The days (and weeks) are flying by so fast...my intention is always to write about something each day, but that's not how it is currently working out.
So a few odds and ends....on Monday Sue and I took a walk in the Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, and it was well worth it. We finally got to see some of the earliest flowering trees in bloom. Sue is blogging about it, along with some nice pictures - I will post a link once she gets to it. I suspect most people miss them, but the flowering nectarine and apricot trees are just stunning. The other star of the day was the various Hellebores.
As we walk around our neighborhood, it is clear that the flowering fruit trees everywhere are about to burst into bloom - perhaps due to the recent warm days. I just hope that a surprise frost doesn't come in and nip them, turning their blossoms brown...something that seems to happen quite often here.
I am pretty pleased with what I've germinated so far, in terms of percentage and health. I will provide a full update in a blog entry soon.
The 2011 Northern Hemisphere part of the Dwarf tomato project is underway - all seeds are now distributed and it is all about waiting for the many reports that will come in. I am just about to tackle the challenging task of finalizing my own grow list for the year, and hope to get my seasonal experiments planted tonight - tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Again - topics for future blog entries. And tomorrow I hope to start transplanting lettuce and greens.
In editing/watching these, the heat makes me sound like I am dragging myself around! Oh well...you will get the idea. I will do a series of these, starting with an overall (not very exciting, but it does have the sounds of nature) update done during storm.
It's been a busy week and I've had less time than I would have liked in the garden, so (as usual in the middle of the summer), I am falling behind on some things. Today was a bit of a catch up day - got everything well watered and a few dying tomato plants replaced. And Sue and I went through and picked everything that was ripe (I did find some summer squash that were well on their way to being weapons....). Following is a bit of a review, crop by crop:
Bush Green Beans - got a good picking from the initial short row planting, and the other two rows are looking good (one is now flowering). We got a bit of weeding done in the picked row, but need to do more.
Basil - ready for a good Pesto making session - we went through and clipped the flowers so the plants will continue to bush out. Needs weeding badly, however!
Blueberries - one bush is about done, the other is half way there - good picking today.
Summer squash - big harvest today, all plants looking good, time to get those odd ball recipes out and stretch the imagination!
Cukes - Poona Kheera are dead from wilt, Diva are pumping out the cukes well (delicious!) and plants are healthy.
Potatoes - NEED WEEDING! Top growth looking pretty good. Haven't taken a peek yet to see what is developing.
Garden indeterminate tomatoes - most have caught on well, and I am replacing plants as they die....need to do a revised map tomorrow.
Garden Dwarfs - 10/12 look great, one was replaced today, another is being closely watched. Most have buds or open blossoms, but they are behind those in the driveway.
Driveway Peppers - Looking incredible - those in the larger pots are loaded up with fruit, the experimental hots in the small pots are showing what they are about - most are in blossom or fruiting.
Eggplant - incredible also, and just about all plants have buds, blossoms or fruit. There is a big New York Improved begging to be turned into an eggplant parmesan this weekend!
Indeterminates in the driveway - looking better than I thought they would (early on, with all of the rain, some were looking pretty ugly!). We are picking Mexico Midget, Sungold, Green Doctor's and Tiger Tom. The high temps are hindering fruit set on several.
Driveway dwarfs - aside from the inevitable diseased plants here and there (I replaced a couple today), things are looking pretty good.
My next tasks - and they are really important - tie the indeterminate tomatoes and, especially, dwarfs in the grow bags to their stakes...a few are starting to flop over. And, mix up some blue stuff (Miracle gro plant food) and give the plants in pots a good dose - especially the eggplants and peppers, as they are working so hard to set loads of fruit!
Pics or video clips to follow soon.....
Today was cool enough to spend an hour with my voice recorder really looking at how things are doing. In general, it is shaping up to be a good year. Considering how many tomato plants I have, and how humid and hot it has been, very few plants look to be in trouble.
The eggplant and peppers will be spectacular this year, and we will have enough tomatoes to get a good amount of seed saved and conclusions drawn from my various projects. We've really enjoyed the recent explosion of summer squash, and the bush beans should start really coming in once the most recently planted rows get a few weeks under their foliage.
So here is a quickie recipe for something easy to make when the squash start coming in!Early Summer Pasta
- Put 4 tbsp of olive oil into a large deep non-stick pan and heat over medium-high.
- Chop the following: 1 large sweet onion, 2 sweet peppers (red, yellow or orange), and 4 cloves of garlic. Place into the hot oil - add 2 tsp salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and 1 tsp of red pepper flakes. Stir for 5-10 minutes, or until the veggies are softening and getting limp.
- Get some water boiling in a medium pot and cook some pasta (we use linguine or spaghetti) until al dente, about 8-10 min.
- Thinly slice 4 medium summer squash into slices. Place into the onion/pepper mix and continue to saute over medium high heat, stirring frequently.
- Tear the leaves off of a few sprigs of basil, and drain a 22 ounce jar of tomatoes.
- About 3 min before the squash and pasta are done, add the basil and tomatoes and stir well.
- Drain the pasta and combine with the veggies -stir well until mixed - serve with grated Parmesan Reggiano.
We used our own squash, canned tomatoes from last year, garlic and basil, and red pepper flakes we made from all of our hots last year that we dried and coarsely ground up.
It takes about 15-20 minutes from thinking about it until serving, so is a perfect, light and tasty dish for early summer evenings. Of course, once our own pepper, tomatoes and eggplant come along, it will only get better!
So, right now it is 97 degrees, the heat index is approaching 110. I just came in from putting the finishing touches on my main garden....imagine that, still planting on June 28! That must be a record for me. Out went the scraggly, Japanese Beetle-eaten, wilted Asian greens, in went the last of the indeterminate tomatoes. Then I pounded in stakes...then tied...mulched...and watered.
Now, recovering with a nice bowl of watermelon and cantaloupe, it's a good time to summarize what's growing "out there". In the main garden: Front row of Dwarf project plants (12). Next row back - half row of basil (needing blossom cluster removal - and ready for the first Pesto batch of the year), two blueberry bushes (in the middle of harvest), and half a row of beans, where the last garlic was dug the other day.
Behind that - half row of beans that is now providing some harvest, two more blueberry bushes, and another half row of beans that germinated a week or so ago.
Next back, nine hills of summer squash and two of cucumbers. The two rows back from that are planted with potatoes, with healthy vines, some in blossom. Then, finally, the last two rows have indeterminate tomatoes.
The driveway is all tomatoes (both indeterminate around the edge, and dwarfs in the center), peppers (hot and sweet), and eggplant. With everything now planted, it is all about maintenance - tying, watering, mulching, feeding and harvesting. And, of course, documentation - meaning videos, pictures and notes.
Time for a nap!
Another day, another run at triple digits, another day when it's hard to even think about doing gardening. But, tonight, water we did - just before our evening dog walk. I am very encouraged by what I see with the indeterminate tomatoes, for the most part. It looks like the first casualty is Stick - something nasty took it down, probably bacterial wilt. It is now a green stick with brown, dead foliage clumps.
The hot and sweet peppers and eggplant look great - I've got fruit set on most peppers and can start to make some good observations on my Islander sweet pepper de-hybridization project.
The dwarf tomatoes are another story. It is not possible to go through a season when everything goes perfectly - and amongst the 108 dwarf plants in grow bags in the driveway, a few problems are showing up. Still, for the most part, things look good, and most plants have open flowers or small fruit. The dozen in the front garden row are in perfect shape.
It won't be long before the first ripe tomatoes arrive - at this point, likely to be Mexico Midget, Green Doctors, Sungold, Variegated and Tiger Tom....with Cherokee chocolate and Speckled Roman the most advanced of the non-cherry types.
With the onset of summer - and attention moving from spring to summer harvests - it's a good time to reflect on successes and failures or disappointments to date...
Main garden preparation - I wish I had dug up and prepared the back (lettuce/greens) rows earlier, to get more harvest in before the heat and inevitable bolting.
Early garden layout - mixing beets, greens and lettuce in wide rows worked great. As usual, weeds come in quickly and I am not disciplined enough to keep up with them. Slugs were a bit of a problem as well.
Lettuce - I should have started the seeds earlier, but it was a good lettuce harvest, and I liked the mix of different varieties.
Beets - starting them inside then transplanting into plug flats worked spectacularly! We were delighted with an excellent harvest, and in fact, enjoyed the beet greens just as much as the beets themselves. I think I will skip Chioggia next year.
Red Russian Kale - it is easy and productive, but we just don't eat much of it, so this will be a pass for next year.
Swiss Chard Bright Lights - we ended up with 9 plants, which is about right - but it got a late start, so I will grow it in containers in the back yard next year. We love that first Chart Tart of the spring!
Radishes - spectacular failure for the second year. We end up with lovely tops, but only about 10% actually form decent radishes. I give up!
Asian Greens - just wonderful, but I over-planted. Broccoli Rabe (Italian, not Asian, of course) was a winner and I will plant more next year. Red Choi, Kotsume, Savoy and the Red and Purple Mustards worked great, and transplanted well. We ate lots of great sauteed greens. The only one I would skip is Magenta Spreen - took a long time to germinate and grew very slowly - and Upland Cress, which we didn't care that much for.
Garlic - planting it in the late fall and harvesting it in late spring/early summer the following year worked great - it was an easy, productive and trouble free crop. Ajo Rojo wasn't as vigorous, and the bulbs not quite as big, as German White....which we will focus on next year. A winner of a crop! Here it is in late June and we have lots of the German one to dig yet - they are nice and tall with great looking scapes.
Potatoes - They were easy to plant, and since they are just blossoming and still in vigorous top growth, I have no idea how they will turn out.
The next update will involve Summer Squash, Cucumbers, Basil, Bush Beans, and Tomatoes.....
Finally, I found the energy to dig holes and plant more tomatoes - these are toward the rear of the big garden, where the lettuce and beets grew early in the spring.
Here is what was planted today:
Ozark Cherry, Green Zebra Cherry, Tommy Toe, Red Zebra, Purple Haze, Reinhart's Red Heart, Malschor Isura, Kosovo, Isis, Large Lucky Red, Yellow Bell, Dr. Carolyn's Pink, Randy's Rusty, Caitlin's Lucky Stripe, odd string like foliage (a trait that pops up now and then in the Lucky Cross line), Randy's Brandy, Lillian's Yellow Heirloom
Just in front of that (it is a kind of double row)
Sungold, Yellow Pear, Caitlin's Lucky Stripe, Japanese Trifele Black, Stokes County Pink, Eva Purple Ball, White Queen, German Johnson, Striped Sweetheart, Amazon Chocolate, 1884 Purple, Green Giant, Hege German Pink, Randy's GRBL Cross, and Randy's Crimson
And a row in front of that:
Angora Orange, Reinhard's Green Heart, Portuguese Paste, Harmony Cherokee purple, Portuguese Heart, Reinhard's Chocolate Heart, Portuguese Beef, and Reinhard's Purple Heart. Once we are done with some greens and radiccio on that row, in will go Reinhard's Yellow Heart, Meme de Beauce, Irish Pink, Brad's Black Heart, Fish Lake Oxheart, Hay's, St. Colombe.
For the most part, the tomatoes are above are either for fresh seed or evaluation (new varieties to me, quite rare - or the result of recent breeding work by others). I am not going to be fussy with them or baby them, though I did fill the holes I dug with "good stuff" (Miracle Gro potting mix plus Composted cow manure). After that, it is mulch, stake, tie and water...and crossed fingers that the inevitable diseases stay away until I can get some fruit from each.
Today I also mulched two grow bags of potatoes (an experiment) - a few days ago I dug the rest of the Ajo Rojo garlic and planted a double row of bush beans. So, all in all, the garden is 90 plus % planted, and it is all about maintaining, documenting and picking.
We are now harvesting blueberries, garlic, squash, and cucumbers. The potatoes are flowering, as are the first row of beans. Basil is OK to pick. The tomatoes in the driveway are setting fruit, as are the sweet and hot peppers, and eggplant are blossoming. I've replaced a few Dwarf seedlings that didn't look happy, but all in all, a good start to the season, despite too many days in the 90s!
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!