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!!!