Thursday, June 30, 2011

June Garden Recap

Hard to believe that half the year is gone already! I'm going to recap what's going on in my garden as we finish the month.
Quick update on my hydrangea woes....My internet searching has led me to believe there are multiple problems with my poor Endless Summer: root rot, powdery mildew, and probably some other type of fungus. I haven't had time to address this after work in the evenings, so I'm putting this project off until the weekend.

Now for the good news:

The tomatillos are looking great! I don't want to jinx anything, but all four plants are blooming, I've seen three different kinds of bees buzzing around them pollinating the blooms, and a couple of the plants have fruited. I hope to see continued progress here.

The Black Krim tomato plants have blossoms and are slowly producing fruit. Right now they're very small.

We planted five bush bean seeds and ALL of them germinated this week. I love when that happens!

This year we're growing a new kind of hot pepper--cayenne. The peppers have formed. They look like green beans and are sort of camouflaged. That's all for now. I'm looking forward to a long, relaxing holiday weekend.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Garden Odds and Ends (and Kittens!)

Something weird is going on with my Endless Summer hydrangea plant.
The middle blooms just started drooping and turning brown. So far the online research I've done points to a possible fungus. There are spots on some leaves, but not all of them. I'll do a little more research, but in the meantime, has anyone else seen this? Any advice?

In more positive news, we found a volunteer tomato plant out amongst the weeds beyond our property line. Sometimes we toss half-eaten or rotten tomatoes and squash over the fence and into the weeds and trees where the squirrels, wild rabbits, and birds pick at them. (Side note: If the critters bother to come to the deck to eat my veggies, I wish they would just finish them here). My husband was walking around the common areas of our development over the weekend and noticed this tomato plant. We think it came from the seeds of a tomato we tossed over last summer. He dug it up and put it in a pot; it even has a tomato growing on it! We're not sure what kind of tomato it is, and it doesn't look too good now, but I hope it survives. It's a bonus tomato plant!

3 of the 5 foster kittens
Lastly--posting may be infrequent over the next four weeks. I volunteer at our local animal shelter and we're fostering five adorable stray kittens--three boys and two girls. They're underweight but gaining steadily and super playful, cute, and time consuming. We need to get their weight up and get them used to household noises and being handled by humans before we return them to the shelter so they can go up for adoption. Our resident cat is curious and friendly (and trying to be nonchalant about being so curious). It's going to be extremely difficult to send them back. They're cuter than baby tomatoes!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend in the Garden: Weeding & Watering

And squishing bugs.
black krim blossoms
It's hard to walk around our deck these days! We wove our way around the pots looking for any possible ripe fruit. We did pick a small handful of ripe strawberries, two grape tomatoes, and four early girl tomatoes. Not much, but it's nice to have something to pick!

Although all the pots have mulch, weeds still manage to make their way in, and I find myself pulling grass blades and other weeds every at least every other day. We spend time each evening watering all the plants, as container plants typically need more water than those in the ground because most of the water escapes through the bottom of the container. I spotted three different kinds of bumbles buzzing around the blossoms over the weekend, so I hope they pollinated the plants and we get some fruit soon.

Speaking of insects, we also saw quite a bit of aphids, which we squished without a second thought. Actually my husband squished them. I just say, "Hey, what's this thing over here?" and he identifies it and tells me whether it's good or bad for the plants. Having an entomologist in the house is very convenient. We spotted a baby stink bug in the strawberry bed and got rid of it too. Fortunately, we spotted several beneficial insects on the plants as well, including lacewings (whose larvae eat aphids and spider mites) and pirate bugs.

In non-bug news, the cilantro is actually growing! It took its sweet time to appear, but here it is. We're growing it from seed again this year, but we have it in a container this summer instead of in the ground. We planted it in the ground last year, and it just didn't seem to grow well, maybe because it didn't get enough sun because of the tomato plants around it that cast some shade? Or possibly from the intense heat last summer. 

In our small ground plot we have cucumber and luffa growing (and broccoli, but not in this picture). So far so good with these. The luffa won't really take off until late summer/early fall when the temperatures cool off a little.

mammoth sunflower plants
And finally, an update on the sunflowers. We've had some problems with these flowers this year. The squirrels got to the mammoth sunflower transplants AGAIN while we were out of town last weekend. It is so frustrating! Luckily, we had some mammoth sunflower seedlings sitting in growing cells that we didn't know what to do with. Once we came home and realized that squirrels had snipped the plants out, we moved the other seedlings into the pot and brought the pot closer to the door. I hope keeping the pots closer to the door deters the squirrels from attacking these things. (The mesh netting snapped off so that didn't help).

coconut ice and Chianti plants
Finally, the coconut ice hybrid (front) and Chianti hybrid (square pot) are doing OK. I planted four seeds in each pot, but only two seeds germinated in each. These are also close to the door, which I hope deters the squirrels from attacking them. That's it for now. 

Oh, we did eat the strawberries. The small ones were a little tart but the slightly bigger ones were pretty sweet! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

First Harvest of 2011

Our first (real) harvest of 2011!

I'm not really counting the few strawberries or the onion we collected almost 3 weeks. In addition to the few berries we harvested early last week, we collected a whole pint of strawberries on Tuesday. The plants are in a raised bed and are doing really well, so much better than last year. The berries are small but sweet. Unfortunately we have no blueberries left. There's a mesh net over the bushes, but some birds or squirrels or other critter managed to get through the mesh and eat the rest of the fruit that were on the plant.  I hope you enjoyed the berries, you little jerks! I guess we'll try again next year.

We collected two small yellow squash and a handful of green beans.

We also decided to pick the small Golden Bell pepper that was on the plant, despite the fact that it wasn't ripe yet (i.e, yellow). We're hoping this stimulates the pepper plant into producing more fruit. 

Our first little broccoli! We have four broccoli plants. Two of them bolted at the end of May, but the other two plants are doing fine. We decided to harvest a little chunk of broccoli before the plants have a chance to bolt again, but we didn't cut all of it. This is what's left on the two plants:

I'm actually a little surprised that the broccoli plants seem to be doing fine. It has been so hot and humid over the last week, and I thought these plants didn't do well in the heat. We steamed up the beans and broccoli with our dinner last night. They were good!

And now I have something to really look forward to: Some of the tomatoes have started to turn red. This has got to be one of the most exciting things about gardening, especially because we have so many tomato plants.  There isn't much color in the garden until the tomato and squash plants start making fruit. We have bonnie grape and early girl tomatoes (above), and the plants look healthy. I hope they stay this way, and now that July is coming, I really hope I have lots of tomatoes to harvest.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Freaky Fruit

While trolling the internet recently I came across photographer Uli Westphal, whose work "deal[s] with the way humans perceive, depict and transform the natural world." My favorite photographs are the series dealing with food, specifically fruits and vegetables.
The first one that caught my eye is the "Mutatoes," or mutant food series.  In the artist's words,
"The complete absence of botanical anomalies in our supermarkets has caused us to regard the consistency of produce presented there as natural. Produce has become a highly designed, monotonous product. We have forgotten, and in many cases never experienced, the way fruits, roots, and vegetables can actually look (and taste)."

Because of my deep love of tomatoes, I really like the Lycopersicum series. These photographs show the many different varieties of tomatoes that exist. The artist writes that industrialization has led to a focus on high-yielding, uniform crops and livestock. This, in turn, has resulted in many varieties of fruit, vegetables, and even livestock becoming extinct or on the brink of extinction. He writes that the tomato pictures are the first in a series of photographs that will show different varieties and breeds of food and animals that we may not be aware of.

I like the photographs, but I'm also interested in the message. I recently read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and the author touched on the subject of endangered varieties of farm animals and vegetables. Until I got interested in gardening and growing my own food, the thought of a dark reddish-purple tomato, or a tomato with ridges and ripples, seemed too weird to me. This wasn't what I was used to seeing in the store, i.e. perfectly red, round tomatoes. Now I understand and appreciate the many different varieties of tomatoes I can get and grow. Nothing beats the taste of a freshly-picked tomato from your own backyard. I like experimenting with different varieties too. Three years ago I had not heard of Black Krim tomatoes, or chocolate peppers, and now I'm growing both!  One of my new favorites sites is Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit dedicated to preserving heirloom seeds. I've spent time looking through the online catalog and wishing I had the space to grow more crops. While on the farm over the weekend, I drooled over the kitchen garden. Oh to have room to grow melons and potatoes!

p.s. I plan to put pictures up of my Oklahoma farm visit as soon as I organize them. Although they lied to me about the watermelon and getting to ride a combine, I did thoroughly enjoy our BBQ and loved spending time in the middle of nowhere. It was so peaceful out there.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bird Watch

Awhile ago I wrote about the bird feeder my neighbors installed on their deck. I haven't seen too many cardinals since that day, but the feeder does get A LOT of bird visitors, and the occasional squirrel, and I'm so glad they installed it because it helps keep the birds away from my deck and my crops. Last week I watched my neighbors hosing all the bird poop off their deck, and that made me extra glad that they have the feeder, and I don't! 

I so admire the many close-up pictures of birds and bugs that I see on other garden blogs. My little point-and-shoot camera plus my own limited abilities make for some slightly blurry and not very exciting bird pictures. I have noticed that the birds are getting used to seeing people (and my cat) so maybe before the end of summer I'll be able to get some better shots.

Thanks to the magic of the Inter-tubes, this post is coming to you from the future! Right now we are en route to my husband's family's farm where I've been promised a BBQ feast and all the home-grown watermelon I can eat. I hope it's as delicious as I imagine.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Few June Blooms

While I wait for my vegetables to pop out, I'm enjoying some of the blooms that have appeared in my garden.
water lily from our goldfish pond
The goldfish pond has four water lilies in bloom. I don't have a picture of all four in bloom and will have to wait for the weekend to capture that shot since they only open in the morning. Sadly, I haven't seen our resident pond frog this spring. I hope he (or she?) returns. A couple of years ago we saw a second frog, a smaller one, but it didn't stay long and we haven't seen it since.

The butterfly bush has flowers; now they just need to turn purple. I've seen many white and yellow sulfurs fluttering around it.
endless summer hydrangeas

An Endless Summer hydrangea bloom in two shades.
cucumber plant
The cucumber plant has a blossom. It's always exciting to see blossoms appear on the vegetables.

coconut ice sunflower seedling
After planting them just last week, two Coconut Ice sunflower seedlings have emerged. They look very similar to the Chianti Hybrids (oh, please don't let me have mixed up the seeds).

The petunias don't seem to mind the heat. I come home from work and all the other flowers, like the hydrangeas, are drooping over, but the petunias are always perky.

Today I'm linking to May Dreams Gardens Garden Blogger Bloom Day. There are lots of beautiful flowers in bloom this month.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where Did These Come From?

When I went outside to water my crops yesterday I noticed a few things I hadn't noticed the day before:

The first grape tomatoes seemingly appeared overnight.
The stems on one of the green tomatillo plants is all twisted and tangled up in itself. It looks really cool.
I got really excited when I thought this was cilantro, but I was tricked. It's parsley. These popped up overnight, it seems. Cilantro is our nemesis. We had trouble growing it last year, and the pot where we planted it this year shows no signs of life yet. I would love to be able to grow full bunches of cilantro. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Berry Harvest and Plant Progress, Mid-June Report

Only one of our three blueberry bushes is producing fruit this year, and it's not much fruit either. Some of the blueberries have ripened and we picked them plus a few small strawberries from our raised bed. So far, the mesh netting we put around the blueberry bushes and strawberry bed has kept birds and squirrels off.

squash blossoms

tomatillos--green in front, purple in red container

The zucchini and straightneck yellow squash plants have blossomed. The tomatillos are doing extremely well also. Six weeks ago the tomatillo seedlings were so spindly and weak-looking that I wasn't sure if they would grow strong. Now the stems look thick and sturdy. We are growing green and purple varieties. The purple ones (in the red pots) are doing much better and already have blossoms.
Golden Bell (yellow pepper)
Early Girl tomatoes

The Golden Bell plant has one fruit. And the Early Girls are growing bigger every day. I'm so anxious to start picking tomatoes and tomatillos. I've been collecting salsa recipes and looking for other ways to incorporate tomatillos into our meals.

black krim tomatoes 6/11
purple beauty (left) and sweet chocolate (right)

Finally, I continue to track the progress of the Black Krim tomatoes and Purple Beauty and Sweet Chocolate bell peppers. All of the above were started from seed, and I've never grown any of them before. I can't wait to see what the fruit looks like.

some of my container garden