Got Some Growin' to Do

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Monday, 11 June 2012

Cherry tomatoes! and other goodies in the garden right now

The garden is looking a little bare with the pea vines gone.

picture of all the garden beds

Hopefully, the empty trellises will soon be home to green beans, cucumbers, and watermelons. Seeds are going into the ground any day now. I was planning to have them in by now, but the last few days have been busier than expected.

The tomatoes are doing really well, and they've all got tomatoes for me to obsessively watch until I get to eat them.

garden bed with tomatoes growing

The Stupice tomato plant is the one closest to the camera, with that pretty, little, red tomato on it. I've been waiting to eat that tomato since the beginning of April. But, it was not meant to be...

tomato eaten by bird

A bird ate my first tomato! Ugh! I didn't lose even one tomato to birds last year. So, it looks like some netting or other bird deterrents are going to be needed now. There were only two tomatoes on the truss, so I decided to pick the other one before it fully ripened. It looked like it may have been molested by a bird, but the damage was minimal, and I enjoyed the other half.

My cherry tomatoes are faring well, and seem to have gone unnoticed by the wildlife, so far. I've got them both on one side of our little arbor. We potted up the Aunt Ruby's German Green a while ago, and finally decided where it would live for the summer. I liked the looks of this tomato cage that we saw at Lowe's and decided to try it with the ARGG. To give it some extra support, since it's in the fairly loose soil in the grow bag, two of the vertical poles are tied to the fence posts. I'll keep it pruned to two or three main stems, so hopefully the support will be enough for it. I like that the horizontal bars can move up and down where they may be needed for the best support. I guess we'll just have to see how well it actually works.

tomatoes growing in bags, two on an arbor, and one against a fence using a cage

And, I'm happy to report that I've eaten three lovely Sungold cherry tomatoes! They're as tasty as they are pretty.

Ripe Sungold cherry tomato

They certainly are named appropriately, with that sunny yellow-orange color. I can't wait until the Gardener's Delight that's growing beside it starts making pretty little red tomatoes. They should look really good together.

I've also harvested some pepperoncini peppers. I've taken most of them off the plant, so it can focus on making more flowers and more peppers.

pepperoncini plant full of peppers

We have harvested two cauliflowers. The picture below shows the second one we picked, along with some of our broccoli.

A bowl with harvested cauliflower and broccoli

We love our broccoli! I think we'll continue to grow the broccoli every season. There's a real difference between the fresh broccoli and grocery-store broccoli, but I didn't really notice a difference in the cauliflower. I also love that the broccoli keeps producing and producing. Cauliflower might show up in the garden again, but it's not high on the list. It would be fun to grow some of the colored cauliflowers, though. In other brassica news, I think I spotted a small cabbage head beginning to take shape.

I finally gave up on the green beans I planted about a month and a half ago. They just weren't doing well. I knew I planted them a bit early. One plant had a full-size bean on it this weekend. It was time to give up on them. More bush beans, and different varieties of beans, will be succession planted through the summer. I'm on a search for my favorite green bean or mix of beans. Last year, I fell in love with Festina bush beans, so I think they'll be going in soon.

I'm still having an issue with several of my plants in two of my beds looking jaundiced. I watered all the beds a few days ago with some water I steeped with worm castings (from my worm farm!), to try and give everything a little nutritional boost. They're growing, if a little sluggish, so I hope I can get them to green up and look a little perkier. In the bed with my tomatoes and peppers, the tomatoes look great, but the peppers all have yellowish leaves. I read that can happen when the temperatures are too low, so now that it's more consistently warm, maybe that will help them perk up. Some of them are trying to make peppers, but I think I'm going to take them off so they can put more energy in plant growth right now.

Another interesting thing that I've noticed is how vigorous the seeds planted in my growing bags are in comparison to the same seeds that I planted in the garden beds. I put marigold seeds in one of the grow bags a couple of weeks after I planted them in the garden. The marigold plants in the grow bag are more than twice the size of most of the marigolds in the garden beds already, and they look really healthy. I mixed a good amount of worm castings, purchased from Earthworms 4 Sale when I got my worms, into the potting soil I put in the grow bags, and I think that must be why the marigolds and other plants are so happy. I don't have enough castings to mix into the garden yet, so I think I'm going to buy some castings to bridge the gap until my own castings are ready.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The spring garden is winding down

The Tall Telephone peas lived up to their name.

using a ladder to harvest tall pea plants

Unfortunately, pea season is coming to a close. The garden peas look particularly bad (photo below), but the sugar snaps and the snow peas are starting to fade quickly, too. They've all stopped putting out blooms, and we're just waiting for one more small harvest before they all come out of the ground to make room for warmer weather crops: green beans, cucumbers, and watermelon.

See how ugly the garden peas are starting to look?

dying pea vines

I also pulled out this lettuce 'tree', which was getting to be a bit too tall to fit comfortably under the row cover. It's been part of quite a few salads this spring.

I'd never seen or grown sprouting broccoli before this year. Grocery store broccoli with tight, dense heads has always been the broccoli I knew. I don't even remember seeing anything different at the farmers markets in California that we frequented when we were living there. I think it's lovely when it blooms, and the flowers have made a pretty little addition to some of our salads and even on some grilled pizzas.

yellow blossoms on a sprouting broccoli plant

At last, we have cauliflower! There are two heads shaping up nicely, and two smaller ones that are just starting to show themselves. I only planted four plants, so we won't get a lot of cauliflower, but it will help us decide if we want to try growing it again. I could've grown more than the six broccoli plants that we have, but they've provided a nice harvest for just the two of us. I'm pretty sure we'll be growing broccoli again.

small cauliflower head

I'll post more about tomatoes later, but I have to share this now:

tomato turning red

One of the Stupice tomatoes has finally started to turn red! I'm pretty thrilled about it, but I have to admit, I'm still a bit jealous of my dad, who called this afternoon to tell me he'd picked and eaten his first tomato today. No fair!

Monday, 28 May 2012

They're here!

Don't have pictures, because it was too dark, but cauliflower heads have appeared!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Spring is Moving into Summer

And nothing says that summer's coming quite like a tomato plant full of little green balls of anticipation.

sungold tomato plant with lots of baby tomatoes

The Sungold above may be the happiest tomato in the garden right now. It's growing so fast and blooming like crazy. I don't have a control plant to compare it with, but the worm castings that I mixed in with the soil might be the reason for its vigor.

I also mixed worm castings well into the soil that filled the Topsy Turvy, and the Rutgers planted in it is looking pretty happy, too.

Rutgers tomato growing upside down in a Topsy Turvy

The hanging plant at the other end of the wood frame is a sedum of some kind that came from my grandfather's garden about twenty years ago. My parents have kept it going all this time, and I got my piece about a year ago after we moved into our new home.

The Stupice tomatoes are big enough now that I'm anxiously waiting for them to start showing some sign of ripening.

Stupice baby tomatoes on the vine

Another tomato with a growing cluster of tomatoes is the New Girl.

Cluster of tomatoes growing on New Girl plant

Another favorite of summer is green beans. I started some a bit early, and they'd been doing well even with some of the cool nights we've had.

green beans growing

Earlier this week, all of a sudden, the bottom leaves were yellow with spots all over. I guess the wet weather wasn't to their liking. I doused them with Serenade, and I hope it's got things under control, but most of the plants have completely lost their lower leaves.

Green beans that have lost their lower leaves

The remaining leaves look healthy, and at least half of the bean plants have started to flower. I just might end up with some early beans. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

This is getting fun

New mysteries and challenges this past week in the garden.

The new challenge is (I think) powdery mildew on my May peas. I noticed it last night. We've been having rain most evenings, so I think that's the culprit. After looking up some organic controls, I decided to remove the affected leaves and spray the peas with a baking soda solution. I hope that it helps to settle the issue, because I don't want to lose my peas so early. There are still so many blossoms and baby pods on the vines.

Looks like powdery mildew: powdery mildew on pea leaves

The tomatoes that were affected by bacterial spot look really healthy now, so using Serenade was the right decision.

Our big mystery this week is a missing pepper plant. Last night I noticed that the plant just wasn't in the garden anymore. There's no evidence that one was even in its place. The ironic part is that it was one of the peppers I had to label as a mystery pepper when some of my seedling tags got mixed up. I'll never know what it was now. It was probably a duplicate of one of the other peppers, because there was only one variety that lost all it's labels, so it's not as disappointing as it could have been.

The best part about this past week has been the harvest. We've had broccoli, peas, and lettuce on our plates several times, and we're looking forward to more. Today's broccoli had a few yellow flowers starting to open, but it still tastes great and the flowers are pretty.

The peas are so tall now that when the ones at the top are ready, we're going to need a step ladder.

very tall peas

And the pods are filling quickly with fat, sweet peas. Everyone should grow peas!

plump pea pods on vine

open pea pod filled with peas

We've harvested other plants and side shoots from the plant below since, but this was our first head of broccoli:

head of broccoli ready to harvest

harvested broccoli and snow peas in a bowl

We've had a few broccoli and pea stir-fries this week. They're quick, easy, and tasty. We've used both our snow peas and sugar snap peas that way. They also make a nice snack to just munch on while we're outside. I'm very happy with my spring gardening experiment. So far, there are no cauliflower or cabbage heads, so I don't know if I'll get anything from them before it gets to warm, but I'll just try again this autumn.

Friday, 18 May 2012


Writing this a little late, but Wednesday we munched on our first peas! Two of the pods on the Tall Telephone peas were looking pretty plump, so we opened them up and had a little snack. They were so sweet! I've never grown peas before, but they'll be regulars in my garden from now on. Such an easy crop, with such a tasty reward.

Most of the broccoli plants are starting to head up and grow side shoots. There will probably be a snow pea & broccoli stir-fry on our plates in the next couple of days.

I also noticed that I have baby tomatoes on my Sungold cherry tomato, which is already sporting two more flower clusters, one that's in bloom. Can't wait for the first taste!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Update. I've been a lazy blogger.

I've got a few pictures to share, but first, I thought I'd give a quick update on what's been going on that the pictures don't show.

I sprayed the tomatoes with Serenade, which I saw recommended on some posts at the GardenWeb Forums. It's supposed to suppress bacterial spot, which is what I think has affected some of my tomato plants. So far, so good. It seems to have stopped the spread on the tomato plants that were affected, and I haven't seen any signs of it on the others. It's been a bit rainy off and on the last week, so I'm going to spray them again soon and keep a good eye on them. I've given away my extra tomato plants, so I don't have back-ups anymore if any of these plants need to come out. Crossing my fingers.

Keeping the row covers on my cabbage-family plants has been a bit tricky. I'll definitely plant them differently if we grow them again this fall. They need to be grouped better, in smaller sections. One piece of row cover can't fit over them when they're planted three rows deep. Obviously, I didn't think the math through. Oops. Now, we're using two overlapping pieces, but sometimes the wind and rain we've been having will manage to make openings that those clever little cabbage butterflies get into. We've been checking the leaves at least every two days, but those eggs are so tiny, it's easy to miss some. For the last couple of days, we've been plucking itty, bitty, teeny, tiny, green caterpillars off the leaves of mostly broccoli. They seem to like it better than cauliflower and red cabbage, because there have only been a few on those plants. We haven't noticed many more eggs, though, so maybe we're winning this latest battle. I just don't want them crawling into my little broccoli florets. Yuck!

Last big issue we're having right now is that quite a few of my plants have a yellow cast to them. I'm wondering if it's too much water, or some of the cool nights we've had over the last couple of weeks, or some combination of the two. The beds seem to be draining well, but we've had rain nearly every other day, I think. The plants seem to be growing fairly well, they're just a little jaundiced. I should probably get soil test done on each bed, just in case there's a nutrient problem I need to address.

Most of the pictures below were taken on May 11.

First, the tomatoes. I'm doing a Topsy Turvy experiment this year. My dad bought a couple that he tried once or twice, and they've been sitting in his garage ever since. They didn't work very well for him, but he also neglected them for short spans when he was out of town. I'm only doing one, and it's holding my Rutgers tomato. Instead of putting the little top on it, I planted some marigold and nasturtium seeds up there. The marigolds are just starting to sprout now.

tomato planted in Topsy Turvy

A few of my other tomatoes will be living in grow bags, starting with my Sungold cherry tomato. The others haven't bee planted yet, because I'm out of potting soil and just haven't gone to get more yet. They'll be in their bags by the end of the week. The Sungold will be given the sunniest half of the arbor in our backyard. It doesn't look that way in the photo, but it was taken in late afternoon. This spot gets sun all morning and into the middle of the afternoon. This spot is also close to the back door - a good location for snacking!

Sungold tomato in growing bag next to arbor

I've planted a few seeds in the bag with the tomatoes: some marigolds and borage. I think I may put a basil plant in there too. I plan to clean out the little flower bed the bag is sitting in and fill it with some flowers, and maybe some herbs.

My Stupice tomato might be my happiest tomato plant right now - maybe because it doesn't mind the cooler temps we're still getting some nights.

Stupice with two small green tomatoes

I'm anxiously waiting for these little babies to grow up a bit more and ripen. I just wish the birds would stop sitting on top of my trellis and crapping on them. I have two other tomato plants in the same bed that are putting out their first blooms right now: Ananas Noir and New Girl.

I've never grown Pepperoncini peppers before, so I didn't know how quickly they'd grow and start making peppers.

three small pepperoncini peppers on plant

I've also never eaten them fresh, only pickled, so I hope I like them. It's nice to see peppers growing in May.

My spring plants are really doing well right now. We've had lettuce for salads about every other day (I didn't plant enough). I've been trimming leaves from the larger lettuce plants, and thinning the bed a bit by pulling out some of the baby lettuces that are getting crowded.

one square foot planted with lettuce

My other square of lettuce isn't nearly as full as this one, so this is where most of our lettuce harvest is coming from right now. I've planted a few other squares since these lettuces were planted, but the plants in them are barely more than sprouts right now. This is the Rocky Top lettuce mix from Baker Creek.

This is one of our bowls of lettuce, and a bit of spinach, that I harvested last week.

Cat investigating bowl of lettuce

I had to let my curious cat investigate the bowl of greens.

The sugar snap peas and snow peas were covered in blooms on May 11. These are the sugar snaps.

sugar snap peas in bloom

When we were out this afternoon, much to my surprise, the snow peas had started producing pods! They were small, but I couldn't resist picking a couple - one for me, one for my husband. I was just going to munch on them, but he said I should take a picture and weigh them.

two snow pea pods weighing 2 grams total

A whopping two grams of snow peas! They were delightful. I think I can force myself to let the rest get a little bigger before picking them.

Our Tall Telephone peas are living up to their 'tall' description! They're about six feet tall now, I think, and they're making bunches of pea pods.

May peas starting to grow pea pods

I've never had fresh peas from my own garden before. I get a little giddy when I look at all the blossoms and pea pods growing.

Speaking of giddiness, I was so excited to look into one of my broccoli plants to finally see... broccoli!

small head of broccoli starting to grow

It's grown pretty quickly over the last few days. It's already starting to grow some side shoots, so I'll probably harvest the main head while it's still a bit on the young side. I noticed today that two of my other broccoli plants have little flower heads now, too.

It's been fun growing things I've never grown before, especially now that they're starting to produce. I think I'm going to enjoy being a multi-season gardener.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Good day in the garden

All sorts of new discoveries when I went out to check on the garden today. I found a ladybug! Didn't have my camera with me at the time, unfortunately.

Currently, my garden is three raise beds, and I'll eventually expand to four beds. Now, there are two on the left, and one on the right, I refer to them as my northwest, southwest, and northeast beds. This is what they looked like today:


garden bed with peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and lettuce

The Tall Telephone peas are about 4 1/2 feet tall now, and have just started to bloom! I'll post pea blossom photos later in the entry. I was so excited to see them. Today, I decided to remove the floating row cover, because the broccoli plants are getting pretty tall, and the row cover was getting too tight. I'll have to come up with a better arrangement, either for this crop or for the next. As luck would have it, today was the first day in weeks that I've spotted a cabbage butterfly. We'll just have to be diligent about checking for eggs on the leaves.


garden bed with snow peas, sugar snap peas, beans, and varied seedlings

Here, I'm growing sugar snap peas and snow peas on the trellis. The space between them is empty for now, but I think I'll be planting some Christmas Lima beans there - another of the many new-to-me plants I'm growing this year. This is the bed that's also home to my beans - peeking out over the box, right in the middle of the front row. Other goodies in this bed include eggplants, peppers, marigolds, nasturtiums, zinnias (I didn't realize until now how many flowers I'd put in this one, I"m sure the neighbors will enjoy those, too), radishes, lettuces, some herbs, and some (finally!) newly-emerging parsnips. Parsnips take a bit of time to germinate; these took two weeks to show themselves. I've also never grown parsnips (I've only been eating them for about 5 years), and I hope they turn out well. They were planted specifically for sharing with my family at a holiday dinner. They're also recent parsnip eaters.


garden bed with tomatoes and peppers

This is the one I refer to as my tomato bed, because it's where a majority of my tomatoes are planted. Others are going into various containers, but haven't been planted yet. Most of the other squares are planted with peppers, along with an eggplant, a few herbs, onions, and marigolds. Things seem to be going well in this bed, but some of the tomato plants have, what I believe to be, bacterial spot on their leaves:

Close up of leaf with bacterial spot

I'll be treating that with an organic spray to get it under control. It hasn't spread very far yet. There is also happier tomato news:

close up of small tomato forming

Tomato baby! Now I get to stalk it and hope nothing happens to it until it ripens. Wheee!

I also have at least two pepperoncini babies:

close up of pepper forming in fading flower

And those pretty pea blossoms I mentioned earlier:

pea blossoms on trellis

close up pea blossom

When I purchased seeds earlier in the year, on a whim I decided to get some tomatillo seeds. I've never had or used a fresh tomatillo, but I've purchased several salsas that have used them and decided to grow some. Those seeds grew like crazy! The seedlings seemed to grow twice as fast as any of the tomatoes or peppers that were sown at the same time. I looked them up and read that the plants can get pretty darn big, and I knew I probably wouldn't have room for them in the raised garden beds. My solution was to put them in the nearly empty flower bed along the south side of our house. It's one of the beds that was put in before we bought the house, and mostly had some overgrown and untended shrubs in it. We've started pulling most of those out and just mulching with newspapers and cedar mulch to keep it tidy until we decide what to do with it. The soil is pretty heavy clay, but we planted the tomatillos in large holes amended with potting soil and worm castings so they wouldn't have to fight very hard to get acclimated to their new home. They're totally an experiment, so I'm not expecting great things from them. I'll give them cages sometime soon, since I've read that they can benefit from cages.

tomatillos planted in the yard

I didn't post this earlier, but we had a small lettuce and spinach harvest on May 1st! It was only enough for a couple of small salads, and I'm looking forward to having enough for a couple of large dinner salads. It included some Cimmaron leaves, some leaves and baby lettuces (had to thin the patch a bit) from the Rocky Top mix, and a few spinach leaves. Yum!

lettuce leaves in a bowl

Monday, 30 April 2012

Beans are fun!

So quick to sprout, so quick to grow. It's about as close as you're going to get to instant gratification in gardening.

Twelve days ago, bean seeds went into the ground.

Bean sprout

In about six weeks, the beans I planted will provide enough beans for a meal or two, maybe more. That's pretty fun (and tasty) stuff! I've never tried this variety (Tennessee Green Pod), but I'm looking forward to tasting and comparing it to what I grew last year (fell in love with Festina last year and will be growing more this year) and the other new varieties I want to try this year. I'm also looking forward to mixing and matching beans in the same pot or salad as harvests overlap. I have plans to grow pole beans along with succession plantings of bush beans.

When I was a kid (and teenager, and maybe my early twenties), I probably wouldn't have eaten half of the vegetables I'm growing this year (definitely not the cauliflower, no way!). My palate has changed over the many years since then, and I've learned to like a wider variety of vegetables. Green beans, however, have always been welcomed on my plate. If my mother couldn't get anything else green in me, she could always count on me eating my green beans.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The garden is starting to fill up!

I was a bit under the weather this past week, so there's been very little time in the garden. Yesterday, I was able to get out for a little bit. There's not much to do right now except watch things grow and check for any issues. Luckily, we got rain often enough that the seeds I put into the ground last weekend (and some prior) have started sprouting and are doing well.

green beans sprouting

I put in my first planting of green beans last weekend, and they're all coming up! I soaked them overnight to help them germinate more quickly. I'm only showing one square here, but I planted an adjacent square, too. I'll be succession planting bush bean varieties all summer, and once I have some trellis space available (after the peas are done), I have some pole beans I want to try. This current planting of green beans is a variety called Tennessee Green Pod, which I chose partly because of its name (my dad's from TN) and partly because it's an early maturing variety (48 days). It's supposed to start warming back up (and staying that way?) soon, so I hope they'll do well.

In the same bed with the beans, I've sown lots of other seeds.

seeds sprouting in garden bed

In the top row of squares I've planted (from left to right) Pablo lettuce, Pinwheel Mix zinnias, and some more Pablo along with a radish blend (the radishes are the largest sprouts in the picture) called Cook's Custom. We've picked a few radishes from an earlier sowing that was in the broccoli/cabbage bed, and my husband has enjoyed those.

In the bottom squares, I've got Crackerjack Mix marigolds, more radishes mixed with Cimmaron lettuce, and nasturtiums that I've seen no sign of yet. However, I have seen some bird activity in both areas where nasturtiums were planted. I think I'll be firing up our seed starting rig to give them a head start indoors.

Moving on to more baby bits of greenery...

flower and onion sprouts

The larger plants are the peppers that were planted last week. In the upper square are some yellow onion sets that I picked up on a whim while we were at a small, local garden center, Jimmy's Produce and Flowers. I've never grown onions before, but they're supposed to help repel some insects, so even if I don't get good onions, they'll still be useful. In the bottom square with all the little seedlings are some cosmos that came in some gardening publication offer through the mail. It's a mix called Bright Lights. I wasn't sure how fresh the seed would be, so I put several in each whole. Looks like I didn't have to worry. I think every one of them came up. I'll have to thin them out sometime this week when I do the lettuce and radishes.

I had to do one more installment of "watching lettuce grow." It will probably be the last, but it's been fun keeping track of how quickly these lettuce plants have started growing. They love all this rain!

collage of lettuce growing

It won't be long before I clip a few of those leaves to eat. Some of the smaller plants, like the one the largest green lettuce was swallowing, have been moved to give them more room to grow. Others will be pulled as baby lettuces or moved to better spots later. These lettuces are in the bed with the broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. Everything got a close inspection yesterday to search for any signs of butterfly eggs or other pests and damage. It's all looking good right now, and we haven't seen any signs of invasion since the last one.

broccoli garden getting inspected for bugs

Monday, 23 April 2012

What a difference a few days make

When I was out in the garden a couple of days ago (tomato planting day!), I noticed that the lettuces had really started growing. I put a little collage together to show the difference. The two pictures on top were taken April 18, and the two on the bottom were taken April 21.

collage showing lettuce growth over three days

It's been cool and rainy for the last couple of days, so I only got outside this evening for a quick check of everything. I should've taken my camera and added another set of photos to show how much they've grown in just another couple of days. The cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower plants are growing really quickly right now, too.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Tomato (and pepper, and some other things) bed planted!

It's a cool, rainy Sunday in Newport News. I hope it will be good for my transplants, and that it won't be too cold for them tonight.

tomato and peppers transplanted into garden bed

Most of the tomatoes and peppers are now in their permanent places in the garden. The peppers went in on Friday (along with some onion sets), and the tomatoes, an eggplant, and some basil were transplanted Saturday. I haven't secured the bottom of the trellis yet, but I'll get that done by the time the tomatoes are tall enough to start using it.

As luck would have it, I just looked out at the bed, where a couple of robins were canoodling while a third just sat there looking on. They couldn't have gotten busy in the bed without all my new transplants in it? My husband went out to shoo them away and assess the damage. Only one broken leaf on a pepper plant. That's not too bad.

Here's a look at the plants that are now officially part of the garden.

Detail of left side of the garden bed

My garden beds are 8' x 4' and divided into square foot sections by string. The picture above is focusing on the 4' x 4' area on the left side of the bed. I'm using inspiration from Square Foot Gardening, but not following every recommendation to the letter.

Growing in this side of the bed:

  1. New Girl tomato - Described in an earlier post - This was planted in the garden April 3. It had a Wall O Water around it that I removed on Friday. New Girl is advertised as better tasting than the well-known Early Girl, with more disease resistance.
  2. Caspian Pink tomato - An heirloom from Russia (near the Caspian Sea), it has won many taste tests. It's a cooler season tomato, so it may have some problems when the weather here gets hot, but I'm giving it a chance, anyway.
  3. Paul Robeson tomato - Another Russian heirloom, this one is a 'black' tomato, which means it ripens to a darker, dusky purple color.
  4. Pink Brandymaster tomato - Another pink-ripening tomato, this one a hybrid strain of the popular heirloom, Brandywine.
  5. Lemon Thyme - I haven't used this herb for cooking yet, but it has the most wonderful lemony smell. We visited a small, nearby nursery and produce store for the first time about a week ago, and I couldn't leave it behind.
  6. California Wonder pepper - I'm growing this variety mainly for green peppers, but will likely let some ripen completely to red. It's the pepper I remember my dad buying every year for his garden.
  7. Listada De Gandia eggplant - Very pretty purple and white eggplant, that looks to be a really good size for us. It's an heirloom from Spain, described around the internet has having good flavor. Looking forward to trying my favorite no-fry, roasted eggplant parmesan with this variety.
  8. Pepperoncini pepper - Usually seen pickled in Greek salads, I'm curious to see how they taste fresh (and I plan on pickling some), and when allowed to ripen until they're red.
  9. Flavorburst pepper - I'm really looking forward to trying this bell pepper. It starts as a light green and ripens to yellow. The taste is supposed to be sweet with a hint of citrus.
  10. Orange Blaze pepper - A sweet bell pepper in what looks to be a lovely, bright orange color.
  11. Lime Basil - An herb I've never tried, but I'm looking forward to using it. It certainly smells good.

Now, the other half of the garden bed:

Detail of right side of the garden bed

  1. Ananas Noire - A bi-color red and green heirloom variety from Belgium.
  2. Country Taste tomato - A red hybrid that's supposed to have an old-fashioned tomato taste.
  3. Old Virginia tomato - Couldn't resist growing this one because of the name. It's a red heirloom, from somewhere in Virginia; some sources say southern Virginia.
  4. Stupice - Also planted April 3, it was described in an earlier post, It's an early-season heirloom tomato from the former Czechoslavakia, It produced it's first bloom a couple of days ago. Hopefully the cool nights we'll be having during the early part of this week won't damage it. It's supposed to do well in cooler temperatures.
  5. Karma bell pepper - I'm growing this one to get ripe, sweet red peppers.
  6. Lilac bell pepper - Yes, this is a purple bell pepper. If left to fully ripen, it will go from purple to red, but I plan to harvest the peppers when they're purple.
  7. Golden California Wonder pepper - No surprises here, this pepper ripens to a golden yellow.
  8. Italian Parsley from last year's garden. It's blooming and going to seed right now. I'm thinking about replacing it with a younger parsley. Parsley is a biennial, which means it flowers every other year. I want a parsley that's busy making leaves. I'll either put a younger one in another bed, or this one goes.
  9. Sweet Basil - A typical basil, started from seed gifted to me by my best friend.
  10. Early Jalapeno - A jalapeno pepper variety that sets fruit a little earlier than others.

The open squares without plants either have been or will be sown with onions, carrots, marigolds, cosmos, and another herb or two. It's so nice to see another bed start looking like a garden!

Friday, 20 April 2012

A Look Around the Garden

There hasn't been a lot going on until recently. The seedlings were being tended, and some started looking a little stressed, leaves yellowing a bit. I started putting them out a little bit at a time, leaving them in the cool of the evening for a while before bringing them back in. I used the floating row cover to shelter them a bit from wind and direct sun. The nights started warming a bit, so they've been living outside full time now for about five days. A couple of days ago, I removed them from their peat pots, which had started molding, and I put them in pots that gave them a little more room for their roots. I added some purchased worm castings to the potting mix to give them a dose of nutrition that I think they were lacking, even with occasional feedings of a fish emulsion solution. In just the couple of days that they've been in their new pots, I think they're already looking so much better. The plants that were getting a bit yellow are greening back up. It was a lot of work for plants that will probably be planted in the ground within the next week, but I want to make sure they're healthy when they go in, and I want the plants I share to be healthy when they go to their new homes. Here's a picture of all my little ones (and some pretty big ones) on the plant stand outside:

plants growing on plant stand waiting to be transplanted

These are all the seedlings I've started, except for the two tomatoes that have been planted and the two tomatoes my dad took home with him last week. It's mostly tomatoes and peppers, with some eggplants, tomatillos, and herbs mixed in. As I plant them, I'll give more details about varieties of each. This post will be long enough without all of that.

Speaking of the tomatillos, they're blooming! The Stupice tomato from my first set of seedlings is also blooming, and I hope to deliver it to a new home this weekend. I'm planning to plant the tomatillos in a flower bed on the side of my house. I've been reading that they grow quite large, and I don't think I have the space for them in my raised beds.

Blooms on tomatillo and tomato plants

The Stupice tomato that I planted out in the garden isn't quite blooming in this picture (taken April 18th), but it is now!

Flower bud on Stupice tomato

I might make my goal of having the first fresh tomato in May. Stay tuned!

Now, let's take a little tour of the bed that stays under wraps most of the time.

Raised bed with peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, etc

On the left, you can see how big the pea plants are getting. I forgot to measure them, but I'm pretty sure the tallest are about two feet now. They're growing well and looking healthy. The white powder on the soil is the diatomaceous earth I'm using to help control slugs and other creepy crawlies that want to eat my veggies. It's been doing it's job fairly well, since the new growth on the broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower plants is nearly damage-free. I removed the large hoops that held the floating row cover, and I'm now using some wire fence pieces (not pictured, will show those later) to support the row cover. It lets the peas get more sun, and allows me to use just one piece of row cover instead of the two required to cover the taller supports. The thyme I moved into the left corner is doing really well, and I'll probably have to prune it a few times over the summer to keep it from taking over that part of the bed.

Next, some detail of the smaller plants in the broccoli bed.

radish plants in garden bed

Above are radishes. I planted some lettuce in this square, too, but it either didn't come up or the slugs got it before I started using the diatomaceous earth.

Moving on to lettuce, that's actually growing.

lettuces in garden bed

The larger lettuce plants in the upper left and right corners of these squares are the survivors of the slug invasion. The little tiny seedlings in the right square are from when I scattered some more seeds from the Rocky Top lettuce mix. Interesting that both times I scattered seeds in this square most of the seedlings that came up were in the bottom part of the square. When I think they seedlings, I'm going to try to transplant some to the less populated areas. The red lettuce in the left square is Cimmaron, a romaine type lettuce. It will probably get much greener as it grows, but the red is so pretty now. I'm going to put some more Cimmaron seeds in this square this weekend. I've also planted some more lettuce seeds in another bed yesterday. I was hoping to harvest baby lettuce leaves by now, but I'll just have to be patient. The little green sprout under the Cimmaron is a carrot.


Spinach and broccoli plants

The three plants in the left square are spinach. They've been growing so slowly, I was wondering if they'd ever amount to anything. I think the two larger ones have tripled in size in the last week. I'll let them get a few more leaves before I start clipping a couple to toss into a salad or put on a sandwich. They seem to like the current weather. I might put a few more seeds in somewhere to see if I can't get a bit more spinach this spring. The lovely plant on the left is the broccoli plant that was most damaged when the cabbageworms came calling. It's recovering nicely and growing pretty new leaves. For the curious the plant in the upper left square is a red cabbage, and the one in the upper right is another broccoli.

And this is how the bed looks now when it's all covered up:

broccoli bed covered with row cover

I think the peas might like having a bit more sun now.

These are the other peas we're growing,

sugar snap and snow peas

Sugar snap peas are closest to the bottom, and the others are snow peas.

Pretty Little Extras

These little tricolor violas (johnny jump ups) are growing in our back yard. There's just one little plant, perhaps a gift from a bird.

wild viloas

This is a pretty bush that was planted by previous owners. After tracking it down on the internet, I'm pretty sure it's a weigela. I think we'll be keeping this one.

weigela bush, pink flowers

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Worms a'Workin'!

About seventeen days ago, I gave my worms a big bowl of cauliflower mixed with a few other odds and ends, and before I covered it with the shredded paper bedding, it looked like this:

pile of cauliflower in worm bin

Today, it looks like this:

area of worm bin where cauliflower used to be

There's no evidence of the cauliflower, or anything else mixed with it except some eggshells. And, you can see all the dark, rich castings worms are making for me. For their efforts, they got another bowl full of scraps (more varied this time) and some more shredded newspaper added to the bin. And, I can report that, so far, there have been no unpleasant smells. Good for the house, but also means that the bin is healthy.

Monday, 9 April 2012

And a New Fight Begins

I really need to rework the way I'm using my floating row covers. The PVC hoops are too large, and it appears that I wasn't able to secure it well enough to keep out the pests.

broccoli eaten by cabbageworms

Can you see them? The little green cabbageworms that have eaten up some of my plants? There are two of them in the picture. Amusingly, I didn't apot any damage or bugs on the cabbage, just the broccoli and cauliflower. The broccoli must be their favorite, since they have the most damage. I wonder if they aren't eating the cabbage because it's red. They were on most of the broccoli and cauliflower plants right next to the cabbages.

close-up of cabbageworm, the cabbage butterfly caterpillar

The cabbageworm isn't a worm, but the caterpillar of the cabbage butterfly (some call it cabbage moth). I wasn't able to spend much time in the garden for a few days, and never noticed eggs on the leaves, so I didn't expect to find these little critters and all the damage they managed to do when I wasn't looking. I picked them off, about a dozen, and did an egg check. I did a good dusting of diatomaceous earth on the leaves and around the plants. Hopefully, that will keep them from further damage for a little bit. On a positive note, the first dusting seems to have stopped the slug activity.

And something is eating my radishes, too!

radishes with bug damage

I'm not sure what's eating them. Maybe flea beetles. I hope the diatomaceous earth will help put a stop to whatever it is.

Luckily, it's not all bad news and leaf damage out there. The peas are growing so fast, I think you can actually watch them grow with a little patience.

Peas on a trellis

The other peas (snow and sugar snap) are also growing well in their bed.

I don't know if the Wall O Waters are helping, since I don't have any other tomatoes outside to compare them with, but the plants are both doing well.

tomato inside of Wall O Water

The plant in the photo is Stupice,

Last, but certainly not least, a picture of all my little ones, which made their first trip outside today. It was in the mid-70s, and no direct sun on the greenhouse frame, so it seemed like a good day for them to make their acquaintance with the outdoors.

seedlings outside on greenhouse frame

Tomatoes on the upper left are the first I started, which have been discussed in earlier posts. Two from this group are the ones that have been planted in the garden. At least a couple of these will be given to others to grow. The monsters in the upper right corner are tomatillos. I'm not even sure where I'll be planting those yet, since I've been reading about how large they might get. The other plants are lots of tomatoes and peppers, with a few eggplants and herbs mixed in.

I've run into a few problems with this batch of seedlings that I didn't have with my first few tomatoes. The peat pots are getting some mold growing on the outside. I guess because there are so many more, there's less air circulation around them, and the peat pots are always damp. If I allowed them to dry, the soil would be too dry for the plants, and they would wilt. I've decided to buy some plastic greenhouse pots, which can and will be reused season after season. I'll move most or all of my current plants into the plastic pots, especially the ones that will be given away. A few of my tomatoes have leaves that are turning white. I've been looking into it, and it appears to be an issue with light or nutrients. It doesn't seem to match any disease patterns that I've found, and I see no bugs or pests. I don't know if the mold on the peat pots has anything to do with it or not. It's not widespread, just three plants, but I'm keeping an eye on them.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Tomatoes are in!

I remembered the weather report incorrectly, and it was last night that was supposed to get down to the high 30's, so I decided to take a chance and get a couple of my tomatoes in the ground this afternoon, with some protection from Wall O Waters. The tomatoes that I started on February 18th have gotten pretty big.

tomatoes in peat pots

Tomatoes will put out roots all the way up their stems, so if they're leggy, have weak stems, or you just want to give them the benefit of having a strong root system, you can plant them deeply. I put mine in deep holes that I amended with some purchased worm castings (don't have any of my own yet) and crushed egg shells. I also gave them a feeding of kelp extract when I watered them in.

tomato sitting in a hole

Now they look little again.

tomatoes planted deeply with only top sets of leaves above ground

The tomato on the left is Stupice, an heirloom tomato from Czechoslovakia. It's an early salad-size tomato. If all goes well, I may start getting tomatoes in mid-to-late May. The one on the right is a New Girl, which is an early maturing hybrid. I thought I'd try it this year instead of Early Girl.

Picture of Wall o Water insulators in garden bed

Once they were in, I got the Wall O Waters filled and in place. I added a little dish soap in each channel to help control bugs. The lows a little later in the week are supposed to get into the 40's again, so I hope the WoWs do a good job keeping it a bit warmer for the tomato plants.

One last picture before I go.

Peas growing in the garden

The Tall Telephone peas I planted just about a month ago are doing pretty well.

The gnats today were really bad, and they really seemed to like flying around my head. I wanted to get some more seeds into the ground, but I got tired of waving away gnats and trying to keep them from flying up my nose. I'm hoping they won't be quite so bad tomorrow.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Feeding the Worms

What to do with an old half cauliflower that's starting to mold?

cauliflower in worm bin

Feed it to the worms!

This is the most food I've put in the bin at once, but the worms seem to be doing well, so I think it'll be fine. I really haven't had much to give them the last week or so, since I haven't had a lot of veggie scraps since my husband went out of town. I've been lazy, using bagged salad greens and frozen veggie mixes. Mixed with the cauliflower are the thinnings from the garden plants I've started, crushed egg shells, and the little bits of scraps from the week, and some shredded paper egg carton. Maybe it's lucky I uncovered that cauliflower for all my little wormies. I hope they like it.

A little less than a week ago, I had accumulated some apple scraps and other bits that I put into a different corner of the worm bin, and I think they liked the apples quite a bit, because they're almost gone. I didn't expect them to disappear quite so quickly.

devoured apples in worm bin

I'll check them again in a few days to see if they've gotten into all that cauliflower. I wonder how long it will take before there's as little left of the cauliflower mixture as there is of those apple scraps.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Best Laid Plans

Well, I didn't get my tomatoes planted, or more seeds in the ground, as I'd planned today. Household stuff, like grocery shopping, took precedence today. But soon! Nights are still getting pretty chilly on occasion, but my dad gave me some Wall O Waters that I'm going to try out. I may wait until Wednesday, because they're predicting temps into the low 40s for Tuesday night. I purposely grew extras so that I could experiment, but now I'm having a hard time deciding when to put the first set out, because I don't want to lose them.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Quick Update

Dusted the slug-affected part of the garden with diatomaceous earth and removed the beer cups. It looks like I'll probably loose the red cabbage plant that had the most damage.

The peas planted in our second bed have started to sprout. We have two varieties in that bed, both from Burpee seeds: Super Sugar Snap and Oregon Sugar Pod Organic.

Scattered some more Rocky Top lettuce seeds to replace what the slugs ate.

I saw a young dragonfly clinging to the row cover in the first bed, but wasn't quick enough to get a picture. We had quite a few dragonflies visit us last year. One afternoon we got a real treat. We went out to the backyard, and there were dragonflies flying and swooping all over the yard. I've never seen so many at one time. My husband loves them, so it was especially fun for him to see that.

The seedlings are doing pretty well. I started a couple of tomatillos, and they're the fastest growing plants I have right now. They're huge compared to the rest. I'm going to have to find larger pots for them soon, because their roots are already starting to fill up the plastic drinking cups they've been living in since Monday. I've never grown tomatillos before, so I didn't know they'd grow so much so fast.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tales of Life and Death

It's inevitable that there will be challenges and surprises in the garden. My biggest challenge so far has been slugs. You'd think that after the slug infestation on my seedlings earlier, I would've thought about them actually getting into the garden. But, I didn't, and they're making me pay for it.

Remember all my pretty lettuce seedlings?

early lettuce seedlings

The slugs only left me with a few. Guess I'm lucky they left me any at all. I'll scatter some more seeds in this area within the next few days.

lettuce seedlings after slug buffet

They also went after this poor little red cabbage. I don't know if it's going to make it.

slug-eaten cabbage

I have cups in the ground that I fill with beer to bait and drown the troublesome slugs. I bought some diatomaceous earth to help do away with the slimy little suckers, but it was too windy to spread it today. Maybe tomorrow, if the weather cooperates.

While I was working in the garden, I noticed my thyme moving and shaking, but not because the wind was blowing. I separated some branches, looked into the plant and (surprise!) saw this looking up at me:

butterfly in thyme

Its cocoon was in the thyme plant, and I never noticed it, even when I transplanted the thyme to its new location. It seemed to be struggling to get its wings working, and they hadn't unfolded properly yet.

butterfly with unopened wings

I don't know if the wet weather didn't allow proper drying, or if the poor little thing was just born ill, but its wings never opened and it died. I just hope it wasn't from any damage I may have done from moving the plant.

Of course, there are good things going on in the garden, too. Most of the broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower plants are doing well, even if there are a few slug-munched leaves here and there.

healthy plants in the garden

The picture shows my slug-bait beer cups, and the little seedlings in the foreground are radishes.

The peas are getting bigger each day. A few days ago, I finally put the snow peas and sugar snap peas in the ground, too. This time, I soaked them overnight first. It will be interesting to see if they sprout faster.

peas growing in the garden

They're big enough now that they're sending out tendrils, and some of them have started grabbing on to the trellis. One of the peas, however, seems more interested in forming a relationship with one of its neighbors.

pea tendrils

See how they're holding hands? I'm being silly, I know, but the pea with the long tendril (the one coming from the top of the picture) was actually closer to the trellis than it is to the other pea plant. It just looked really cute. I know it won't be long before they're all entangled with each other and the trellis.

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