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!
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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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