Friday, August 22, 2014

What's Happening In The Garden - Mid-August - Part 1


The tomatoes are finally producing loads of fruit – enough to start some canning.  Only problem is I’ve never canned tomatoes before so there is a bit of a learning curve…..and a supply issue.  My plan was to can them in 1 litre (1 quart) jars and then I realized that the pot I used for canning some jam is nowhere near tall enough to adequately cover the larger jars with water.  So I have ordered a canning pot from Amazon – and now I wait.

In the meantime, I thought it was high time to do another update on how all of the beds are doing.

First up is the squash.  To backtrack a bit, I am growing 4 types of bush squash, 2 plants of each.  Three varieties are summer squash, one is a winter squash.  So far, one of the “Sure Thing” zucchini – the largest plant – has produced the majority of the summer squash.  The other Sure Thing is about a quarter of the size and has produced exactly – zero.

"Sure Thing" Summer Squash
 
The “Early Prolific” yellow squash is proving to be, ironically enough, neither early nor prolific.  It has only produced one squash on each of the two plants and both of these were harvested last week.  The “Dark Green” zucchini is even worse, with one zucchini harvested last week from one plant and none from the other.  These plants are in the main bed area beside a row of tomatoes.

"Early Prolific" summer squash in the forefront
& one of the "Dark Green" at the top right corner
 
I know that I am probably planting them too close together (they are spaced 24” apart).  But the thing is I don’t want to waste room as they never seem to grow that big – or maybe they don’t grow that big because I am planting them too closely.  I’m hesitant to give them more of my limited space, however, simply to be disappointed.

I am actively hand pollinating the squash and have always thought that my issues with lack of pollination were due to insufficient pollinators.  But I’m coming to realize that it may all stem from small plants with few flowers.  Numerous times when I went out in the morning, paintbrush in hand ready to pollinate, I found one or two female blossoms open, but no male blossoms – I’m guessing that the number of blooms would increase in proportion to the size of the plant. On a positive note, many times I have seen bees deep inside the open blossoms, often with their little butts sticking up in the air – they seem to stay inside the blossom for a huge amount of time, so obviously they do love them.

Bee Inside Squash Blossom
 
Next year, I may go a totally different route.  I’m thinking of planting the squash in straw bales, a method that seems to be gaining popularity.  This would not only free up one of the beds, but then I could also try one or more of the vining varieties and simply let it sprawl wherever I decide to place the bale.  Hopefully sourcing straw bales won't be too difficult.

Now on to my one vining squash - Zucchetta Tromboncino.  I just LOVE this guy, even though I have only harvested one squash so far, but what a squash it was.  I let it get quite big – 16” long & 746 grams (1.6 lbs!), but it was still beautifully tender.  I’m definitely keeping this variety in the rotation.  And another plus?  No squash vine borer, even though the plants were uncovered during the entire season.  Win win!

Baby Zucchetta Tromboncino
 
The first “gold nugget” winter squash has just changed colour and there is one more just starting to develop on the other bush.

"Gold Nugget" Winter Squash
 
You can see how pathetic my Gold Nugget plants are - I didn't even have to move any leaves out of the way to get that picture....sigh.  And definitely not the plethora of squash I see when I google this variety:

This image is from Seeds of Change
 
I have not grown winter squash before and, considering my track record with squash in general, I’m happy with the two that are maturing.  Better than none, right?
 
All of the squash plants now have Powdery Mildew, some worse than others.  I have been spraying them with a milk spray about every week or two which I think has helped.  Our weather has been cool and wet for so long now (since the beginning of July) that I have a feeling these plants would have already bit the dust were it not for the milk spray.

On to cucumbers.  The lemon cucumbers are awesome.  They flower like crazy, which the pollinators love, and for this reason alone I would likely include one of these in the cucumber bed even if I wasn’t a fan of the cukes – which I most definitely am.  They are refreshing and crisp and I find them to be quite the treat.
 
"Lemon" Cucumbers
 
The Garden Sweet cucumbers are also doing very well – for me, that is.  Nothing compared to the pounds of cucumbers that are being harvested by other bloggers, but I’m quite happy.  As I’m only beginning to learn the ropes when it comes to preserving, an overabundance at this point would be a bit too stressful.
 
"Garden Sweet" Cucumbers
 
Suyo Long is lagging behind the rest, but I still get a cucumber here and there from it.  On the plus side, I think the lemon cukes and borage in the bed has significantly helped this one in terms of pollination as I have only had a couple that were not pollinated completely.  Last year, every cuke had to be hand pollinated. 

"Suyo Long" Cucumber in the Forefront
 
The Camelot shallots were harvested a couple of weeks ago.  I made a bit of a goof on the onion bed around that time.  I was on the lookout for rain once the shallot tops had fallen over and sure enough, a couple of days later, we did get quite a bit of rain, off and on.  Well, I didn’t want the shallots or onions, for that matter, to get drenched at this stage.  I was certain that the onions were also approaching maturity.  So I draped a sheet of light plastic over the bed when a bad storm was imminent.

Onions - Ready for the Storm
 
Big mistake.  What looks to be a light billowy sheet of plastic on top of the stiff onion tops turns into a fifty pound weight when the rain comes down in torrents.

Huge Rain Puddles Squashing the Onions
 
My mistake was in not providing any support for the plastic…something which I quickly remedied by putting in hoops.  But the damage had been done – a few of the Copra and at least ¼ of the Rossa di Milano onion stems were bent as a result.


You Can See the Path of Bent Stems Created by the Puddles
 
A large portion of the Rossa di Milano tops fell over last week and I ended up harvesting these as we were expecting even more rain over a few days.  The rain has been intermittent lately, with sunny periods in between.  I didn’t want to bother with covering the beds as they would have baked when the sun came out and it was just too much work to cover and uncover them 2 or 3 times each day.

Rossa di Milano Onions from this past Harvest Monday
 
Almost all of the remaining Rossa di Milano and most of the copras started to fall over early this week, so I bent down their tops and the plan was to harvest them by next week.  However, with another two full days of rain in the forecast, I ended up pulling them a couple of days ago.

The perennial bunching onions are getting larger, and there is finally evidence of some division on one of them.
 
He-Shi-Ko Perennial Bunching Onion
If you look closely on the right hand side of the onion,
you can see a new division starting
 
And the Ailsa Craigs are getting bigger – one of them is downright huge.  So exciting, although I have no idea how I’m going to use up such a huge onion.  The stems on a couple of them had fallen over and these were also harvested earlier this week.  I am still waiting on the rest.

"Ailsa Craig" Onions
The one in the middle is humongous!!  Can't wait to weigh it.
 
A couple of the potato onions have also fallen over, the rest are still standing tall.  Not much seems to be happening above ground on most of them but I do see evidence of bulbs under the soil so we shall have to wait and see once they are harvested.

Potato Onion
One of the few with the bulb exposed aboveground
 
I have been trying to keep ahead of the bacterial brown spot on the beans and I think it is helping.  I trimmed most of the leaves on the bottom of the plants and am consistently removing any diseased beans.  Most of these were at the bottom of the vines, but I did remove a few from higher up.  I also cleaned up the ground, removing all dead leaves.

Bean Vines
"Cherokee Trail of Tears" on the Left; "Golden of Bacau" on the Right
 
The Golden of Bacau are still producing, although they do seem to be slowing down especially in how quickly the beans are developing.  I’m hopeful that I will have at least a couple more harvests this year.
 
"Golden of Bacau" Romano Beans
 
I have decided to take a bit of a gamble with the Trail of Tears beans.  I really want to harvest them as dried beans so I have been holding off on harvesting those and I am crossing my fingers that the disease progresses slowly.  A few beans at the bottom of the vine were infected & these were removed.  The rest seem to be doing ok so far.
 
"Cherokee Trail of Tears" Beans
 
The Contender bush beans were all ripped out a couple of weeks ago.  Last week I planted some kale and broccoli transplants into the spot vacated by the beans.

"Munchkin" Broccoli & "Dwarf Green Curled" Kale
 
Four of the pepper plants, which I talked about in a post last week, are the only other crop in this section.

So that is what has been happening in the four new beds on the south side of the yard.  You may have noticed that I have not fenced off these beds yet.  I simply haven’t gotten around to it and they have not sustained any damage from rabbits.  The same thing happened when I built the first four beds 3 years ago – the first year, there was no damage; the second year, my crops were bunny food within days of my transplants being set outside.  I’m hoping to put the fencing up this fall so that I am set for next spring.

Till next time…

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

12 comments:

  1. Too bad your squash doesn't like to grow. My zucchini grows big enough. Too big really. But it doesn't like to set zucchinis. I think next year I'm going to try different varieties. The problem is that I love the taste of this one and a lot of others are just so so.

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    1. I really want to try that Romanesco that Michelle & Thomas both grow - a zucchini that gets large enough to harvest even before the flower opens would definitely solve one of my problems!

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  2. I had powdery mildew on all my squashes but they still seemed to produce quite good crops, I guess they produced enough healthy leaves to keep ahead of the mildew (on the whole anyway...not all of them have been great). I did try that milk trick for the first time but then forgot to do it again..oops! I find butternut squashes take ages to get going, only just setting fruit, possibly too late now the cool weather has come. Also my custard marrow-type squashes are always late....only had two teeny fruits so far, mainly been male flowers. But the gherkins have done well, and the cukes...yeh those crystal lemons are really good. Still got lots of little fruits that'll hopefully keep on growing for a little while longer :)

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    1. I haven't been as good as I should have been at remembering to spray the squash plants either - I think you are supposed to spray them every week but I would usually forget and it ended up being every two weeks. I'm really looking forward to growing more varieties of winter squash next year, like butternut - and I'll probably be all anxious about them setting fruit as everyone seems to say the same thing you do - that they take their sweet time to develop.

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  3. I am fortunate to never have experienced powdery mildew in the few years of growing winter squash - probably my favourite crop of anything I grow - butternut is my favourite and I've grown spaghetti squash for the first time as well. You may have only one "gold nugget" but it sure looks perfect. And your onions are fabulous!

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    1. Thanks Susie! You are indeed lucky - I get PM every single year. The milk spray helps but hasn't eliminated the problem although I'm not the most diligent person when it comes to applying it. And definitely can't WAIT to try different varieties of winter squash next year.

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  4. I am sorry that you have not had luck with your squash plants this year. I thought when I saw how many you had planted that you would have plenty!! Better luck next year! Nancy

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    1. Us gardeners are definitely eternal optimists!!

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  5. The Golden Nugget squash is pretty, but I’m sorry that you’re not getting more of them. It’s always disappointing when things don’t produce as abundantly as we anticipate. I look forward to reading about your canning experience. I don’t have enough to can this year.

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    1. Unfortunately, such is my life when it comes to squash. But I am not giving up - I am hopeful that one day I will too be complaining about too much squash ;)

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  6. I love the Tromboncino squash too. I'm thinking that I may just grow that next year and take a break from the hyper productive Romanesco. Powdery mildew is a huge problem in my garden, some things I can only grow resistant varieties, when I do treat for it though I use a 70% extraction Neem Oil, it is much more effective than milk sprays, it's organic and it smells much better than milk and doesn't leave white spots all over everything.

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    1. That's a great tip - I had never heard of using Neem Oil for PM. This year it is a little too late - I'm actually pulling one of my plants out today as it is totally covered now. But I'll remember that for next year.

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