Monday, July 30, 2012

Tomato Heaven

It's that time of year, the time when all of the tomato plants have started to really produce.  The full visual effect is not suitably shown here, since I have about 5-6 tomatoes on my window sill at home.

I love tomatoes, so this is pretty much heaven for me right now.  My favourites are Black Krim, not shown here.  They are sweet, and have a beautiful dark skin.  Delicious with a bit of olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.

Carrots are showing up nicely, they are definitely better than last year since we thinned them out properly.  Some are a bit deformed, but that is only an aesthetic thing.

We're taking them out kind of early as we are eating them up, I think they could still stay in the ground longer.

That purple thing is the first eggplant, which is going into a schezwan stir fry tonight.

And you can see, plenty of jalapeƱos that we are going to pickle, or add to salsa.

The rain last week was wonderful for the seeds we planted.  Also aided by the new bed trough formation, no doubt.  I think this method is a winner.

Everything but the carrot and parsnips have sprouted, and if memory serves carrots came up last on the first sowing so I'm not too concerned at the moment.

That means we've got peas, cucumber, spinach, leaf lettuce, romaine, frisee, beets, turnip, and a few rows of onions on the go.

Hopefully the temperatures stay warm but not hot, throughout the next month.

Here we have repurposed the cucumber trellis for peas.  The heavy rains did a good job of churning some of the planted pea seeds, so we may not get quite as much as we planted.  We may not get any at all, who knows!

Here are the new lettuce and beet beds.  The beets have come up right away, and in good numbers, so maybe 5th sowing is the charm.

 In other eggplant news, the chinese eggplants are in but the Italian variety is still coming along.  This is about the size of a softball at the moment.

And lastly, the corn.  Oh...the corn.  I'm really not sure what to expect.  For starters, ear wigs have eaten almost all the silks off of all the ears I can see.  I thought this might mean that the corn will just be cobs with no kernels.  I pulled off an ear that looked especially decimated, but to my surprise it actually had plump, juicy kernels on it.  There were some bare patches, and the top of it had been nibbled away, but at first glance we might actually get some corn afterall...even if it is kind of ugly.

The kernels produced a milky white substance which I think means they are actually ready.  We'll leave them one more week and then take what we can, camping.  Should be delicious grilled on the open fire.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tomato Time!

 Ah, there a better and yet more challenging month to garden?

It's been really hot so far, and dry.  Dry, dry, dry.  Garden 104 is a dustbowl if we don't water it regularly.  HOWEVER, this week was a real test and I'm pleased to report it passed with flying colours.

It was a busy week and the jerks at weather network kept promising rain and not delivering, and as a result of circumstance we didn't get to the garden to water it all week.   Seriously, how hard is it to read a weather radar map?

On the way there on Sunday I had visions of 500 sq feet of dead biomass, tumbleweed rolling across the plot like a ghost town.  I was afraid the hot sun and lack of water would have torched it, but lo and behold I think it was actually a good thing as immediately on arrival we were greeted by some perfectly (let me underscore, perfectly) ripened tomatoes.
How jealous is everybody going to be when I have cucumbers in september?
Last year, one challenge we faced was having split tomato skins.  It doesn't affect the tomato, but it doesn't look pretty and I guess makes it more susceptible to rotting on the vine.  We suspected we were overwatering them.  This week I think we might have proved that theory, as the tomatoes were all in perfect condition.

Unfortunately, all the neatly labeled plastic plant sticks have all faded and I can't even tell what varieties I have anymore.  The ones we took this week are a medium sized variety, similar to the kind you get in the grocery store on the vine.  Also, tonnes of cherry tomatoes. Yum.

The other good news was that the cucumber seeds we planted the other week have come up.  This was totally unexpected by me, even though I consider it a minor miracle when *any* seeds sprout, with the hot weather I suspected we wouldn't see them.  This is cucumber experiment #2, we're not trellising and intend to just let them run amok on the ground.  The neighbours cucumbers are looking great still, I'm quite jealous so I'm hoping these come through for us.

Our 3 beets are...I dunno.  I have a feeling it's too hot.  We pulled out all the radishes for this reason, because of a whole row of them, they got really leafy but didn't develop the nice round root.  I suspect the beets will be in a similar situation but we'll see.

Last week, when we pulled out all the potatoes and onions we dumped a lot of worm poop on the ground, to help give the soil *something*.  This week we raked it all over and are trying a slightly different bed shape experiment.

Last year we mounded, this year we dug.  Now, I'm experimenting with using the cultivator to form troughs and planting in the deepest part.

We seeded carrots, parsnips, turnip, and more beets (6th time the charm?).

Experimenting with new trough beds
These are all things that should take some time, and will benefit from the cooler weather in the fall.

Garden neighbour to the right says that you can leave these things in through a frost and that it will really taste good afterwards.

Apparently the cold frost makes the plant put all it's energy into the root, which makes it sweeter and more delicious.

Carrots and parsnips are I think around 100 days, which will put these to be ready around the end of October.  That seems like so far away, and yet we're already 1/2 way through the growing season.
Boo hoo :(

All of the lettuce had been pulled out last week as it really suffered from the extreme heat.  However, I notice that the neighbours lettuce is doing really well so, inspired, I planted three more rows of it.  I found some Frisee seeds leftover and now that we know what to do with them, I'm excited to give it another try.
The new lettuce bed
There is also a leafy variety and a romaine variety in there.

I have mixed feeling on the corn.  Firstly, in the good news department quite a few stalks have ears on them and they are getting bigger every visit.

They are also acting as terrific beanpoles, the beans are winding their way up the stalks.  Our neighbours already have beans, ours are a few weeks behind.

In the not so good news department, quite a few of the ears have all the silk nibbled away by what I suspect are those pesky ear wigs.

I don't know how this is going to affect the corn, I'm not sure if this means it's not going to grow or what.  I'm disappointed, because I didn't anticipate this, being so focused on keeping racoons out.

Anyway, I'm really hoping to have some corn in 2 weeks to take camping so we can grill it.
How can bugs do this much damage?

Be done already!
And lastly, our little watermelon looks to be doing ok!

It's twice the size it was last week and now I'm going to be watching it like a hawk.  I tried to tuck it in behind the brussel sprouts but I'm not sure if it's going to stay out of sight from thieves.

It looks like it is the only melon on this plant so far, so I'm eagerly anticipating it's readiness.

Not a bad haul overall this week, some MASSIVE zucchini's, tomatoes, a few carrots and radishes.  Enough to make some nice salads throughout the week.

Garden hal

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mixed Feelings

I have mixed feelings about this week's trip to the garden as it involved digging up a very large part of it, and acknowledging that some things are dead.  Like the cucumber, which is hella dead.  Did not do well again this year.


As you can see from the following two pictures, things were pretty full when we arrived.  The potatoes were dead enough we felt it was time to dig them up.

Look! A garden visitor!

Potatoes looking dead(ly).

Another garden vistor!  This one ate all the cherry tomatoes (but that's ok, that's why we brought her)

Grandmother is something of an expert gardener, we enjoyed having her join us for a days worth of manual  labour.

Notice she wore white pants? As though she had no intention of digging up potatoes.

And dig up potatoes we did.  Check this out!  This is 24 potato plants worth.  They are nicely sized and quite tasty.  Noticeably different from the grocery store.  Fresher, sweeter, smoother flesh.

We also dug up all the onions.  The red onions didn't get as big as last year, but they were in a very damp spot, so I wonder if that might be why.

I think my neighbors to the left are kind of accidentally watering over to our side as we notice that side is almost routinely damp.  I'm not sure how to approach it with them, it's just that I am suspecting they might unintentionally be the reason parts of that side of the garden have been unsuccessful.

My pride and joy, the garlic, finally came out.  We lost a total of 2 heads post dig, due to being malformed.  The ones that are left are a good size though, the skins are all intact.

And after a quick rinse (not sure you're supposed to do that, but I did) they are now bunched and hanging to cure in the kitchen.
The kitchen has become somewhat of a sweatshop.  Yesterday, Ryan put a bunch of pickles in a crock to ferment the old-timey way, I was processing garlic and onions for curing, and somehow managed to churn out 8 mini loaves of zucchini bread.

In other garden news, chinese eggplant are growing, and I am really not sure what they are supposed to look like, how big they get or when they'll be done.  It's kind of fun to look at, they look like fingers.

And regular eggplant looks to be starting to form.

We all enjoyed cherry tomatoes because there is an insane amount of them and they are a bit like candy.

And this is the First Ripe Tomato 2012.  Beefsteak.  I donated it to Grandmother because she's so great.

This week's harvest: oh look, MOAR ZUCCHINI, a green pepper and jalapeno that we promptly turned into a quesadilla lunch.  The smaller tomatoes are the Early Girl variety (my favourite, probably - no, they all are my favourite) some early carrots that were too early but I got excited and ripped them out.

Fun fact: did you know earwigs are called earwigs because they eat the silk ears of the corn?

I assumed it was because they crawled in your ears at night and laid eggs and in the morning a million baby earwigs would crawl out.  That may still be true, I don't know - but they definitely like corn too.

Anyway, mixed feelings this week because there is a lot of empty space.  We put down a few bags of worm casing compost (after spending some time debating on which animal poop was the best, cow, sheep or worm we opted for the worm because we have no idea what we're doing and the bag looked nice).

I took seed inventory and there's still a lot we can put in, we figured we'd let the compost sink in for a few days.  Plus it rained like crazy yesterday which is great in general for all things green.

I'm not sure if seeding at this time of the year is going to work though, I guess we'll see.

Monday, July 9, 2012

First real harvest!

Thanks to the rain on Saturday we took the day off. Not much was needing to be done anyway, so our visit on Sunday consisted of watering with our new sock-hose system (to soak the roots in the hot weather), and harvesting things!

Here we have some lettuce, a frisee finally (though we learned the hard way how to do it better next time), a cucumber, some potatoes, shallots, a garlic and a green pepper.

This is a teeny tiny eggplant.

The garlic is pretty much good go to.  We have heeded the wise internets advice and have withheld water as if garden 104 was some kind of vegetable prisoner of war camp.

Give up the goods, garlic!
And give up the goods it did.  I couldn't resist my curiosity and dug one up.  It's pretty much perfect.

This truly was a labour of love, because we planted these back on Halloween night in the fall and look! Garlic!

I think we might pull the rest soon.  They have to cure for 2 weeks.

And speaking of curing, here are the shallots hanging in the kitchen doing their thang.

This tomato plant is an overachiever.  You could say it almost tries *too* hard, since it's got a lovely set of beefsteak tomatoes, but it's pretty much killing itself (literally) to produce them.

I'm guessing that once these are ready, the plant will collapse in a heap and die.

Another overachiever is the cherry tomato plant, which is almost as tall as me and dripping with cherry tomatoes.

I'm thinking by the end of this week we'll be snacking on these.

The Jalapeno is doing well.  We put one on some nachos yesterday and they are HOT HOT HOT.

These will go nice with the salsa we want to make.

Green onions are almost ready, maybe next week? The cauliflower is also looking good.  Might be time to thin it out soon but I'm not really sure.

The pak choi came out finally, as it had bolted and become bitter but it's left room for the ever leafy chard.

The potatoes will be done very soon.  We've already had a small handful.  It'll look pretty bare without them, but I already have plans for that space for when we move into fall. ;)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Corn: Nature's Beanpole

First nations peeps from way back had it right with the holy trinity of crops: corn, beans and squash.  I probably mentioned in another post that this works really well for a few reasons:

1. Corn is natures beanpole! Last year we tried to build this thing for the beans to grow on that ultimately kept falling over.  So far the corn is providing a nice hearty stalk for the beans to climb.

2. The tangle of beans and squash around the base of the cornstalks is supposed to stop hungry animals from raiding the corn.

No evidence of animal intruders yet, but it's still early days.  In fact, there is no evidence of animal intruders anywhere in the garden this year.  Maybe it's the companion planting we did, or maybe it's the lack of skunk den next door.  Not sure.

Anyway the corn I *think* is ok.  Some of it is really tall, some of it is pretty short.  It all meets the "knee high by July" criteria.  Most if not all of it has tassels. ...And some of them are started to make corn.  I really feel like a farmer when I'm looking at the corn.

>The potatoes had me worried this week (well a lot of things did).  I didn't see many flowers the last few weeks and now they have started to die out, specifically the white potatoes down the middle.  However, chatting with my garden neighbor Steve last night, he assures me this is what they're supposed to do.  In the last two visits I've collected maybe 5 potatoes that are already poking out of the ground and I boiled some last night and yes, they were pretty delicious.  Very delicate, smooth texture, sweet and potato-y flavour.

Other things that have me worried are the cucumbers.  Second year in a row now they have done this routine where they look really great, start producing cucumbers and then waaaaaaaahhhh....dead.

They look kind of good in this picture, but as of last night they were looking pretty sorry.  We're thinking that maybe the variety we chose (both years) is more keen to just crawl along the ground rather than climb a trellis.  We may seek out some seeds this weekend.  I know it's super late so I don't have high hopes, but you never know right?  Now that the peas are gone there is some space.
 Things that aren't dying - the zucchini.  I read somewhere this week that zucchini is like a friend you're really happy to start up a friendship with at the beginning, until they begin obsessively stalking you to the point where you kind of just want to avoid it when you meet out in public.

I made chocolate zucchini cake this week where the zucchini was almost completely superfluous but I'm pretty sure it counts as a vegetable.

Shallots and onions and garlic are soooooo close to being done.  The shallots are probably the furthest along, as you can see they are looking almost dead.

I'm still not used to this whole "when the plant looks dead, the bulb is read" theory.

Many onions.

The peppers are really really leafy, which I think is good.  One plant already has 3 peppers on it and I counted about 6 jalapenos.

 Chard for days.  I think the pak choi is done though which is ok, it's kind of a lot to eat.

We finally gave up on the old roma and planted three new ones.  They're not looking nearly as hearty as anything we've had before.  They were looking pathetic at the garden center so I'm kind of not really expecting much, which kind of sucks because I was kind of looking forward to them the most.

We're still waiting on the frisee...I checked and the inside is starting to get nice and tender but I'm really not sure when to tell if it's done.  I think soon though.

And lastly, the watermelon has flowers on it which you can't see from this photo but that means it won't be too long before we have some delicious summer watermelons.

Below are two shots of the garden from both angles.