Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Crazy Busy Planting Weekend -- and I'm Still Not Done

No pictures yet, but I was able to get most of the rest of the garden planted in summer crops over the long weekend.

On Saturday morning, before working on our own yard, we went out to the farm on Dallas Highway where we usually volunteer, and we weeded (a lot) and planted a couple dozen tomato plants and a couple dozen pepper plants in some of the raised beds.

Then, just when we thought we were leaving for the day, our farmer friend (Charles) said, "when you come back after lunch you can plant the rest of the tomatoes down in the field." So we went back after lunch, and with the help of one other guy we planted two 150 foot rows of tomato plants. In other words, we started the planting-weekend with a bang.

I didn't really start on my own yard until the next day, because I was kind of wiped out after that, but  planting in my yard included:
Half of the sweet potatoes (Beauregard, Purple Delight), the parching corn (Supai Red), this year's round of the melon de-hybridization project (Amy's Kennesaw Sweet Canary), a few of the "dwarf" butternut squash that I planted last year, watermelon (Luscious Golden), cucumbers (Burpee's Picklebush, Straight Nine) to replace ones that didn't come up when they were planted before, one more tomato plant, and some flower seeds. I also started some flower seeds in Jiffy Pellets, because I will need a lot more flowers for our bees.
After the corn is up and  looking good, I plan to plant peanuts in the spaces between. I still have some sweet potato slips to plant (Nancy Hall, Porto Rican Gold), and I'm expecting to harvest the onions and garlic within the next two or three weeks, which means I'll be planting the Tarahumara Popping Sorghum soon, too. When the shallots come out, I'll be planting more zucchini in their space.

Joe and I also worked on the "foundation planting" area that had been destroyed last summer when the tree smashed the house. The soil there was VERY compacted clay; breaking that up and mixing in the compost and other amendments required some seriously hard work. At the sunnier end of that bed we planted the bay tree that has been growing in a pot for the past few years, three perennial, purple-flowered Salvia, and a couple of Coronation Gold Yarrow.

The hard work will all be rewarded later in the summer, when the flowers are beautiful and we are enjoying the harvest, but right now I am a mass of sore muscles. Of course, I am also very happy to have accomplished so much.

Hope all the other gardens out there are doing well!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Rain, Rain, Rain and Still More Rain

Eventually, I will finish getting the summer crops planted, but at this rate it might be June before they're all in. We had yet more rain over the weekend, which made the soil too wet for digging and planting. I put in a couple more tomato plants anyway, turned the compost pile and did some weeding, but there are still two whole beds and two partial beds that are not set for the summer.

Last May was a big harvest month, with potatoes, zucchini, onions, and quite a lot of green beans coming into the kitchen, but this year those crops will be pushed into June. However, things could be worse. I have heard from plenty of gardeners who already are contending with disease issues -- from the cool, wet weather -- in their gardens. Other gardeners also have said that some seeds that were planted rotted before they could germinate.
Currently, it's a mix of cool and warm season crops.

The slugs have begun to make an appearance, but  they aren't in the lettuces at this point. If the rain doesn't let up, I expect a population explosion.

In the meantime, I will just enjoy what I have. The tomato plants are growing slowly in the cool spring weather, but they look healthy, and they are flowering. The lettuces are in Great Shape, which means there is salad with supper, salad with lunch, and more the next day, and the next. 

Last beet of the season.     PHOTO/Amy W.

There are a few carrots left in the ground, but not many, and the radishes are almost all harvested, too. The peas are starting to make, and I'm looking forward to including those in our meals, but everything is running behind -- and not just compared to last year, when everything was freakishly early.

One of the great things about gardening is that there is so much to think about. I am never bored!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

For Healthier Fruit Flies, Go Organic

Every now and then, the big debate over whether organically grown food supports an eater's health more than food that's conventionally grown rages anew, but a recent study suggests that, regardless of the effects on human health, organically grown foods do improve fruit fly health.

As a gardener whose kitchen in late summer and early fall typically becomes home to a whole lot of fruit flies, I am not sure this is the best of news. Most of the odds and ends in my compost pail are from organically grown produce, which means I am just making the annual infestation worse.

I read the news in an article titled Fruit Flies Fed Organic Diets are Healthier than Flies Fed Nonorganic Diets, Study Finds, which appeared on the website of Science Daily. The study was led by a high school student in the lab of biologist Johannes H. Bauer, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

 Here's the quote that pretty much says it all:
"To our surprise, in the majority of our tests of flies on organic foods, the flies fed organic diets did much better on our health tests than the flies fed conventional food," Bauer said. "Longevity and fertility are the two most important aspects of fly life. On both of these tests, flies fed organic diets performed much better than flies fed conventional diets. They lived longer, had higher fertility, and had a much higher lifetime reproductive output."
In other words, I probably either need to learn to get along with the fruit flies, or I need to keep the compost pail in the fridge until its contents are taken out to the compost pile.

Tracking the Harvest: March & April 2013 Totals

Nearing the end of the carrots and spring radishes.   PHOTO/Amy Whitney
The peas are flowering, the lettuces are flourishing, and we might finally have enough warm weather that the summer crops start to really grow.

How can a gardener complain?

Our jars of dehydrated vegetables from last summer are slowly but surely being emptied, so I will be very glad when the harvests return to being more abundant. In March and April, harvests were definitely down.

The total so far for the year is less pathetic than I thought it would be -- the total is 19.65 kilograms, which converts to 43 pounds 5.1 ounces.

March and April harvests contributed to that total as follows:

March (in kilograms)
Radish, winter          0.2
radishes                   0.3
Carrots                 0.2
Spinach               0.55
Beets plus greens        0.9
Onions, green            0.4

April (in kilograms)

spinach                   0.25
radishes                    0.15
Green onions               0.45
Beets plus greens            2.5

For March, the total harvested added up to 2.55 kilograms, which converts to 5 pounds, 9.9 ounces.

For April, the total harvested added up to 3.35 kilograms, which converts to7 pounds 6.1 ounces.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Around the Yard

It's been raining for the past couple of days - about four inches so far - which means I haven't been able to get any gardening done.
Rabun County Garlic

I have, though, been out between downpours with my camera, to celebrate the good things that are going on out there.

To start - the garlic is looking very good. The stems are thickening nicely, which bodes well for the likelihood of my harvesting large cloves. Usually, plants that are more slender when the bulbs start to form make smaller cloves.

Since I am lazy and would rather peel a few big cloves of garlic rather than a whole lot of little cloves, this development is making me pretty happy.

Thicker stems on onions translates the same way - into bigger bulbs - but my onions aren't coming along quite so well as the garlic. These things happen.

The lettuces are making nice, big bunches of leaves, and I expect to be having a lot more "yard salad" soon.

SloBolt Lettuce
Peony, bowed down in the rain.
The weather in the past month or so has been decidedly cool, which is a little bit frustrating in that the summer crops are lagging as a result.

However, I am expecting to see spectacular flowers on the peonies this year. When they bloom in hot weather, the petals open unevenly - the centers expanding more rapidly than the outer layers - and the flowers never make it to the lush, full bloom that they achieve in cooler springs.

This is definitely a cooler spring, so I have high hopes for some beautiful flowers.

In spite of the cool weather, in which we are still having nights with temperatures in the 40s (degrees F), the peppers seem to be doing well enough. Most of my thirteen little pepper plants have flower buds on them. When we Finally get some warmer weather, these should all do very well.

A Napoleon sweet bell pepper.
The potatoes are starting to send up little flower buds, which means that actual spuds are beginning to form below ground. If I were especially impatient for some little new potatoes, I could probably dig around under the mass of plants and pull some tiny potatoes out. I'm going to wait, though, for the big harvest in June.

Potatoes sending up flower buds.
The fall-planted strawberry plants that I got from a friend are making lots of flowers and green berries. I've put a frame around them that I need to get covered up with netting soon, before the birds figure out what I'm growing.

An ever-bearing type of strawberry, unknown variety.
The zucchini are making a slow start in the cool weather, but a slow start is better than no start! I am looking forward to the first harvest of squash; it's so much better fresh than from the freezer.

Raven zucchini, off to a good start.
It's also good to see the comfrey in bloom. Bees like comfrey flowers, and the leaves are a useful addition to the compost heap. Comfrey has a very deep taproot that brings up nutrients from much farther below the surface than many other perennials. The compost, when comfrey leaves are added, benefits from the dive down to the different layer of soil nutrients.

Comfrey in bloom.
I am hoping to make more progress on getting the summer garden planted in the next week. It's a little weird to be waiting for warmer weather this far into the spring!
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