Hopefully my blog readers will enjoy what I'm currently doing with this site - alternating more detailed articles on some of my methods or projects with more briefgress reports and updates. Of which this will be one!
On a day like today (low 90s, no rain for a few days), the number of containers in the driveway (and lack of drip irrigation) make regular watering a must. And that is what I am about to do once I jot down this quick entry.
In the main garden, the back row is now cleared of beets and lettuce and ready for the indeterminate tomatoes that will go in this weekend. The double row of potatoes, now mulched back to soil level, are thriving, with vigorous, health vines. We are picking excellent summer squash, and the blueberries are starting to blush. We are pleased to see that our garlic is bulbing and scaping; I hope to harvest all of the Ajo Rojo this weekend so I can plant more beans. The front row of dwarf tomatoes are mulched, staked and caged.
In the driveway, a few tomato plants look a bit iffy (typical for each season - it is hard to bat 1.000!), but I am very pleased with how things are growing...if a bit mystified that the dwarfs in the black plastic grow bags are doing much better than those in the white grow bags. We've got tomatoes setting on a few plants, eggplants starting to blossom, many hot peppers with open flowers, and sweet peppers showing small buds.
Finally, the water scarecrow sprinklers may be what is keeping the deer away. For that or other reasons, they've yet to nip our driveway plants, even in the absence of any fencing. Strange, but positive news!
On go the "garden clothes", and off to water!
After the crushing heat and humidity of the past few days, the crisp, cool air that this morning provided just felt incredibly refreshing. And the beautiful day that followed provided perfect conditions to make some great progress in the garden.
So it was a day for: weeding (garden edge, garlic), picking (lettuce, beets, radishes, garlic), planting (the front garden row dozen dwarf tomatoes, some flowers and herbs), transplanting (Red Russian Kale and Swiss Chard into large pots to make room for more tomatoes), mulching (an area on the side yard behind the driveway, on which pots of flowers are now sitting), staking (all of the driveway plants in pots), and making some garden observations on a small audio recorder.
So what's left to plant in the garden? Two rows of beans, once the garlic is ready to pick, and two rows of indeterminate tomatoes in the back of the big garden. I've also got quite a few flowers to spread around here and there, mostly a few different types of Hibiscus, and red or salmon colored Salvia Coccinea.
Here we are in early June, and today and tomorrow are to be in the mid-90s with high humidity. But the garden tasks can't wait, so it is a matter of pacing yourself and moving slowly, finding shade for some tasks....and lots of water, and fruit breaks.
Here's the wish list of accomplishments for today: find a nice obelisk for our new Clematis (Lady Di), pull dirt and mulch over our second row of potatoes, stake up all of the driveway indeterminate tomatoes (20 climbs up and down the stepladder to hammer in those 8 foot poles)...and if enough time and energy, plant the front dozen Dwarf tomatoes in the garden and cage them. And for sure, give everything a good watering, if we don't get a hoped-for thunderstorm.
That leaves a few more tasks for tomorrow - mow/mulch, stake the driveway pots, plant some more flowers and herbs, and get to weeding the big garden. We also need to start picking more garlic and drying it for braiding - the garlic rows will hold bush beans. The final garden task will be to fill the back two rows with up to 40 indeterminate tomatoes.
Off to the Farmers Market to buy veggies and fruit!
Where did the week go? One minute we are at Sunset Beach, and...whoosh!...it is Friday and I am back lugging bags of Miracle Gro potting mix and filling Gro Bags! It was a busy week at work, but a good one, and we are looking forward to a relaxing (if HOT) weekend of gardening and making great meals with the greens, beets and squash we are harvesting.
One thing we did do this week that was incredible - another memorable concert at the North Carolina Museum of Art, where Sue and I were lucky to be in the front row center for the Buddy Miller/Patty Griffin concert. We knew nothing about Buddy prior to the concert, but he is an incredibly gifted musician, both on guitar and as a singer and song writer. Despite and lingering ringing in my ears (it is LOUD in the front row...), it was an event Sue and I will not forget.
So - the garden is coming together. Though there have been a few issues, most everything is looking pretty good, and today I finished the Gro Bag dwarfs in the driveway. There are some pics below of how the driveway garden is looking. Next jobs are staking all of the driveway plants (especially the indeterminate varieties), planting the garden front row dozen dwarfs, pulling dirt over the second row of potatoes (the initial mulch post-emergence), and then, clearing out the back rows and putting in more indeterminate varieties.
Take a look!
We had a lovely, relaxing few days at Margie's beach house - great walks, food, wine, conversation, weather. But such times are to be treasured and can be only on occasion - so it's back to reality (which, in truth, is pretty great too!).
Caitlin did a great job keeping the pots watered and alive during our absence - never easy when the plants are small and the weather so unexpectedly hot. Still, the first thing I did after unpacking was to get everything well-watered. I then took stock of how things look.
The good news - no deer attacks (except for a few calendula and zinnia in pots behind the water scarecrow, where the deer were out of triggering range). There was a pretty heavy storm that likely contained some hail while we were gone, which seems to be the reason for a couple of the hot peppers being cut off at the soil line. One eggplant was too small to make it. A few tomatoes are a bit touch and go. But all in all, things look great, and every year has a few lost plants. Tomorrow I will fill in the problems with substitute plants.
There is a big garden to-do list for the week....staking the driveway plants, completing the dwarf planting (after I get the next batch of grow bags and more soil less mix and cow manure) - then on to the big garden - mulching the second row of potatoes, weeding the entire garden border, planting the front dwarf row, and harvesting some garlic, beets, greens, radishes and summer squash - and perhaps some blueberries.
It's great to get away, but wonderful to be back home!
Brutal! Over the weekend I decided to get disciplined and delve in to the annual hot pepper seed saving extravaganza. I've grown quite a few hot peppers in the past, but really outdid myself this year - there must be nearly 100 different plants out there in the driveway. I have a better system this year - the plants are all numbered, so I went out with my basket, a pen, and a stack of coin envelopes - putting half a dozen or so hot peppers in each appropriately numbered envelope. The tricky part was arranging them in the basket so that none fell out (of course, with the quarters so close in the driveway garden, I managed to kick the basket once....fortunately, only a few were jettisoned from their envelopes, hence hopelessly misidentified. Off into the woods they went!).
This was also the first year using gloves, which rescued me from hours and days of intense pain. The amount of pigment and capsacin that accumulates on the gloves, knife, cutting board, and counter is remarkable. As is the variation of number of seeds, wall thickness, ease of extraction, and liquid content in each type of pepper. Add to that the acrid fumes that fill the work area and it is quite sneezing, coughing, eye watering good fun! The big surprise is the Fatalii cross that arose from one of my plantings. Fatalii is a Habanero relative, but one of my seedlings had purplish foliage, indicating a cross. The plant that resulted from this purple tinged seedling was a monster, 4 feet tall, well branched, with slender, 3 inch long colorful peppers (deep lavendar to yellow to orange to deep red, as they ripened) similar to a Thai type of pepper, and nothing like the wrinkled, bright orange fruit that Fatalii produces when in the pure state. As I cut those slender red peppers I expected nothing worse than the typical capsacin aroma from C. annum varieties. Imagine my surprise when the ripe fruity/cherry aroma and sneeze-inducing extreme heat of the Fatalii character filled the air!
Pepper seeds are easy to save from that point on - I loosely stack the just-extracted seeds on labeled paper plates, one type per plate. Our dining room table is strewn with the piles of plates. After a few days, I carefully separate the plates (a few seeds always get stuck to the bottom of the plates and care is needed to ensure they are released back to the correct plate!), use a business card to scrape the seeds apart and off of the plate and move them into a loose single layer. After a few weeks of further drying, they are ready to be placed into air proof containers (plastic or glass vials), labeled, and readied for next growing season or sharing with others.
So, here we go. My first blog...and I don't know where to start! OK - it is September 2 and the garden is nearly done (sad indeed). It seems to happen every year - one day every kitchen counter seems covered with tomatoes in various stages of ripeness (and decay, in a few cases), and the next we are wading through the weeds and tangle of vines in search of just a very few Sungold to snack on. One part we won't miss are the flies that find their way into the house, enticed by the lovely smell of fermenting tomato pulp in the plethora of styrofoam cups in the garage.
Actually I got very few Sungolds to eat myself this year (despite having two plants), as Sue loves to snack on them when she is out watering, or after her morning swim. I am not sure we could ever have a garden without Sungold. She did leave me ample Black Cherries, but, alas, the flavor really pales in comparison with Sungold.
I am not sure how disciplined I will be with updating this blog. There will be plenty of tomato, pepper, eggplant and other gardening information discussed as I ponder it throughout the offseason. It's not like I am ever at a loss for words - but being boring is always a risk! Those who find their way here, be sure to post comments, ask questions, say hello.....the whole gardening thing has been, and continues to be, a life-long journey for me. Each year I learn something new, make a few mistakes, but love the whole experience (well, parts of it, anyway! Cleaning out the garden...that's another matter).