Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seeing Yellow

Let me just tell you now. Yellow is not good. I don't like yellow in the garden unless it is in a flower or maybe in the root crops. But sadly I have had just one winter squash set. Because the females all turn yellow and die before they bloom. Last year by this time I had eight squash set. I didn't get to eat them since the groundhog stole them all. This time Mother Nature is making sure I don't have that problem.

Do the plants look unhealthy to you? They look beautiful to me. So today I figured I'd just dose them with some fish emulsion to see if that would get them to keep their blossoms. I can only hope since I haven't a clue what is wrong.

So I found another yellow object in my garden.

Actually I saw one before, but when this second one came, I figure I'd better look it up. It turns out is a slime mold. It is often called the Dog Vomit Slime Mold. When it dries. . .

it looks like this. This one came out on Wednesday and has now shriveled up and put out its spores. It does look a bit like dog vomit doesn't it. In both its forms. I looked it up because I wanted to know if it was toxic or not since I walk barefoot along my paths. It turns out it isn't, but can cause allergic reactions and asthma flareups. Sadly I am indeed allergic to mold spores and have asthma. Ah well. Maybe I'll wear shoes in the garden and leave them outside so I don't track any in. And if I'm lucky I won't have any nightmares about slime molds following me into the house and eating me in my sleep. Slime molds are mobile and if you ask me, kinda freaky.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


This year I put in my two peach trees and my blueberry bushes. Sadly putting in fruit is a long term investment and I won't see fruit on the blueberries or peaches for a while. So while I was at the farmers market I bought some of both. Though I love to eat them fresh too these were for jam. Last year my sister-in-law made the yummiest blueberry peach jam. So I wanted to try one too. But I wanted one that was pectin free. So I looked one up.

I found one at A Thinking Stomach. It seemed like a nice one. Not too much sugar and no added pectin. It even leaves the peels in. I did it a bit differently. I didn't let it sit overnight in the fridge, which I figured was for getting the juice to start coming out of the peaches. So instead I used my trusty food processor to make juice. This meant there wouldn't be large peach parts in it or any whole blueberries left, but I was OK with that.

I boiled it up. I think my candy thermometer is wrong by about 4 degrees. I'd suspected this since I bought it last winter and made some English toffee. Luckily I don't rely on a thermometer. My jam sense is pretty good by now. But even with that temperature adjustment of 4 degrees, the jam jelled much earlier than the stated 221F. I took it out at a reading of 210 (in reality probably 214) and if anything I think it is a bit over jelled. I like my jams pretty soft. Maybe the thermometer is off by more?

At any rate the jam turned out very good. It wasn't too sticky sweet like a lot of jams. But I think it was a little too much blueberry and a little too little peach. Next time I'll have to up weight of the peaches. Though it makes a really good blueberry jam if that is what you are going for. Much better than the blueberry jam I made last winter.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Aftermath of the Heat

This photo that I showed you earlier in the week had my bolting lettuce in it. It was filled with heat resistant lettuce. But I guess no lettuce can stand 103F. Even what wasn't bolting was bitter. So I pulled it all out and dumped it into the compost pile. It was a sad loss of three to four pounds of lettuce. What I want to know is how the farms keep producing lettuce all summer long. I had a batch of lettuce that was in the coolest part of the garden in almost full shade. It bolted too.

But the compost pile is really filling up. As you can see I pulled some of the borage too. I might turn it in a couple of weeks.

I didn't have any lettuce replacements ready to put in its place. So I direct sowed some Red Sails, Little Gem, Deer Tongue, and Tom Thumb.

I had slightly too large replacements for my boc choy. I should have pulled it a week ago before the heat, but once the heat hit I didn't want to pull it. I figured I'd let it have a few days of relative coolness to recover. But it all got pulled and its replacements seem happy enough. If a tad big when transplanting. At least Asian greens can still be enjoyed after the heat. They do get more mustardy, but they are still very tasty. I sent most of them over to my townhouse mates along with a big pile of cukes. I kept a couple for myself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Earlier this week my son was visiting me. We have always had a tradition to go out to lunch and have Shahi Paneer. It is one of my son's favorite dishes. We used to go to a restaurant near my old house, but in the new house I hadn't yet found a spot. I figured we might try the local restaurant, but maybe he would like to help me make it. I'd never cooked it before, but both my son and I lvoe to cook. So I looked up recipes. I settled on one from Allrecipes.

So we went out to our local Indian grocery store that was just a half mile from the house. They had the red chili powder and ghee (which I used instead of vegetable oil), but sadly no paneer. So we made Shahi Mozzeralla instead. Now paneer doesn't melt and you can cook it in the sauce, but mozzerella does so you have to add it at the last minute. If we had had time we might have made paneer ourselves as it isn't that hard, but it was 11am already and we were making lunch.

It really made a good garden lunch. It used garlic, onion, tomatoes, and coriander from the garden. Mozzeralla tasted very good with the sauce, but it as a bit too rubbery. Maybe I'll make paneer before he comes next time. He promised to come again in a month.

And as every mother does I had to make dinner for him with one of his favorites. Ham. I paired it with applesauce that I made last fall. I dug the first of the new potatoes out of the garden in the afternoon to make scalloped potatoes. I usually don't have cream in the house, but since I bought it for the Shahi Paneer I figured I'd use it up. And I cut up some carrots for him. Sadly this is my plate and my son doesn't like green beans.

Saving Seed

I collect seed here and there around the garden. I like to collect lettuce seed because it is so easy. You are suppose to have 12' or more between plants so they don't cross, but the reality is that they rarely cross anyway. Most of the time the flowers set before they even open. I'll know though if I have an issue.

I have three lettuce plants flowering. I have Little Gem, Paris Island, and Red Sails. The first two are Romaines and have white seed. The last one is a leaf lettuce with black seeds. Black seeds are a dominant trait. So if I have black seeds in my romaines, I know I have crossing.

I love borage. The flowers are pretty and very different and it pulls in a lot of bees very early in the season. The seed is also very easy to collect. I just pick it off the ground. I had pulled the plant because it was getting weedy looking (common with borage in mid to late summer).

And underneath the plant I found tons of seed on the path. I also have tons in the dirt, but I'll ignore them. I might them them grow there again next year or I might weed out the volunteers. And boy will there be volunteers next year. I've already got some coming up.

Cilantro and coriander are the same plant. I planted these for the cilantro, but I never pull them all and let them go to seed. Frankly I'd do it just for the flowers. It isn't that the flowers themselves are so interesting but they attract all sorts of beneficials to the garden.

But I get the bonus of letting them go to seed and collecting the coriander. The above are just covered in ripening seeds. I started collecting the dry ones today, but I'll be out there everyday picking off more. In about a week I'll probably just upend the plants and comb through it all.

And last but not least of the seeds I worked on today are the pea seeds. I hadn't shelled all of the Cascadia. I figured I'd just get it done so the seed can dry well and then be processed. I always freeze my legume seeds after the seed is totally dry (if not totally dry it will kill the seed when frozen). Freezing for a few days (0F or lower) kills weevil eggs. You won't know if your crop has them until the peas are destroyed, so it is always better just to be on the safe side and kill off the eggs.

Though it has nothing to do with seeds, I was pleasantly surprised to see this today. Two more melons have set. I planted eight cantaloupe plants. Eight melons set early on. Then all the female blossoms have fallen off since. I figured I'd get one per plant. I was pretty happy about that. Eight melons would be more than I've ever gotten before, even if these are small melons. But I'll dance if I can have melons in the double digits. That would just be too awesome.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Preparing for Fall

Trying to get the fall garden started in the heat has been a challenge. The carrots have come up. In areas they are spotty. I seeded over a couple of weeks, weirdly the ones that came up in the blazing heat of last week are doing very well (photo above). Some were seeded last Thursday and a few are just barely breaking the surface now. Today I reseeded any gaps I saw.

I've also put chicken wire down. The neighborhood cats love to dig in my soil. I actually have a spot in the garden just for them to do their business. I figured I'd better or they would dig where I didn't want them too. But such a wide expanse of bare soil is just too tempting. Usually I see them test it out and not use it though. The seedbed is kept wet and they hate wet soil. But a few swipes in the dirt can dislodge a lot of carrot seedlings. Also in photo are my lettuces that I should be picking about now. But they have mostly started to bolt even with the shade cloth. A few plants have survived and I might pick them tomorrow to taste.

I've put out more seedlings. I wish I had more, but a lot of the seed that I was trying didn't germinate. Only the Red Sails, Deer Tongue and a couple of Little Gem did. So it might be a few weeks before lettuce again, unless I find some non bitter lettuce in there.

This is the broccoli that was put in about a week ago. It has grown by leaps and bounds. I thought the heat would kill it. I'm hoping it will be big enough to produce. This area does get fall shade so it had better get growing fast.

I also have seedlings in the nursery. Yesterday I potted up my kale. I have 21 plants potted up. I'm hoping that is enough to fill the bed. If not I'll seed some beets to make up. The bed is the bed that my onions are currently in. A handful of the onions have fallen over and been pulled. Most still seem to be growing. But I've noticed that the outside wrappers are starting to form on all of them. It shouldn't be long before they all fall over. They have to be out in two weeks though one would be better for the kale.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Harvest Monday - July 25 2011

Can you believe this post is a little late because I forgot about Harvest Monday? I always write the post as soon as I get up in the morning. I never forget about it. When I travel I even schedule them so you can all have fun without me. But no. It was cool this morning and the garden just took me in. I didn't even think about the post. After all the heat, I was just loving being outside in the cool breeze. I was out until 7:30am when I harvesting. Yes harvesting the crop made me remember. So it isn't out by 8am EST which is usually my self imposed deadline. But I was still close.

Monday's harvest

This week the harvest was a little repetitive as all seasonal harvests are. This is probably the best bean week since it was the first full week of bean harvesting from the Kentucky Wonder beans. But who needs three pounds of beans every week? Well OK VeggiePAK obviously needs more, but I'm not a fan of preserved beans of any kind. I won't even eat fresh beans from the market. If it isn't fresh from the garden and Kentucky Wonder, I'm not a fan. So if I just get one pound a week from here on in I'll be set. I'll even have enough to share.

Tuesday's harvest

Wednesday's harvest x 3

Then there is also the cucurbits. The cucumbers ought to give me enough for a long long time. But sadly this is the last good week of zucchini I think. The vine borers are killing the vines. I hope to nurse them to enough health to give me something in future months, but I don't know.

Thursday's harvest

Friday's harvest

Saturday's harvest

Then of course there are the tomatoes. I've got Cherokee Purple, Heinz, Sungold, and Chocolate Cherry coming in. I also have Gabby which is my Sungold F4. So far its fruit are larger and more elongated and more prolific. Sadly it doesn't have the fabulous Sungold taste. It is OK, but not great. I'm thinking of having one of my temporary townhouse mates do a back cross with Sungold. She is a college student studying biology. And yes her love is plants.

Sunday's harvest x 2

Also a Sunday harvest. I needed onions for my breakfast so I weighed one of the ones that had been drying. Not bad for an onion. But then again it is one of my larger Alisia Craig onions. It is a Scottish heirloom that was introduced in the 1800s. Supposedly these normally get to 2-5lbs depending upon which seed company you listen too. Obviously my onions are runts if they are supposed to get that big. Runts or not, I'm happy with them. Maybe next year I should grow them side by side with Walla Walla to see which one grows better here.

  • Alliums 3.24 lbs
  • Beans 3.39 lbs
  • Broccoli 0.16 lbs
  • Carrot 0.74 lbs
  • Cucurbits 6.31 lbs
  • Eggplant 0.61 lbs
  • Greens 3.14 lbs
  • Herbs 0.38 lbs
  • Pepper 0.36 lbs
  • Tomato 6.82 lbs
  • Weekly Total 25.16 lbs
  • Weekly Spent $0
  • Yearly Total 163.45 lbs
  • Garden was worth $82.04

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gardening? What's That?

I feel like a slug of a gardener this last week. The heat was so bad that I just didn't do anything in the garden but what I needed to. We topped out on Friday at 103F. Triple digit heat in our area is very very rare. We get into the 90s on average 13 times a year, but usually it is the low 90s.

Sadly the pests have still been around. The cabbage butterflies love my garden with a passion. They dance in the air all the time. Thank goodness for row covers. I did get one stuck under the row cover one day. I found they wake up at 7am and if the cover isn't closed up by then I'll look like a crazy person trying to get the mob out.

The yellowish frass is a sign of vine borers

Sadly the vine borers found the zukes. This photo was from last Sunday. I tried two things to keep them off this year. I used the aluminum foil that supposedly confuses them. And I put netting over one of the plants as a test. One gardener said she had good results. The moths can get through, but they don't bother. Well mine bother to get through. All four zukes have multiple frass zones. Which means multiple borers. I think they aren't long for this world, but still I'm hoping. Last year the Costata Romenesca plants lived, but they couldn't set fruit really. I still got a lot of baby zukes. So I'll wait and see. Right now the Raven squash have dropped all their female fruit before it has gotten big enough for the flower to open. One CR zuke is doing the same, but the other is setting fruit still. We will see.

The only real gardening I've been doing has been planting my fall broccoli and trying to get the carrots germinated. The broccoli looks wonderful which shocks me. I planted it early in the week and it grew a lot over the last five days even in this heat. Go broccoli.

The carrots are interesting. I could get them to germinate OK in the heat using burlap and frequent watering, but once they were up they fell over and died. But I found that this only happened if I left the burlap on too long. When I took it off when I only saw one barely coming up under the whole burlap, I could get most of the stand up and stay up. I had to water them three times a day in the heat, but that is OK. Right now it is raining, and I'm busy the rest of the day, but hopefully tomorrow I can fill in the gaps from the spots I pulled the burlap off too late.

And maybe this coming week I can be a real gardener again and stay out later than 7am in the morning.

Preserving the Harvest

I got a lot of preserving done in the heat last week. I was working on getting my herbs dried. So far I've dried chamomile, mint, rosemary, thyme, and sage. I need to get to the parsley, basil and some more mint. Do you see where I put my dehydrator so I don't add to the heat of the house? I have that on my front porch. There is an outlet by my front door.

I was also busy freezing things this week. I froze some beans. I blanch them for 3 minutes and then toss the into ice water before freezing. I like to freeze everything on cookie sheets and them put them into bags so I can just grab however much I need.

And some celery. And some onions. I have a lot more freezing to do next week too. I really oughtn't dry out most of the Alicia Craig onions. I should just freeze them. I don't blanch onions or celery. They just get chopped and frozen. They loose some of their structure in freezing, but I'll only use them to cook with anyway so it doesn't matter.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Tour of the Summer Garden

I haven't given a full tour of the vegetable garden since spring. So it is long overdue. I have eight beds that are 4'x16' and the circle garden that has two beds eight feet long by variable widths.

Bed 1 is the tomato bed. The front row of tomatoes are mostly Heinz 2653. They were supposed to be all Heinz, but some of the seedlings obviously got mixed up. I have one Heinz where a Cherokee Purple is supposed to be and one CP where a Heinz is supposed to be. The one on the front corner is actually a Market Miracle. I didn't have enough germination form the Heinz and I redid the sowing of the MMs so I had extra. The Heinz plants are all starting to die as the tomatoes ripen. They are paste tomatoes and the plant doesn't live long. But puts out a lot of tomatoes relatively quickly. Supposedly it does well in cool weather, but this is the second year in a row we are getting unusual heat.

Bed 2 is a modified Three Sisters Bed. It was planted later than my other TSB. The earlier corn is Spring Treat and is already setting ears. The later corn is Shasta and has tasseled, but not set any ears yet. The beans are all dried beans of various types.

Bed 3 is what used to be my pea bed. I'm now trying to get carrots up, but with triple digit temps possible it is going to be hard. I'll be watering them several times a day for the next couple of days.

Bed 4 is a mixed solanum bed. It has potatoes in one 8' section.

And eggplant, basil, and tomatoes in the next 8' section.

Bed 5 is more of a two sisters bed. It has cucumbers, melons, zucchini, and beans. The cukes I'm growing in the front of the bed are annoying. They don't want to climb my support. The Diamant I used to grow were more prolific and could climb better. If only Diamant seed didn't cost 0.50-0.80 for each seed. I may just buy a large packet of them like I did years ago and use them for several years.

I didn't take a photo of bed 6. It has a floating row cover over it and the butterflies were already out. I got one under the cover last time I opened it up and oh it was a pain to get out. I'm hoping it didn't lay any eggs during that time. But this is where all my brassicas and chard are.

Bed 7 is my pepper bed. I'm getting a few peppers, but it is struggling with bacterial spot. I spray every week with Serenade and it helps a lot, but I don't think it will be a good year for peppers.

Bed 8 is the other Three Sisters Bed. It was planted a lot earlier than the other bed and is sadly in more shade. So the early corn is struggling. It has only set a handful of ears. The later corn which is closer in the photo has more sun and is doing fairly well. Some of the stalks are setting a second ear, but some haven't set one. There are two kinds of squash in my TSBs. I have Waltham Butternut and Black Futsu. The butternut has set just one fruit so far in this bed. The other TSB hasn't had any female blossoms yet. I have some dried beans in this bed, but the first section is mostly my green beans, Kentucky Wonder. I've been picking every day in this heat because if I don't they get too large and tough. Usually they take longer to grow.

One side of the circle garden has my lettuce bed. I don't think that lettuce will be any good after this heat wave, but I'll give it a chance. Last weekend I ripped out the other side when I saw the forecast. In the front is where the garlic used to be and now has carrots seeded.

The other side of the circle garden is my onion patch.

A few of the onions were already starting to fall over, so they got pulled and are drying.

Sunflowers line the other side of the path down the garden. These things are just huge.