaining zucchini plants got a major leaf cut.  After I was done, my garden looked naked.  Tom asked if everything was going to die because of all the trimming, and I assured him that things would be O.K.  He gave me the, 'I'm not so sure' look.  Everything has survived since the event though, so I think I am safe!

I did have to remove one of my zucchini plants today, but it was due to wilting leaves, not lack of leaves.  Basically it had the look of, "I'm done!", so I listened.  There is still one zucchini plant left in the garden, and it still has fruits growing.  I'll leave it there until it too tells me it's time.  I really hate pulling plants out, but I know it is for the best.  When they are done, they are done, and if they have diseases on them that is all the more reason to get them out of there.  With that in mind I also removed the Tumbling Tom Tomato plant that was out in the garden.  That poor little plant not only seemed to have stunted growth, but it also had a terrible case of septoria leaf spot.  All of the fruit it had produced ripened and was picked and it wasn't making any more, so I figured it would be best to remove it.  Especially since I still have healthy tomato plants out there with green fruits.  And my Tumbling Tom plant on our porch is doing great, so it wasn't really a loss.  I also trimmed a bunch of branches from the giant Mr. Stripey plant.  Basically I was hoping that by trimming some of the branches, it would force Mr. Stripey to focus on ripen his fruits, not continuing to get bigger.  No word on the success of said experiment yet, but I will keep you posted!

A funny thing happened when the temperature starting consistently being below 80 degrees Fahrenheit; the pumpkin flowers opened wide and stayed open, all day.  It was somewhat shocking to me, since I was only out in the garden at a time of day when it was hot out, but it does make sense.  Of course I expected to see many new pumpkins starting, but that hasn't happened.  There are a few more watermelons in the making, and many new flowers on both vining plants.  I am hoping that the pollinators stay around long enough, and the temperatures stay high enough for both plants to bring more fruits to maturity.  Pumpkins are a fall crop, so there is still plenty of time for them.

With lower temps, I figured the hot peppers would start winding down.  However, they are still producing new flowers!  That happened last year too, but I planted late last year, so it was expected.  This year, I guess I am just lucky.  I was very impressed by the Habañero pepper that started ripening just as the temperatures decided to dropped into the low 40's at night, and continued to ripen fully.  I have read that Habañero plants ONLY ripen in hot, hot weather with full sun.  Turns out they can ripen in 'cold', cloudy weather.  Of course I have only had one ripen so far, so we'll see if my theory holds out for the rest of the peppers.

My cayenne plants, which have had green peppers hanging on them for quite some time now, have decided to express-ripen.  Everyday I go out, there are more cayennes ready to be picked.  I am a little disappointed by this behavior, because my mom and I could have used these late bloomers a little earlier!  We made a batch of hot sauce that called for hot red peppers.  Well, I didn't have enough cayennes at the time for even a half batch, so we ended up making whatever-hot-pepper-was-around hot sauce.  And although we only used enough ingredients for six half-pints worth, we somehow ended up with ten!  Oops!  It was a fun experience though, and I am thinking this recipe will turn out better then the one we used last year.  We also got to use my great grandmother's sieve that she used to use to make apple sauce.  I hope she doesn't mind that we made hot sauce instead!

All of the other pepper plants, the jalapeños, Hungarian wax, Tabasco, Nu Mexico Big Jim, Peter pepper, pimento, and green bell, are still making flowers and new peppers.  One of the jalapeño plants and two of the Hungarian wax, seem to be done, but who knows.  A couple of the Tabasco peppers finally ripened as well, so I am just waiting for the rest of the 200 or so remaining Tabasco peppers to follow suit!  My two bell pepper plants on our porch are doing great as well.  The tequila pepper plant is still producing peppers, though I have picked quite a few.  The other plant has finally revealed its true identity.  I knew its mature color was not supposed to be green, so I have been waiting and waiting for at least one of the peppers to change color.  Turns out they are Hershey bells!  It only took them all summer to work that out.  I figure it is worth the wait though, and there are several peppers on the plant at the moment.  Soon I will have a bunch of purpley-brown bell peppers and nothing to do with them!  :-D

If you are still reading, I would like to say thank you.  Delaying blog updates is a bad idea when you like to elaborate as much as I do.  This would be an excellent time to get some popcorn or other snack if you have not done so yet.  A good snack might be peanuts; boiled or roasted.  To be more specific, Spanish peanuts.  In fact I may be able to help you in that regard.  Two of the three peanut plants I have in the garden appear to be doing what my little information card tells me is the signal of harvest time.  The leaves are turning brownish-yellow and upon digging with my fingers a short distance, I saw what appeared to be a mature seed pod.  Since I have never grown peanuts before, I want to be as sure as possible that they are in fact ready before digging them up.  However, I also don't want to leave them in the ground too long.  I have seen pictures of other people's harvested plants, and they have green leaves still.  This causes me more confusion and doubting.  I guess I should probably just dig one of them up and see what happens.  That way I will know for sure and can either harvest the other two plants right away, or let them stay out a bit longer.  I hate to harvest the 'tester' plant, and have it be not ready though.  Oh the dilemmas of new plants!

As far as interesting garden news goes, that just about covers it.  I did have the unfortunate experience of finding some sort of flying ant like insect swarming around one of my Chinese cabbage plants today.  I immediately stopped what I was doing and went to get my organic insecticide.  There was no way I was going to let those bugs have my cabbage!  Especially since the zucchini plants prevented all of my cabbage plants from growing earlier in the season, and they sat in limbo until I trimmed everything.  Now that they are growing correctly, I would like to be able to harvest them!  Still not sure it that is going to work out, but I can hope.  At least I know what not to do next year, and that is always useful.  And now I leave you to the pictures that I spent a great deal of time trying to par down, so that you didn't have an album of 300 or so to go through!  It may be my favorite part though!
^---Click Me!!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'm Not Dead! ... And Neither is That Pumpkin Plant

I said to myself, "I will post to my blog tomorrow, I promise!"  Well I said that several days in a row and then I got sick!  That further delayed the posting.  But the good news is, I am not dead!

After reviewing my last post, I realize that much has happened in the way of the pumpkins since August 18th.  The harvested Sweet Sugar Pie pumpkin that sat patiently on my kitchen table, finally got used.  My parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on the 22nd and got treated to a homemade pumpkin pie!  For this being my first time making a pumpkin pie from an actually pumpkin, I was trying to keep my expectations low.  Well, it turned out to be the best pumpkin pie I have ever eaten!  And to my surprise, the small pumpkin yielded one and a half cups pumpkin "gulp" (technically puree) in excess!  I essentially had enough for one and a half pies from that one small pumpkin.  Good to know, because the next pumpkin that will be harvested is slightly bigger.  Most likely a two pie pumpkin!  I may need to plan a dinner or dessert party.  Hmmm....

In addition to a possible event in my home centering around pie, I may have to find a bake sale or charity event (or all three!), because I keep finding more pumpkins that have gotten pollinated!  It is almost as if the plant knows that fall is just around the corner, and it has finally decided to start cranking out the pumpkins like there is no tomorrow.  And of course the Mega vine is still continuing its pursuit of garden domination, and has not only reached the fence opposite its starting mound, but it also continues to send out perpendicular mini vines!  I would not be surprised if it ends up using the entire garden space once the other plants have met their end.  The mystery remains as to how all these new pumpkin upstarts are getting pollinated, but I know it is not bumble bees.  I watched a bumble bee dance in front of two separate closed pumpkin flowers; smelling the nectar, but not being able to get to it.  Not to worry Mr. Bee, there are plenty of other flowers that are open and in need of pollinating in the garden still.  Though none quite so big and tempting.

There is one thing that may stop my Mega vine in its tracks and end its reign; powdery mildew.  The area around the pumpkin mound is well shaded and seems to be blocked off from most of the breezes that make their way through the rest of the garden.  This, combined with the wet and humid weather we have had all summer, has lead to what I call 'mosquito corner' and great conditions for powdery mildew.  In an effort to curb the spread and effects of the fungus, I trimmed a large number of leaves off of all three vines in mosquito corner, and sprayed all the other leaves with Bonide Copper Fungicide.  The rather short Batwing plant got the most dramatic make over, with almost all of its leaves gone.  When I was sick, my mom came up to help out.  One of the things she did was water the garden.  Although I was rather out of it, I was lucid enough to warn her that when she got up there, she would notice a TON of leaves were missing.  FYI, I did that, not an animal.  And not to worry, that pumpkin plant in the middle is not dead, it is just a little naked.  No plant resuscitation required!

And how about everyone else in the garden?  Well I have picked two of the three watermelons that were growing, and they are/were very delicious!  I highly recommend Sugar Baby watermelons, especially if there are a small number of people who will be consuming the fruits.  Since there are only two at my house, a large watermelon is just a bit too much.  In addition, my refrigerator can only hold so much produce, and we like to chill our watermelon before eating it.  They weren't joking when they said the Sugar Baby watermelons are 'icebox' size!  I think they would even fit well in a dorm fridge!  I am also happy to report that I have spotted two more watermelon fruit upstarts on the vines and flowers continue to pop up.  I am hoping they grow quickly and are able to beat the first frosts!

I also picked my first Nu Mexico Big Jim pepper, but have not tasted it just yet.  The rest of the pepper plants are pumping out more fruits on a daily basis, and are on my list of things to can next.  I also have several green tomatoes that are slowing ripening, and my zucchini plants just won't quit!  I await the yellowing of my peanut plants' leaves, which supposedly is the indicator of ripe peanuts, and suspect the color change will come with cooler days.  And despite what I have been told, my bean plants that were planted in May are still producing beans.  Apparently they are supposed to stop at some point before the end of summer and new plants are to be planted.  Well, two years in a row with two different species, I have gotten the same result.  Never ending beans!

And for those of you who are visual like me, Pictures!
^---Click Me!!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gunner, Borers, and Mice?

Before I even went outside today, I was greeted by the neighbor's dog, who came on our porch and looked at me with his sad eyes through the sliding glass door.  This has never occurred before, so I was a little confused.  I started to wonder if any one was home next door.  I even went out and gave Gunner some water, because he looked thirsty.  It turns out that the neighbor was 'home' (well one of the two anyway), he just happened to be socializing with yet another neighbor, outside the fenced-in portion of our duplex lawn.  So basically, Gunner was simply looking for someone who could let him inside and he noticed that I was visible from the glass door.  This was the first time that the cats got a close up view of Gunner, and Gunner of them.  Zephyr was curious, but somewhat apathetic, and Simon was curious and defensive, though not as bad as when there is another cat out there.  Gunner didn't seem to notice there was anything alive in the house other than me.  I guess he probably figured the cats couldn't let him in.  Well Gunner, I really can't let you in either, but I would at least be better at finding someone who could!

After I figured out that Gunner was not alone and would be O.K., I went about checking on what needed to be harvested.  I picked one zucchini and a few peppers, and decided to let everything else keep growing/ripening.  The pumpkin that is out there is showing a tiny bit of orange, and appears to be bigger than the other pumpkin pie pumpkin I harvested.  I guess that is a good thing, though there are no other pumpkins that have started.  I have seen many more shriveled remnants, but that is it. :-/  Even with the addition of more pollinators via my flowering oregano, there doesn't seem to be an increase in pollination.  I am not even sure how I would hand pollinate either, because the flowers don't really open.  I guess the ants aren't doing their job!

The other thing I am up against with the pumpkins are squash vine borers.  I read something that said they should be done by now, but I think the article lied.  When I was out Monday, I brought up my insecticide to use on the zucchini vine.  It was at that time when I noticed an adult vine borer in the pumpkin area.  I immediately sprayed it in the face!  I then went along the entire length of all three pumpkin vines (including the Mega vine which is most likely 40 ft long), and sprayed.  There does appear to be some damage on parts of all three vines, though not like on the zucchini plant that died on me.  I can't really tell if the damage is due to age or something else, so that confuses the matter as well.  And all three pumpkin plants continue to gain length as well as hold their leaves up, so I am thinking I may have prevented any major damage.  I sure hope so!  There is an added bonus too that the Batwing pumpkin plant I have planted off the porch has NO damage what-so-ever, so if all else fails, I will at least have Batwings for Halloween!

And in other critter news, I put out more coffee after seeing some slug damage.  The rain we got last week washed what coffee was there away, so there was a need to re-apply.  I also got treated to the nice aroma of coffee when I went out in the garden today, two days after application!  Mmmmm, coffee!  I then went inside and drank tea as I am not much of a coffee drinker.  It smells nice though!

My update on the broken air conditioner, is that it is no longer broken!  The A/C repair guys came out Monday and got us back up and running.  When they were finished, one of the guys came and told me that the reason the A/C broke was due to the mice who had moved into our outdoor A/C unit and made a nest.  They also chewed several cords and caused refrigerant to leak out (the mice, not the A/C guys).  In my moment of surprise, I didn't think to ask what they did with the mice.  I realized later, that that was probably best, because I don't think I wanted to know.  I am hoping that when they went and got our hose, that they were using it to 'scare' the mice out and then seal any holes.  I did not go out and look at the unit after they left.  That was on purpose.  We will stick with the mice alive and scared theory.

And the obligatory photos, because I habitually take them!
^---Click Me!!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mosquito Buffet

So our air conditioning decided to stop working this weekend.  And on Saturday morning no less!  So that meant it was the prefect day to go outside, since it was about the same temperature inside as it was outside.  Yuck!  And after two days of heat advisories, followed by a day of rain, I needed to go out and harvest things anyway!

I started my garden activities checking for ripe fruits and I found quite a few.  Jalapeños, poblanos, Hungarian wax, green bell peppers, zucchinis (yet more!), tomatoes (including one Big Boy!), and some more green beans.  I also decided it would be a good idea to spray the tomatoes again with my Copper fungicide, and to spray the squash plants, since they have some mildew on the leaves.  I wanted to get more insecticide on my cabbage, since they have actually been growing now too!  Because of the spraying, I harvested a few tomatoes that were orange-ish instead of red.  You need to wait seven days after spraying to harvest.  It is supposed to rain again by Friday, but that could always change.  Better get it done while there is sunshine.

Another interesting tid-bit is the strange dance I saw in my backyard.  It was evening, and so the sun was starting to get low in the sky providing plenty of shade.  This meant the mosquitoes were coming out in droves.  There is a steep hill between the house and the garden, so there is quite a bit of grass that is mostly undisturbed on a daily basis.  There, on the hill, I saw a swarm on dragonflies dancing around, mostly right above the grass.  I was in awe!  I have never seen so many dragonflies in one place!  I had to look up their diet to confirm what I thought was happening; mosquito hunting.  Because I have a movie function on my camera, I sat down in the grass and filmed it.  The dragonflies went buzzing past my head as though I wasn't even there.  It was crazy!  I can only hope they make a dent in our mosquito population.  I might have to make a sign that says, "Dragonflies Welcome!  Come get your free mosquitoes!"  Here is a link to the video for your viewing pleasure.  I wasn't really sure what to say, so I said, "Dragonfly swarm".  I feel a bit silly about it.  Oh well! Link--> Dragonflies!

And some photos too!
^---Click Me!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Canning, Pumpkins and a Frog

On Tuesday, my mom came up for more canning.  We decided to do more Zany Zucchini Pickles, as well as zucchini bread (baked, not canned).  The plan was to double the Zany and bread recipes in order to eliminate as many zucchinis from my fridge as possible.  Somehow we still managed to have some left over!  My mom had to leave early, so she was not around for the actual 'canning' part.  Which is unfortunate, because it was quite the experience!  

First, I did something a little different than normal.  Instead of warming the canning jars in water, I ran the dishwasher.  The instructions for canning say that that is a viable option, so I figured it would work out.  I also timed it so that the dish washer would be finished about the time I would need the jars.  So I got a couple jars out, filled them accordingly, and then went to put them in the water-bath canner (the huge pot in the picture above).  First jar went in fine.  Second jar made a sound like gun fire two seconds after I placed it on the rack inside.  I jumped, and swore, and then went to remove the jar.  That is when I started swearing more.  The bottom of the jar had blown off, so when I was lifting it out, the contents of the jar emptied into the water-bath!  I didn't know what to do.  Should I empty the water out and start over?  Or leave the icky water in, and just remove the chunks?  Since I wasn't sure if there were glass shards or not, I decided to empty the entire canner and start over.  To my surprise, the colander only caught one piece of glass.  It was almost as if a laser had been used to cut off the bottom of the jar; it was that exact!  And yes, I thought about that in the middle of all the insanity.  Must be the scientist in me!   

I guess the good news is I was finally able to finish the canning.  The bad news is, I had to wait for the water-bath to heat back up before I could process anything.  All in all an hour was added on to my project.  Not very happy about that.  Hopefully the pickles still taste ok, especially since there are 13 jars worth!  Cross your fingers!

And while all the canning drama was taking place, the zucchini bread was happily baking away in the oven.  It was a bright spot when the oven timer went off, and out came four perfect loaves of bread!  Tom and I ended up digging into one of the loaves right after he got home, because I was still finishing up with the processing, and we were both hungry!   I decided not to include that loaf in the above picture.  But there really were four!  I am happy to report the zucchini bread tastes fabulous.  Extra thanks to Aunt Sandy for providing the recipe.  Yum!

Because Tom and I were extra hungry and the kitchen was a mess, we decided to head out for dinner.  We went to Culver's (fast food burger place), and found a seat near one of the windows facing the drive thru lane.  As we were waiting for our food, I noticed something odd on the outside windowsill.  It was a frog!  First of all, the Culver's is right next to a busy highway that runs through the city.  Second, there is asphalt and pavement for at least a half mile in every direction surrounding the restaurant. And third, there is a pet shop in the shopping center directly behind the Culver's, so I was starting to think that someone did something cruel.  It was obvious that that frog was coming home with us.  Tom knows that look!  I wasn't going to leave that amphibian in the urban jungle!  (Zephyr, seen above enjoyed watching the frog.)

So we grabbed a cup and lid (with straw hole for air) and we rescued the frog!  I decided to do an internet search before releasing it in our backyard, because I wanted to make sure it was native and NOT from the pet shop.  Turns out it is most likely a Cope's Gray Tree-frog.  You may notice that the frog is green and not gray in the photo.  I was confused as well.  They can change colors from green to gray and back rather rapidly, and are normally green at night.  And they are native to Wisconsin!  Since it was pitch black out when I released the frog, I snapped this picture in the dark hoping that I would get the frog.  Success!  Tiny little thing!  Hope it eats some of the mosquitoes in our backyard!

And last but not least, I picked my first Pumpkin Pie pumpkin!  I am thinking one will be enough for a pie, but I have no idea.  Only one way to find out.  Will let you know!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fence Complete! (And a weather update)

Well Gary lied.  And by Gary, I mean Chief Meteorologist Gary of our local news .  Though he really cannot be blamed for what I assume was an accurate interpretation of the computer's weather data, so maybe I should say the computer lied.  Most likely it was just Mother Nature changing her mind that caused both the computer and Gary to come to the conclusion that it was going to rain every day this week, only to have it be sunny every day instead.  (Well, there was a light sprinkle for about 20 mins one evening, but I don't really count that.)  Regardless the lack of rain meant that, GASP, I actually had to water things!  And it was the first week all summer where conditions were actually less than ideal for the growth of fungus and other diseases.  Yay!!!  But guess what?  Gary and the computer are currently predicting rain Monday through Friday of next week, so we might be back to 'ideal' conditions soon. :-(  We'll see.

I made it to my local garden store earlier this week and had both my zucchini and Peter pepper plants diagnosed.  The lady told me that my zucchini was probably the victim of a squash vine borer, and that I should get that plant out of there before the others are affected.  She also said that my mildew prevention was a good decision, and to keep it up! With the high probability that a borer caused the death of my zucchini, I decided to spray all my other squash vines with the insecticide I have.  When I checked today though, it looks like one of the remaining zucchini plants may have fallen victim to a borer as well.  (The leaves are fine, but the main stem looks damaged.)  I will keep my eyes peeled, and for now, both zucchini plants have a good dose of insecticide on their base vines!

I also noticed earlier this week that the leaves on my Batwing pumpkin plant in the garden were starting to droop in a similar fashion to the zucchini that bit the dust.  The pumpkin plants were already on my "to spray" list, but I definitely got concerned.  I sprayed all three pumpkin plants and then decided to wait a few days to see if the Batwing plant improved.  Well it looked better today, so I am not entirely sure what is going on with it.  It is not 100%, but better enough that I have decided to leave it in there for now.  I would hate to have to pull it out!

My Peter pepper plants have a much happier ending then their zucchini friend.  It turns out that, yes, there is some type of bacterial disease on the leaves, but the fungicide I have should help with the problem.  It is also good to know that the fruits do not get affected, and so far the plants are still doing their thing, so let's hope it stays that way!  As I have mentioned before, there has been SO much rain this summer that diseases have been thriving.  I feel for the people who decided this year would be their first adventure in gardening.  They may decide not to try again next year!

I am happy to report that if it does rain all next week, my beet seedlings will be in heaven on earth!  I have seen new ones pop up everyday this week and they have definitely appreciated their daily waterings.  I am hoping this batch will thrive since the last one didn't make it.  I have been wanting to plant some more carrots and maybe some spinach or cabbage, but it may be too late.  I might just give it a try since I have extra seeds, and perhaps I will be successful.  Only one way to find out!

And where might I plant all these Fall crops?  Well I could rip up more grass if I really wanted too, because the fence is finally finished!  Tom was able to get out there today and he went to town.  The garden is now approximately 32 feet x 20 feet, give or take a foot.  Most likely give since we ended up widening it at the last minute.  We had 100 feet worth of fence that we planned on using to encompass the garden.  This does not take into consideration the 5 foot door that we left in place or the fact that Tom thinks there may have been a little more than 50 feet of fence on each of the two spools we had.  He did overlap the ends somewhat, but that still left some extra.  Since the measuring tape we were using only goes to 25 feet, we can't be certain at this time the exact measurements.  So like I said, 32 x 20 feet, give or take.  It is very exciting regardless!  And since there was some extra space, I had Tom bring up the oregano/basil bin to put inside the fence.  I wanted it up there because it is a super magnet for pollinators, and it seems that the reason a lot of my pumpkin potentials shrivel up and fall off, is because they are not getting pollinated.  Have no fear!  Oregano flower power is here!  Tom was NOT amused by the bees.  He wanted to wait for them to fly away before bringing the bin up.  I told him he'd be waiting forever.  He came trudging up the hill, bin awkwardly in hand, saying "The bees are following me!!!"  I thought to myself, "Well good!  That's what we want!"  But as I said, he was NOT amused.  Lol  No one got hurt.  We walked away sting free, and the bees didn't seem to mind the move one bit.  It was a win win!

And what would a post of mine be without pictures?  Enjoy!
^---CLICK ME!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bugs, Disease, Rain, and a Late Blight Alert!

Well we had a short break in the rain over the weekend, but of course it's back.  I was able to get a some things done while the sun was out for a few days.  Saturday I reapplied Bonide Copper Fungicide to my tomato plants since it rained on Friday, and I also sprayed my cabbage and beans again with Bonide Rotenone-Pyrethrins, to prevent flea beetle and Japanese beetle damage.  It's a good thing I decided to re-spray the insecticide, because when I sprayed the cabbage, flea beetles came out from the base of the leaves. Sorry fellas, dinner is NOT served!  :)  I also got to witness the lovely sound of Japanese Beetles hitting the plastic in the garden, as they fell after being sprayed.  I remember thinking, 'Yikes!  That was fast!'.  And since I was in a spraying mood, I reapplied Cutter Bug Spray to the lawn as well.  The neighbors were out of town on a camping trip, so I figured it was an excellent time to get out there a spray while they and their dog were gone.  That way the Cutter spray would have a chance to dry before Gunner, the dog, went in the yard again.  And I know the human neighbors will appreciate the reduction in mosquitoes!  So far there has been a reduction, but there are still quite a few out there.  No where near as bad as other places I have been to in Wisconsin though!

And speaking of destructive critters, I have two plant pathogens of some sort reeking havoc this year.  One is affecting my Peter Pepper plants.  It looks like some kind of bacterial infection, from what I have seen online, but I will be bringing some of the leaves into my local garden center to confirm.  I am crossing my fingers that it is something treatable!  The other peppers in the garden still look fine, but they probably have more resistance because they are not a novelty species.  The other problem is pictured above.  Something seems to have destroyed my zucchini plant!  The other two plants look fine at the moment, so I am at a bit of a loss.  I think it may be Powery Mildew, which is a group of fungi that can affect many plants. However, I had mildew on my zucchini leaves last year, and they didn't die.  In fact, they seemed to be completely immune!  And the fact that the other two plants are still doing fine is a bit puzzling.  If anyone has an suggestions, let me know!  (I did spray some fungicide on the zucchinis in case it is Mildew.  I think the plant in the picture is no more though.)

And while we are on a disease kick, let me bring to your attention the latest on Late Blight in Wisconsin.  As of July 23rd (the latest report to date), five counties have reported Late Blight on both potato and tomato crops.  Here are two links for more information! http://www.uwex.edu/ces/admin/2010_tomato_late_blight.html  http://www.plantpath.wisc.edu/wivegdis/

While there have been a few incidents of bad news recently, it hasn't all been bad.  Everything is still producing.  Even the 'dead' zucchini plant has a few fruits on it somehow!  Another good thing is the Pumpkin Pie mega vine has a couple new pumpkins on it that are actually getting bigger!  This is exciting news since most new growths would appear one day and be yellow and fall off a couple days later.  The current contenders have been on there for days and are increasing in size.  That is a sure sign that they are on their way to being full grown pumpkins!  

Another thing that I did that should help the pumpkin plants, including the two that are 'normal' size, is cover the "compost" section with black plastic.  This will provide the smaller vines with a better surface to expand onto, as well as protect any fruits from the sticks, hay and other random organics in the "compost" section.  There is an off shoot from the mega vine that was already in the "compost" section, so I guess it will benefit as well.  I tell you, that vine is INSANE!  Tom went out to check out the garden with me today and when I showed him where the end of the mega vine is currently, he said, "Wait, is this vine from ALL the way back there!?"  Yeah, it is.

In other news, the fence remains in limbo, but is trying to make progress.  I put markers out for the remaining fence posts, and started getting the ground ready so that the fence will lay flat.  I can't remove anymore old fence at this point, because if I do the garden will be a free access location.  Unfortunately I just don't have the strength to put the posts in, so I  can't put up the rest of the new fence without Tom.  After the rain ends, he said he'll be out there; with a massive coating of bug spray all over his body.  The mosquitoes REALLY love him!

I have a very limited photo gallery this time around, but it does show the pumpkin vine and a couple of the new pumpkins that are on their way.  Feel free to check it out!
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Canning and more Fence Removal!

Well the canning on Tuesday was a success!  My mom and I made Zany Zucchini Pickles and Pickled Beets.  The beet recipe came from the Farmer's Almanac and is supposedly a "State Fair Winner".  We shall see!  Even though we used 14 cups worth of zucchini, there are still several zucchinis left in my refrigerator.  I even gave some to my mom to take home with her, and some others to our neighbors!  And just today, I picked two more.  I hope to make some zucchini bread, but that won't make much of a dent in the supply.  I may have to do more canning!

In addition to the canning, I also did some work out in the garden this week.  I planted another round of beets after weeding and re-tilling the ground.  I had done a second planting earlier this summer, but it didn't turn out.  I am not entirely sure what happened (it may have been rabbits), but I am hoping that the extra tilling will help this time around.

I also did some work on the fence.  Mainly, I was just attempting to remove the old fence from the back part of the garden.  Since we are expanding in addition to putting in new fencing, there is a bit of a buffer between the old fence and the new fence by the watermelon and zucchini.  The new fence is still only halfway around, as we have not added more of the new stuff yet, but not all of the old fence has been removed.   It has been extremely difficult getting the old fence out, since it became buried over the years and is being held in place by grass roots.  That means that when Tom and I last worked on the project together, we just decided to leave the 'back wall' section of the old fence in the ground and put the new fence around it.  With the new perimeters it works out fine.  I would like to get that fence out of there though, because the zucchini plants could use more space.  Or more accurately, the plants that are being overrun by the zucchini could use more space.  Slowly but surely it will happen!

I will leave the rest of the update sharing to the pictures.  Enjoy!
^---Click Me!!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

New Fence, New Pictures, and Canning!

So I thought I had only neglected to post on here for about a week, and then I noticed that it has been almost two weeks!  Yikes!  I apologize.  In my defense, it has been crazy busy here, and the busyness is still on-going.  I expect the non-garden related stuff to be over soon, but with all the produce that is growing out there, I know I will be plenty busy with garden stuff!

After my last post about flea beetles, I discovered that there were young rabbits still managing to make their way into the garden.  Talk about maddening!  This prompted me to get more fencing since the current fence is very old and rusty, and is not even two feet tall in some places anymore.  I just wanted enough to encompass the cabbage and beets at one end of the garden, since that is were the dining was occurring.  Well, Tom decided we should not only redo the ENTIRE fence, but make the garden space bigger while we were at it.

So we went out and bought 100ft of 28in garden fence, as well as new posts to put the fence on.  We then spent two days working on it last week and only got halfway around.  I had an out of town event that I had to leave for last Thursday, and was hoping that Tom could do more work on the fence while I was gone over the weekend.  Well I returned on Monday to find no progress was made, and the fence is still only halfway finished.  The good news is that there are no holes and the rabbits seem to be gone... for now.  And Tom was not sitting around twiddling his thumbs.  He had to pick up our charge for the week: Willow the dog.  Yep, we have been busy dog sitting this week.  A new experience for cat owners who are used to sleeping in, and not having to take walks everyday.  Oh yeah, did I mention my parents are cat sitting for us?  We had to transport them to their temporary home as well.  Like I said, it has been crazy busy around here!

But how is the garden doing?  That is a great question!  I am happy to report the plants are doing well despite all the hiccups and the fence that remains in limbo.  Turns out plants keep growing regardless of the busy lives of their human tenders.  Good thing, or most of us wouldn't have gardens!  To prove how well things are growing, I have attached an updated album at the bottom of this post with pictures from July 19th through the 23rd.  I was unable to get out there yesterday (July 22), because of severe thunderstorms and thought I wasn't going to get out there today due to more rain in the forecast.  However, the bulk of the rain held off until about an hour ago, so I was able to take a few photos.  I was disappointed to see that the severe weather caused one of the main branches coming off my large Mr. Stripey plant, to break.  It was still attached to the plant, just ripped, so I repositioned it gently with twine, and then added additional supports. I also put two more tomato spirals in place, (one for the 'broken' stem and one for another large stem), that I probably should have put out there a long time ago.  I had a few ripped branches that survived and kept growing on my tomato plants last year, so I figured I would try to salvage the stem and see if it survives too. Unfortunately, sometimes something bad has to happen before you get your butt in gear!   Lesson learned.

Last but not least!  With all the produce that is becoming ripe, especially the zucchinis, I have decided it is time to start canning.  The calendar is marked, and my assistant has been called!  Next Tuesday, my mom and I will begin canning.  I will try and take some photos of that to post for your enjoyment as well.  Wish us luck!
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Early Blight and Flea Beetles

I am happy to announce my tomato plants are not only healthy, but are also protected against Late Blight and other related fungi as of today.  This is particularly good news considering what I learned at the garden store.  Apparently a LOT of people have been bringing in diseased tomato leaves to have diagnosed.  No Late Blight leaves yet, but plenty of Early Blight which means conditions are perfect for Late Blight to move in.  I also witnessed Septoria leaf spot, another common fungus, on tomato plants at my parent's neighbor's house, on my last visit.  While Septoria is rather easy to control, Early Blight is more difficult, and Late Blight requires you to destroy your plants.  The fungicide I picked up and used on my tomatoes today was Bonide Copper fungicide.  It is the fungicide I mentioned in my Late Blight post that is safe for use in organic farming/ gardening.  It is important to spray the entire plant from top to bottom, to the point that it is dripping.  This ensures that you covered the whole plant.  You also should spray at a time when the plant can dry, so sometime during early to mid day and not right before rain is predicted.  And be sure to repeat as directed for maximum protection!

The other chemical spray I picked up today was for my flea beetle problem.  For that I got Bonide Rotenone-Pyrethrins Spray.  It is also approved for organic gardening, and is apart of Bonide's Naturals line.  I technically could have used the Ortho spray I picked up for Squash Vine Borers, but it is not approved for use on the edible parts of the plant, and I needed to spray my cabbages.  It's a good thing I did that today as well, because when I went out to spray the tomatoes, two of my Chinese Cabbage plants had all their leaves eaten down to the vein!  Evil, evil bugs!  I feel terrible killing anything, even bugs, but it had to be done.  I just take comfort in the knowledge that there are exceptionally more insects on this planet then there are any other creature.  And since they have been around for millions of years, I doubt a few sprays of insect killer in my garden will upset the balance in the insect world.  Sorry bugs!

Because of all the bad news (bugs eating everything, fungus taking over), I decided there needed to be a bright spot in my day.  So along with the pesticides and other miscellaneous gardening items I purchased at the store today, I also picked up a replacement Roberto.  Roberto is our Ficus Rubber plant that Tom whisked away to his office at work.  Roberto was suppose to be a house plant, not an office plant, but Tom needed the air-cleaning qualities that Ficus plants possess.  Since there is probably no hope of Roberto returning in the near future, I decided to purchase Roberto 2.0.  If Roberto 1.0 ever does return, he will have a friend to hang out and purify the air with.  It feels cleaner in here already!

Tonights dinner with fresh from the garden zucchini!!  I had to share. :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

July 8th: Race for Garden Domination

Nothing is more exciting for a gardener than discovering that first blossom or first fruit on a plant you have put so much time and energy into helping grow.  And as anyone who grows several types of plants knows, everything has it's own blooming and fruiting schedule.  Well when I was out in the garden on Wednesday I was excited to find pumpkins already forming on two of the three plants!  However, my excitement was followed by confusion.  It is only the beginning of July, so I assumed it would be a bit longer before I saw any pumpkins.  After all, most people don't go pumpkin shopping around here until October, and there are farms were you can go pick your pumpkin straight out of the field!  And those are BIG pumpkins; I planted two small varieties!  If they have already started making pumpkins now, does that mean they will just keep churning out pumpkins till the fall frost does them in?  Will I have hundreds of pumpkins and nothing to do with them?  Will the plants produce so many pumpkins that they roll down the hill and bury the house?  I guess we'll find out!  Anyone want some pumpkins? ;-D

The discovery of the pumpkin fruits, made me wonder about the watermelon.  And sure enough, there was a watermelon fruit starting on the long vine as well!  That doesn't surprise me as much as the pumpkins, though I did think the vines would get a bit longer first.  I was hoping there would be plenty of watermelons, and it is looking like my wish will come true.  G-ma B will be pleased as well!

Good news/ bad news on the garden pest front.  First, the second application of liquid fence seems to be keeping the rabbits out.  Yay!  As long as it stays that way, I will be happy.  The bad news is I discovered there are Flea Beetles eating my cabbage.  The little buggers (pun intended) have put holes in my Chinese Cabbage leaves and are starting to munch on my Cabbage Babies as well.  I plan on asking the people at my local garden store what they would suggest I use on them.  The limited research I did do brought up so many choices that I decided I would just go straight to an expert since I need to go to the garden store anyway.  Will let you know what I end up with and if it works!

Last little tidbit.  The pumpkin and bean vines are competing in the Backyard Garden Domination competition.  I was unaware there was such a competition until both plants clearly showed me differently, with their excessive need for more and more space!  The question is, who will win?  (My money's on the pumpkin plants, but don't tell the beans!  They scare me!)  See the competition, and other photos, in the album below!
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tumbling Tom And Squash Borer

It is official!  The big Tumbling Tom tomato plant has made it into the garden.  When I removed it from the pot, I was somewhat surprised to see roots all the way down to the bottom!  Everything came out in one piece as well; no soil left in the pot.  I guess I assumed the size of the pot was WAY bigger than was needed, and that the short time the tomato would spend in said pot would not have allowed it to have roots that deep.  Obviously I was wrong!  I then took the pot and put the Mr. Stripey plant, which has been growing from seed, into it.  Since the Tumbling Tom plant used all that space, I figured the Mr. Stripey seedling would enjoy some extra room as well.  So far he seems to be loving his new home.  I am pretty sure he will love being in the ground even more.  As soon as he has some branches, in the ground he'll go!

And speaking of late bloomers, I put one of the remaining pumpkin seedings into a mound right off our porch.  Both pots that contained the extra pumpkin plants got knocked over by a naughty chipmunk.  I left the pots as they were since I wasn't going to be needing either plant.  Well, one of the plants died, but the other one not only didn't die, but it made flowers!  I felt bad for it, so I decided to plant it in the "sand box" next to our porch.  I had wanted to plant flowers there last year, and so I pulled out all the weeds and starting digging, only to find that below the small layer of gravel there was sand!  I also found sandbox toys, and a container for holding lost teeth shaped like a molar.  No teeth were inside, thankfully!

After finding these treasures last year, I went with plan B.  I already had a flower I wanted to plant there, so I just dug a hole in the sand, dumped in a bunch of soil, and planted the flower.  It did great, so that is where the pumpkin went this year.  I had some extra soil, so I gave it it's own mound.  At first the leaves, which were a bit yellow when I put it in the mound, started dieing.  But now there are new bright green leaves, and even the stem looks better!  I predict that it will be a bit late in it's production, but if we get an extended growing season like we did last year, there will be pumpkins into early October!

And speaking of the squash family, I was doing my normal walk around the perimeter of the garden before actually working in the garden, when I noticed a squash vine borer!  I was actually on the phone with my mom at the time (reception is better outside), so I didn't swear when I saw it, but she can attest I was rather upset and wanted to swear!  My eyes got as wide as they could and I probably had the look of wrath on my face.  I immediately reached for my scissors to cut the damn thing in half.  However, it managed to fall into a rather thick area of grass, and therefore escaped certain death.  I use the very evil 'cut in half' method on Japanese Beetles, because I don't want to spray all of my edible plants directly with a chemical, and because they tend to just sit there when I move in with the scissors.  Bad news for the bugs, but great news for my plants.

With the advent of the squash vine borer's appearance, and it's much swifter movements, I knew I needed more than scissors, so Tom and I heading to the Home Depot and got some Ortho Max spray that is safe for use on edible plants.  I then sprayed my zucchini plants, which is were I saw the bug, and will keep watching my pumpkins to see if I need to spray them too.  I really don't like to use chemicals unless I absolutely have too.  And one chemical I had to use again was the liquid fence spray.  On a separate occasion from the squash borer, I came out to the garden to find two rabbits inside the garden!  Luckily they did not do too much damage, but I immediately got the liquid fence spray and sprayed the perimeter of the garden when I was done working for the day.  Crossing my fingers that they stay away!

More photos of the garden's progress from July 1st!
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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Late Blight Warning!!!

Last year my tomato plants became infected with the Late Blight fungus, so I have been watching for any reports telling me to start prevention treatments.  Well, it finally happened.  It is extremely important for the home gardener in Wisconsin to treat their plants with an anti-fungal spray or powder, not only to prevent Late Blight on your own crops, but to prevent Late Blight from spreading to the commercial potato industry.  Not many people know that Wisconsin grows and exports potatoes every year, or that it is a big part of our farming industry, but it is right up there with dairy on the 'foods that come from Wisconsin' list.  There have already been reports in Michigan, so that is why they have been sounding the alarm for preventative measures here in WI.  

To see what Late Blight looks like on different parts of the plant with a descriptor, click on the "Managing Late Blight in Tomatoes" link on the above page.  You will need Adobe Reader or a similar program to see it. 

Late Blight used to only be prevalent South of Wisconsin, but it has finally made it up North and seems to be here to stay.  If you want to find out if Late Blight is affecting crops in your area, or about other plant diseases, I suggest contacting your local Cooperative Extension Office. You can find yours here: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ You'll want to look under "horticulture" when you get to the extension homepage if there is nothing right out in front.  Also, local greenhouses and garden stores that sell tomato and/or potato plants, should have information as well.  

Once the plant gets infected, it is very difficult to control the spread meaning you have to completely destroy your plants.  The anti-fungal products that work against Late Blight do best as preventatives.  Their success at control is limited, and they cannot get rid of the Blight all together.  If you have Blight infected plants you should pull them completely out of the ground and put them in a plastic bag to go out with the trash.  DO NOT COMPOST INFECTED PLANTS!  

If your plants are still disease free, then you will want to get a fungicide spray or powder.  They have Copper based products (like Bonide Copper Fungicide) that work well and are considered safe for use in organic gardening.  There are also other products like Bonide Fung-Onil Multi-purpose Fungicide that will not only prevent Late Blight on tomatoes and potatoes, but will also prevent and/or kill a bunch of other fungus based plant diseases on several different plants.  Either way, you'll be good to go!

PLEASE take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of Late Blight.  Your tomatoes (and neighbors) will thank you!

Things are Fruiting!!

I have been avoiding working in the garden as of late, because of the insane amount of mosquitoes we now have.  Due to the massive amounts of rain that have fallen on us this month, mosquito populations have exploded seemingly overnight!  Our local news station said that they should all die off in a couple of weeks without leaving millions of offspring, IF there is no more rain in the near future.  Well the forecast for this week looks dry so far, but that doesn't mean it won't rain again next week!  So in the interest of retaining as much of my own blood supply as possible, I sprayed Cutter Bug Control on the lawn.  I sprayed it Saturday, and when I went out today (Monday), I noticed a huge difference!  Thank you Cutter Bug Spray!  I was careful not to spray it in the garden, or even up in the air in a manner that would allow it to drift in and affect the plants.  It is not that I don't want to prevent bad bugs from being in my garden, but I would rather not consume chemicals that come with a warning label specifically telling me NOT to consume them.  Crazy, I know!

As the above title claims, things in the garden are fruiting!  One of the Jalapeño, two of the Cayenne, and one of the Hungarian Wax plants have peppers on them.  Many of the others have been flowering, so I expect they will soon have fruits as well!  And there are a bunch of zucchini fruits growing with a ton more flowers forming.  I think I will have to start my canning efforts before the end of July!  I also noticed my very first tomatoes of the season beginning on my "Husky" Cherry Tomato plant.  The other tomato plants in the garden are growing taller and taller with more and more flowers on every new branch.  They should have there own fruits forming very soon.  I brought the big Tumbling Tom plant out with the intention of transplanting it into the garden today, but after a good hour and a half weeding session, I decided I would save that for tomorrow.  It is rather big now, and I should be able to bury a good number of 'baby' branches while still leaving some foliage on top.  I imagine it will start growing insanely as soon as it realizes it has a ton more space!  I can't wait!

Another little adventure in gardening that I dabbled in this last week was SURPRISE! flower planting at my parent's house.  On the evenings of the 24th and 25th, Tom and I made a trip down to my parent's place to plant some annual flowers and to drop off the tomato and pepper plants I had been plant-sitting.  I should probably mention that Tom didn't actually plant anything, and was inside the air-conditioned house for most of the time we were at my parent's, but he did participate.  He was SURPRISE! updating my parent's computers as well as cutting the tomato cages so that they would fit in the pots.  So he did do something, it was just much cleaner, cooler work.  My parents were enjoying their final days overseas while we worked away.  They just arrived home Sunday and are pleased with what they have found!  You could say 'we done good'.  ;-)

I have attached two photo albums to this post.  One is of the flowers I planted and the other is a progress report on the garden.  Enjoy!

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rain, Rain, and More Rain! 6/22/2010

June 22, 2010:
Our wet and wild summer continues!  There have been storms and flash flooding with more on the way.  I have only watered the garden manually a couple of times this season, and it doesn't look like I will have to be watering it much in the near future.  And with all the water that has been dumped on my garden, I am amazed that everything is still doing so well!  There is one pepper, my serraño, that is not doing well.  Ironically it is wilted and looks like it needs water!  I am pretty sure that is not the case though.  I am holding out hope that it will bounce back.

I did get out into the garden today to do some weeding and stake the tomatoes.  I used tomato spirals for the first time last year, and I really liked them.  I put additional supports around the plant after it has grown more, but it seems to be easier for me to get to the produce and to manage the indeterminate tomato plants with the spiral. Of course you have to make sure you keep the main stem working it's way up the spiral, so if you have a ton of tomato plants, or not a lot of time to spend in the garden, you may want to stick with a cage or something similar. You can see two of my tomato plants on the spirals in the album below!

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Cabbage Nibbler

Bad news on the cabbage front. Turns out the blood meal didn't do the trick and more leaves got eaten. Some bean leaves are missing as well and carrot leaves. I decided to bring out the big guns; aka Liquid Fence Spray. I used it last year after I noticed nibbling and it seemed to help. The only issue is it smells horrendous when you first spray it, and last year I started gaging when I was using it. It dries odorless to humans, so that is good, but that initial application can be brutal! They suggest you apply it a couple of times the first month you use it as well, so I will probably have to go through it again. Because of my experience last year I wrapped my face in a scarf before using the spray. Worked like a charm! No gaging, though I did look ridiculous. I like the spray though, because it doesn't harm the animals or the plants, and it uses odor and bad taste to 'train' animals not to eat your plants. With the nice weed fence we have growing in and around the actual fence, it makes it even easier to apply, since all I have to do is spray the weeds on the parameter of the garden and that keeps bunnies and other culprits away!

I finished planting all the peppers bringing the total to 21. Two of my seedling peppers didn't make it out in the garden. I think they got flooded and it was just a bit too much for them. I bought replacements for them and planted them in their place. Luckily it was the two Jalapeño seedlings and not the Peter Pepper seedlings. They don't sell Peter Pepper plants anywhere around here, so I would not be able to replace them. The three Hungarian Wax seedlings are doing well, though they could be replaced if needed. They are continuing to get bigger though, so I think they will survive.

I have yet to put my Tumbling Tom tomato plant out in the garden, and there is space for at least one other tomato plant. There are actually two Tumbling Tom tomato seedlings that survived, but only one of them is getting bigger at the moment. I put a picture of it in the album below. Once it gets a bit bigger I will transplant it. I want it to be big enough that I can bury some of the branches after trimming them, so that the tomato plant will make more roots quickly. It is pretty neat that tomatoes can do that! Really helps them get a firm foundation right away. The other, tiny Tumbling Tom plant hasn't died, but hasn't really grown any more either. I replanted it into a bigger pot while also checking to see if it had any signs of damping-off. It's stem and roots are in good shape, so maybe the change in scenery will get it growing. I also replanted some Mr. Stripey seeds, and two seedlings emerged. It is now a race to see who wins the final spot in the garden, the tiny Tumbling Tom, or Mr. Stripey! Although Tumbling Tom had the leg up, I am betting Mr. Stripey will win this one. Feel free to start a pool amongst yourselves, and I will let you know the winner!

You will also see in the album that the peanut plants have started flowering! It is very exciting and fascinating, since I have never seen peanuts grow. At least I know they are doing well! Check out the beets and updated photos of my giant zucchini plants! I noticed there are some flowers starting to form on the zucchini as well, so that means soon I will have WAY too many zucchinis. Can't wait to start sharing them! And last but not least, the watermelon replacement I planted is doing well. That means the extra pumpkins are not needed. They hung in there well, but I am afraid I will have to bid them adieu! Enjoy the photos!

Monday, June 7, 2010

More Plantings in the Garden

Today I did quite a bit of work out in the garden and yet, as often happens, there were still things left undone. When it comes to gardening, the job is never done! But that is fine by me. :-)
I got all but one of my remaining pepper plants in the ground today. That included eleven plants I purchased at the store and three of my own plants that survived the damping-off debacle. That brings the grand total to 20 pepper plants, with one more on the way! I also got the replacement watermelon in the ground, so there are three watermelon plants in the mound once again! If the replacement dies off as well, I will probably put one of the left over pumpkins in it's place. There are two left over pumpkin seedlings, and they are desperate for more space! I have only kept them around in the event that they would be needed, so their days are numbered. Hang in there guys!

I also did some more weeding today and took some pictures of my plants' progress. Most everyone is doing well, which is great news! The weather this past weekend had me crossing my fingers, as it went back and forth between sun and torrential down pour Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was afraid that the tiny pepper seedlings I had gotten in the ground before all the rain, might get flooded and die. Luckily they survived and will hopefully start to thrive! Of course more rain is in the forecast, so I might have to keep my fingers crossed a bit longer.

There appeared to be more nibbles on my cabbage baby plants, though what ever is doing the nibbling is rather selective. Only a couple of the plants have had their leaves nibbled and those plants aren't even right next to each other! I put down some blood meal today in hopes that the smell will drive away the culprit. I have no doubt that the cabbage will enjoy the extra nutrients, so it is a win-win... if it does the trick! And speaking of nibblers, I discovered two caterpillars on my parsley plant over the weekend. Most people would probably remove the caterpillars, since they can do quite a bit of damage with all the feeding they need to do. I, however, have left them to their munching. My parsley plant is rather large and can definitely sustain me and two caterpillars. I did not post any pictures of them in the album below, but I will in a future album I am putting together that will feature the 'Friends and Foes' of the insect world. Yep, I like bugs!

And this is where I will leave you! Enjoy the photos.  (Click on the picture below!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bad News: Damping-Off

Well It has been awhile since I posted and a lot has happened!  Not all good stuff, sadly.  And since it is best to end on a positive note, let's start with the bad.

I started noticing around the week of May 25th that some of the plants out on the porch were looking a bit off.  The leaves were starting to yellow on the tomato and pepper seedlings, and so I did some online research and decided that it was a lack of nitrogen.  Well it turns out that was not the problem.  What was actually occurring was a process called 'damping-off'.  Basically what happens is a fungus develops and causes the stem of the seedling to die.  I actually had to dig into the pots a bit to see the part of the stem that was wasting away.  Most likely I was over-watering, which created the perfect conditions for fungus to grow.  I should also mention that the yellowing of the seedlings was my only clue, since the fungus is not visible.  If there gets to be a large amount of fungus, then you would be able to see it, but that is normally long after the plants have died.

So in short, I have lost SEVERAL of the seedlings I worked so hard to grow.  Since I had such great success last year, In am sort of scratching my head as to how this happened this year.  It is probably a result of the very humid weather and the large amount of rainfall we have had this year.  Last year it seemed like the rain was taking a vacation!  And even though the seedlings were under the overhang of the roof, they still got wet when it rained.  I will definitely be more vigilant next year!

But not all the news is bad.  I transplanted three bell pepper plants into big pots that they will be in for the rest of the season.  Luckily they were still in good shape when I transplanted them on May 27th, and they have yet to fall prey to over-watering or fungus!  I also transplanted some of the Aquilegia flowers and planted Zinnias as well (also on May 27th).  I am happy to report that the Aquilegia are still doing well and the Zinnias have come up!  I continue to monitor the sunflower seeds I planted in the back, but have not seen much in the way of seedling growth.  It is sort of hard to tell with all the weeds that seem to be popping up everywhere!

Because of the sad state of affairs involving the death of many of my seedlings, I made the decision to purchase replacement plants from the store.  In the tomato department I got two Big Boy plants, one Mr. Stripey, and one cherry variety called Husky Cherry Tomato.  I also purchased two replacement plants for my mom, since I had planted some seeds for her as well.  There is a chance that a few of the surviving seedlings I planted will get big enough to also put out in the garden, so I did not buy enough replacements to take the place of all the tomatoes and peppers I planted.  In the pepper department, I got one Jalapeño, one Hungarian Wax, three Long Slim Cayenne, two Habañero, and two varieties I did not plant myself; Tabasco (two plants), and Serraño (one plant).   I was able to get all four tomato plants in the ground today, as well as the Serraño, Jalapeño (one from the store; two of mine), and the two surviving Peter Pepper plants I had.  The rest will be planted as soon as I can get it done.  I am hoping that is very soon!

And one last thing before closing off this post (and going to bed!).  Well maybe two things. :-)  I forgot to mention earlier that I purchased new gardening gloves.  Normally this is not that big of a deal, but I LOVE them!  The ones I had last year were used to the point of falling apart, so it was not that I didn't like my old gloves, it was more that I just really needed some new ones.  I decided to try something a little different than the rubber dipped gloves I had last year.  The new ones are still dipped, but they are dipped in Nitrile. ( Atlas Nitrile Gloves  )  The information said that it is like you aren't wearing gloves, or being "bare handed", and I would say it is pretty close.  The gloves do not have nerves though, so I would suggest handling tiny seedlings with your actual fingers.  Something that is much nicer than my last gloves, in addition to the "bare-ness", is they aren't obnoxious when they get wet!  I can literally spray my gloved hand with the hose, and I don't have the take the gloves off because of heaviness or water pooling.  It is great.  They also seem to clean off easier since the Nitrile is smooth, and doesn't have the built in grooves of the rubber dipped kind.  I know I sound like I am getting paid by the Atlas company, and if they want to pay me I am all for it, but I just really love these gloves!!

And that other thing?  Well photos of course!
 ^-----CLICK ME!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Zucchini + Radishes = Love; Plus More Outdoor Plantings!

Although it was REALLY hot and humid today and ever threatening to pour, I still was able to get some work done in the garden.  I worked until I felt the first drops of rain, and was lucky enough to get in before the downpour and thunder!  I had hoped I could do some planting in the pots on the porch today, but I guess that will have to wait.  Everything I did today was out in the garden.

I started with some more weeding with a focus on the beet rows and the area where I wanted to put the peanut plants.  I also harvested a bunch of radishes from the beet rows, to give the beets more room.  (At left you can see the radishes.)  I have found, especially with root plants, that once you harvest them, you need to get them in a cool setting as soon as possible.  If you don't they will start to go limp on you.  I sprayed the radishes with the hose to remove excess dirt, brought them inside, cut off the stems, and put them in the fridge.  Because of that, they are nice and firm still.  Now I just have to trim the excess root and they will be ready to eat!  I will probably give them another washing as well, just to be safe!

After I got the radishes taken care of, I moved on to planting the pumpkin, water- melon, and peanut seedlings.  The picture on the right is pumpkins.  There are two Sweet Sugar Pie plants, and one Batwing pumpkin.  The Batwing is ornamental, so I figure I am safe with just one vine.  We will see if I am correct!
Next we have the water- melon.  I had four seedings, but as you can see, I only planted three.  I will keep the fourth for a little longer in case one of the three I put in the ground doesn't make it.  That happened last year, and I was very glad I had some back ups!  I have some back up pumpkin seedlings as well, so I am good to go.  There is nothing worse than putting a lot of time and effort into your seedlings just to have them die after being transplanted!  And in some cases, there is no discernible reason as to why one or more of the seedlings fail.  That is why it is helpful to have extras!

My final project for today was to get the peanut plants in the ground.  Once again I had three plants, but I only planted two.  The main reason this time was lack of space, but it still provides me with a back up especially since I have never planted peanuts.  I had to clear the entire space shown above of a prosperous weed forest.  I then made two mounds and planted the peanut plants in them.  The mounds are mainly for added drainage, and are optional.  I figured since the directions say you can put them in mounds, it seemed like the best option.  Anything to aid their growth!  What is not pictured is the hay mulch I ended up putting around the peanut hills.  The rain started as I was just finishing that step up, and I wasn't about to expose my camera to the elements!  You will have to use your imagination. :-)

In other news, the cabbage baby seeds I planted directly in the ground came up!  The photo shows two different ones.  They sort of look like butterflies at the moment.  Very exciting!  Three of the zucchini seeds I planted on the 20th are up as well.
I expect them to get insanely large like they did last year.  I will be planting some radishes in the zucchini mounds (something else I didn't get too today because of the weather), and letting them go to seed.  Last year I unintentionally allowed two radish plants to make flowers and eventually seeds.  This occurred next to one of my zucchini plants, and it turns out that is a good thing!
My compainion gardening book, "Carrots Love Tomatoes" by Louise Riotte, states that planting a few radishes in your zucchini mounds and allowing them to go to seed, aids the growth of your zucchini.  Something the book doesn't mention, is that it also gives you an insane amount of radish seed!  Last year I allowed the seed pods to dry out a bit before pulling up the whole plant and bringing it inside to dry completely.  Now I have tons of radish seeds, and have already put some to use.  It is also kind of fun to watch the seeding process of radishes, so that is an added bonus!

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny, so I will have to get back out there and see what else I can get done.  And, as always, I will definitely be taking more pictures!