Posts tagged ‘tomatoes’
A good sweaty day in the garden with my new phone/camera. Maybe I’ll be a better blogger now??
See photos of the garlic digger and garlic – both look great! Plus photos of my companion plants doing their thing – namely borage attracting bees to pollinate the tomatoes.
My goodness, now I know I am a rubbish blogger! I haven’t posted for two months again, but since it is raining and I have gotten to the end of the pressing household jobs, I thought I would do an update.
Well, this month has been unbelievable in terms of weather – so warm – it nearly made up for the wet August we had.. I’m not so sure my tomatoes would agree, but my cabbage, lettuce and cauliflower might! I have them under row cover and plastic that I am closing up on cold nights (last night was 50F though, so no need for putting them to bed last night!) and opening during warm days. Quite a lot of work, but they are all looking really good – I hope they mature before the number of hours of light starts affecting them.
I have been composting like a mad thing over the last month or so, I collected a lot of leaves from neighbors and friends – with my new toy – an electric leaf vacuum/mulcher (Worx). It works very well but I think I have gotten tennis elbow from hauling it about – plenty of time to get over that though with the winter approaching fast. I made three new compost piles with grass and straw and most recently now chicken manure & bedding – yes that’s right we have four new residents – four lovely red hens (Red Stars) – donated to me by a friend with a CSA!
We built (an experience that is a story in itself) a cute chicken house (that matches our house) and are happily collecting eggs – so far so good. The girls are entertaining and seem happy, although I feel bad that the run I built is a little small – it was supposed to be moveable so they could have new pasture every day, but we need to work out how to make the house moveable too (very heavy), that is a Spring job I think.
I was recently very satisfied by my ability to feed our visiting friends two weeks in a row with food almost exclusively from the winifredslittleacre – big egg-centered breakfast, then later a roast dinner consisting of meat (locally grown) and a medley of roast vegetables – including sweet potatoes, swede (rutabaga), turnip, potatoes, parsnip, butternut and delicata squash. Followed by peach crumble (using peaches from our tree frozen in syrup). Delicious!
In the garden itself, amazingly I managed to get nearly every empty bed sown with cover crop – winter rye, hairy vetch or clover (which I was using as a living mulch under the tomatoes). That should add some nice organic matter to the soil for next season and protect the soil over winter. I planted 123 garlic cloves back in October – which seems premature now that November has been so warm – they are putting up green shoots, which hopefully won’t be too much of a problem for next year’s growth. I mulched them with pine needles (following a last weed – I’m trying to be more diligent about that – especially now I have my new scuffle hoe!)
I have already started planning for next year – those seed catalogues have begun to arrive already – sooo tempting all the different varieties, etc. I am planning a couple of different edible landscapes this year so I have to take a slightly different outlook on the plants – I will look at their aesthetic value as well as their functionality. I also want to save some more seeds this year, so I will have to be more diligent about choosing open pollinated varieties. I haven’t decided if I am going to try and sell more produce next year – I have to do some survey work and talk to a couple of people yet. I did start to add up the value of all the vegetables and fruit that I grew this year – so far the total was over $1000! Which is great – I have to go back to my plans and see how the actual production compared to the quantities I was aiming for – more on that later!
How time flies when you’re busy gardening, getting the kids back to school and generally trying to catch up with life.. I can’t believe it is a month since my last post..
Anyhow, things are a little wet today (3.5″ of rain so far since yesterday), so no gardening for me – just sorting out house things and maybe a little harvest preservation.. I have the last of the Marinara tomatoes to process – I’m thinking of combining them with the yellow peach tomatoes and making salsa, then I also have to make some more pasta sauce to add to the stocks. The tomatoes are suffering from Early blight and it is taking its toll on the productivity now, plus all the rain probably doesn’t help either – I was planning to remove all the infected leaves over the weekend, but didn’t quite get to it and now it’s going to be wet for a week. The other thing I didn’t get to was re-spraying my squash (pumpkin, butternut & delicata) with a dilute milk solution (1:10) for powdery mildew that they all came down with. Hopefully the fruits will survive, normally they seem to.
Well the peaches seem a long time ago now, but we had a total of 60lbs which was great for the three-year old tree – about half were eatable whole, but since they didn’t keep long and the harvest was over such a short period (10 days), most were processed – made into freezer jam, used in hot pepper sauce, eaten as salsa, baked peaches or peach crumble, the rest were frozen in light syrup for later use. The apple tree didn’t fare so well, it is a sad-looking thing – badly infected with cedar apple rust, plus the birds and the wasps enjoy the fruit, so I picked most of the apples early and made apple crumble and apple cake with the meager harvest – tasty nonetheless!
This is definitely a good year for green beans – the ones I planted in spring are still producing and a second succession has just started producing prolifically! I must admit I’m getting a bit fed up of chopping, blanching and freezing them, but since it is one of the relatively few vegetables my boys will eat, I’m doing it gladly – we’ll be eating green beans well into the fall and hopefully through the winter.
Talking of winter storage, I have harvested some potatoes – still got a few to do – I probably better get on them since they might start rotting with all this rain. Not a bad harvest so far though – they are drying off in the basement before I store them for the winter. Another storage crop – kidney beans and cranberry beans have done well – we harvested them just before the hurricane last weekend since some were already rotting – we netted about 6lbs before podding (~3lbs after) and there are still quite a few left on the bushes (I probably need to get out there again soon). They tasted great in a veggie chili and in a lasagna I cooked yesterday. (Not so popular with the boys, but good protein source if I can sneak them in without them noticing!).
We ate our first cantaloupe melon yesterday – they seem to be pretty late this year, I have to go back and check on my planting dates for them. The watermelon fruits stopped growing due to some disease – I have to identify the problem with that, the cantaloupe also has a disease, but one of the two I picked (actually they picked themselves – by falling off the vine) was a good size – bigger than I’ve grown before with the same seed. It’s funny how things vary from year to year. Like my onions were a relative disaster this year (compared to last year when they all did really well) – I planted a whole lot of sets – red, white and yellow – the red and white hardly grew – they were in the new part of the garden outside the fence – maybe it wasn’t very well-drained or needed more organic matter, or I planted them too late – anyhow they weren’t good and even the yellow onions were small compared to last year when they all did really well. I’m going to try growing them from seed next year.
I have my fall/winter vegetables in the ground – the brassicae I grew from seed didn’t look too healthy but I transplanted them anyway but I also bought some cabbage and brocolli plants for insurance and they are thriving so far. The root crops – rutabaga and turnips are coming along – hopefully they will be good – I love root vegetable soup! My second sowing of romaine lettuce actually germinated so I have some baby lettuce coming up – I have to plant some more mesclun to get some variety.
This week I want to get on with building my larger raised bed close to my house, which will be double covered in the winter with row cover and plastic – I will sow some lettuce, kale, etc. in it, but mainly it will be for early crops next Spring. I would like to get an earlier harvest of peppers and cucumbers in next year.
Tomato season is upon us at last! Those really red & ripe ones are sooo delicious. The Early Girl variety I tried for the first time this year did start ripening first, but only by a couple of days, so now I have Amish Paste, Marinara and Early Girl’s coming fast but not too furious as yet. We had some sautéed in butter for breakfast at the weekend – exquisite! I made a Kale frittata to use up some of the kale and leftover potatoes – that was pretty good, I haven’t mastered that kale cooking quite yet – but it is extremely good for you and very easy to grow, it is a must!
The peaches are ripening up nicely – unfortunately they are covered in bacterial spot and the stones don’t look too good – not sure if that is disease or insects, however we tried a couple of unripe ones the other day (after grilling) and they were super sweet – so I think they will be OK to eat – just not that great for snacking on prior to surgery! A quick internet search revealed that peaches do not ripen off the tree, so more patience is required. My twin sister is leaving to go back to the UK next week though, so hopefully they will be ready before that.
I sowed most of my fall/winter vegetables late last week – turnips, swede (rutabaga), arugula, kale, spring onions, beets and romaine lettuce (I keep trying to sow lettuce throughout the summer but I’m not having much luck so far – I even refrigerated some of the seed but it still refused to germinate). My brassicae (cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli & cauliflower) seedlings are looking a bit pathetic – they are in the cold frame, I’m not sure whether their poor state is due to the heat or the fact that I have them shaded too much or could be due to something else entirely. Who knows. Maybe I will uncover them and see what happens – I may end up buying some seedlings otherwise.
I am in the process of building a new raised bed near to my deck – I am planning to put overwintering vegetables in it, so I’d better get on and finish it soon so I can sow them in time! I am using concrete blocks to frame it out and will cover it with both row cover and plastic to see if I can get the temperature to stay near freezing in the middle of winter. It is an experiment worth doing I think – lettuce in the middle of winter would be rather nice don’t you think? I am also getting my winter storage sorted out – I am having someone dig me a hole big enough to bury a galvanised trash can to store root vegetables in – another experiment! Stay tuned for exciting results (hopefully not too mushy!).
It is raining tonight, which is good – I have been watering the last few days – it always pains me to use our precious treated tap water for the garden, I do have rain barrels set up but they don’t capture enough for the whole garden. Must do something about that…
I was away for a couple of weeks and even with the help of a super house/garden sitter – the weeds had taken a hold over some of the beds! It took me all last week (and a lot of sweat) to get it under control, but now I’m back on schedule – I have started to implement the fall/winter vegetable plan.
I sowed some brassicae in the cold frame (and covered it with burlap for shade). I need to dig up some potatoes to make room for the transplants in three weeks or so. After doing the Weed Management part of the County Extension’s course in Organic Vegetable Production, I know that I should prepare the beds two weeks in advance, then slice off any pesky weeds that sprout just before I transplant or sow more seeds.
I emptied a small bed of strawberries since they didn’t produce very well and were infected with a fungal disease – I am going to use it for carrots. My best carrot crop ever was from the cold frame this year, sown in February and picked in June – the rest of my attempts this season have proved fruitless (or carrotless), however I am determined to work out the best way to grow them in the main garden, and I want to try them after the frost – they are supposed to be really sweet then. Here is my plan – I will build up the sides of this small square bed and fill it with composted leaves and bought compost. Then sow the carrots and leave them under a board or burlap for a couple of weeks – then flame weed the bed just before the carrot seedlings come up… we’ll see!
On the harvesting front – we have enjoyed an abundance of blueberries – so juicy and nice, raspberries (don’t know if they are good, since I don’t eat them) and green beans have been particularly good – I read in the Victory Garden cookbook that after steaming, you should dry them out in a dry saucepan before adding butter or whatever else – it works! They are delicious!
I’m a bit worried about the tomatoes – they look OK but they do have signs of some disease at the bottom – unfortunately due to a bad reaction to a wasp sting, I wasn’t able to attend the Disease Management part of the Organic Vegetable Production course, so I’m not sure what it is – I’m hoping it is not Early or Late Blight. What I did learn from reading the literature though was that once a plant shows signs of disease, it is generally too late to do anything about it by spraying, so I have been removing infected leaves (in dry weather) and putting them under plastic to kill them (spores cannot live on dead plant tissue). My Early Girl tomatoes are not living up to their “before July 4th” expectation – still green.. I guess you have to have a greenhouse to get them that early. The trellising technique seems to keeping the growth of the tomatoes under control, the real test is when the plants are full of fruit and it rains like crazy – then we’ll see if they are still standing (unlike the cages that normally fall down).
I’m very happy with all my companion planting – the borage, marigolds, catnip, alyssum and many others are all attracting the good bugs – I haven’t seen that many “bad bugs” so far. An interesting development, whilst I was away, the radishes I planted around the squash and the cucumber went to flower and the honey bees love them! I have left them in place, they even have seed pods on them, so I might save the seed (have to check they are not hybrids first).
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!
OK, so now I’m getting a little frustrated by the weather.. I had been wanting to get out and sow some cold weather plants this week (and last week) – but it has been so cold that I thought it may be a little premature for them to be able to germinate – plus it is going to snow again this weekend! Arrrgh! I expect soon enough we will be complaining about the warm weather.. I think I’m going to take the extra lettuce seedlings from the cold frame and plant them out in the garden instead of eating them!
On the side of progress, I did manage to sow a good variety of seeds indoors last week – the rest of my tomatoes (4 more varieties – I’m trying out a determinate this year – Marinara – as well as the indeterminate heirloom favorites Amish Paste and Brandywine and Peacevine cherry tomato). I also sowed some celery, some companion plants – borage, calendula, four o’ clocks, dwarf sunflowers and some herbs – cilantro and summer savory. I now have two shop lights on and I use christmas lights to provide a little heat to aid germination – seemed to do the trick!