Posts filed under ‘May 2011’
Hurrah! I have harvested 10lbs of delicious strawberries over the last week or so. Some are sweeter than others but all are sooo much better than those Californian strawbs with all their associated air miles.
I made my first ever strawberry jam last night – I can’t believe how easy it was! 4 cups of mashed strawberries, 1oz of low sugar pectin and 2 cups of sugar – stir the pectin into the strawberries, heat it to boiling, stir in the sugar and boil for 1 min and voila – 2.5 pints of strawberry jam. So much easier than pasta sauce – none of that stirring for 4 hours. The jam even passed the Marcus test!(Never did get the homemade tomato ketchup passed by him).
What else is going on in Winifreds Little Acre – well, I sowed my beans today – I am trying red kidney beans and garbanzo beans (since those are the two beans we eat a lot) and there is no pressure to harvest them since you let them dry out before picking.
The peaches are in need of thinning and there are signs of oozing from bug penetration in some of them, but not a majority like last year – maybe my homemade fruit tree spray is working a little.. The apple tree has baby apples but is showing signs of cedar apple rust, so the fruit spray was ineffective on that disease. The peas are coming but there aren’t enough of them to make a meal, so mainly they are for snacking in the garden.
I spotted (and squished) a couple of Colorado Potato beetles a week ago and haven’s seen any since, but my poor asparagus is suffering under the strain of asparagus beetle larvae – I sprayed it with Neem last week, but that didn’t have any effect. I’ll try spinosad this week – there are too many to hand squish.
We’re in for some hot weather this week, so I have to get my watering system organized – I need more soaker hose and I think I’m going to get some drip irrigation for the new (straight) beds outside the deer fence.
So the weather co-operated, at least for a couple of days, and I managed to get all my tomatoes, peppers and companion plants (that I started in the basement back in March) into their rightful places in the ground. Hurrah! Now it is raining again, which is good in a way, since I spread some groundcover seed too – clover in the tomato beds and alyssum in the pepper/eggplant bed. The rain will help their germination and for the seedlings to get settled in too. However, I’m a bit concerned about the developing fruit which is susceptible to fungal diseases when they don’t get chance to dry out.
I was a bit sad at the start of the day since I had to remove a huge patch of comfrey from one of tomato beds (I had already transplanted some elsewhere) but the (native) bees really like the flowers on it and I was taking away their food. Once it was dug out though I was glad I’d done it, so now all my veggie beds are free of perennials. Don’t get me wrong though, I have plenty of perennial herbs and flowers around to attract the good bugs and feed the bees etc. – it just wasn’t very practical to have perennials in the annual beds. The exception is my asparagus bed which is not in the “right” place since I missed the window of opportunity last year to move it to its planned permanent bed, but it is OK where it is and it is producing..even my oldest son Torri likes it now!
That brings me to the bugs! The battle has begun!! I spotted (and squished) some asparagus beetles last week – this weekend the larvae was out, so I have been squishing them as I see them. The flea beetles have left my radishes alone this year – which is highly unusual, but they have started to attack my seedlings and potatoes already. Last bug moan – I spotted some kind of tiny caterpillar on the grape vine – I’m going to look that up and maybe spray it with Bt (when it stops raining).
What a wet week! I have been trying to protect my seedlings and the plants in the cold frame by covering them during the downpours, and quickly uncovering them when the it stops in a vain attempt to get them to dry out a bit. Can’t do anything about plants in the ground though – actually, if nothing rots, the rain seems to have brought on the potatoes, onions and beans pretty well (same applies to the weeds of course!).
I did manage to get out into the garden yesterday morning – I fulfilled my personal mission of converting some of my sons’ old trampoline into a low tunnel to protect the sweet potatoes from unwanted invaders. It looks a little strange, but that’s OK – it all adds to the uniqueness of Winifreds Little Acre! I also edged around the raspberry fence that is hopefully going to protect the other crops outside the deer fence – I had a problem with escaping raspberries into my blueberries this year, so I decided to pre-empt the problem in this new raspberry patch.
The bees haven’t had too much chance to fly due to the rain, but hopefully they are still busy sorting out their new home. I’m a little worried about the baby peaches with their soft fuzzy skin – all this rain might take a toll. I’m planning to give them another holistic spray this weekend to help them out.
I have my curcubits – summer squash, cucumber (2nd sowing – first one failed) and melons in the basement germinating as I write hopefully. They should be ready to go out in a couple of weeks – they normally grow pretty fast. I’m looking into how to protect them from the cucumber beetle – they were all badly affected last year by bacterial wilt – so far my plan is to plant a ring of radish before I transplant them and then to cover them as soon as I put them out.
Looking forward to a great transplanting weekend – my babies are all ready to go out into the real world!
We collected our new bee colony (package) on Mother’s Day – from the Lehigh Valley Beekeepers Association – who drive to Georgia and back to collect the packages. We hived them on a perfect day – 70F, sunny and calm. We mistakenly took the cork out of the wrong end of the queen’s cage (we replaced back before leaving them) and so I was worried the queen would escape too quickly and then be killed by the colony. As usual, my fears were unfounded – when we checked on their progress yesterday – all was well, the Snow Queen (she is marked with a white blob) was doing fine, as were her 10,000 cohorts! They seemed to be enjoying the honey left by the previous colony and were as busy as bees! We didn’t see any sign of eggs yet, but will look again in a couple of weeks.
Hi all, I’m getting back to writing my blog. My parents have gone back to the UK after a great month-long visit. My Dad was a star! @72yrs old he opened up ~ 200 ft2 of virgin clay ground covered in vegetation (mostly goldenrod – so not an easy task!). It got drier and harder as the days went on, but he persevered and I even managed to plant my sweet potatoes (arrived in the mail last week) in two of the beds before they left! I didn’t have enough compost to mix in to make the soil really nice, but hopefully the sweet potatoes won’t mind too much (I sprinkled over some organic fertilizer before planting them).
This morning, my sons & I transplanted some raspberry shoots in front of the beds to make a living fence to hopefully deter the deer from entering the new garden area – we’ll have to see how that works! For now, I also cover the sweet potatoes with row cover for some insurance – they actually don’t look very tasty at the moment since they are pretty dead looking when they arrive. (I planted them like that last year though and they grew pretty well).
It was actually a bit of a bonus gardening day today since it was supposed to rain all day but it actually only drizzled and then got quite nice by the afternoon. I transplanted my first tomato plants – 3x Early Girls – they look pretty healthy, I’m pleased with the quality of seedlings. I have been putting the whole lot of the seedlings from the basement out every day for about three weeks and a couple of days ago, I put them in the cold frame in the main garden and left it open at night – it is in the 50F’s now, so cold is not a problem. I plan to transplant most of the other seedlings within the next couple of weeks into their respective spots.
Excitement on the fruit-growing front – we have baby peaches, apples, strawberries, gooseberries, blueberries and raspberries growing! I sprayed the apple and peach with the holistic spray mixed with kaolin clay to hopefully prevent pests getting into the fruit. So far so good on the cedar apple rust – no sign of it on the apple trees. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and give it another spray when it stops raining next weekend!