Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Hilltop Beds Update


I have been feeling under the weather lately, having had two colds since the beginning of June and now an ear infection...I actually spent most of the day in bed yesterday and still slept soundly last night which shows me how exhausted I was.  And if that wasn't bad enough, my husband's back is now out after moving a huge log over the weekend and then using the weed wacker in the paths between my raised beds (boy do I feel guilty about that!) - with me moping around and him all hunched over, we were a sorry sight yesterday evening, let me tell you!

This morning, I felt quite a bit better and figured I would finally finish a post I started last week giving a little tour of the hilltop beds.  In case you’re wondering about the Bed #’s, they are sequential & start in the main vegetable garden area.

I still have a ton of work to complete on the hilltop (which I will do a separate post about) so please ignore the grass and weeds :)

Bed #17 - Potatoes

The potatoes are growing like crazy.

6 varieties of potatoes are growing in this bed

 
I finished filling the bed with soil a couple of weeks ago & have started to pile some straw on top of it.

Several inches of straw topping the potato bed
 

A few of the varieties are also starting to bloom now.

Yukon Gold potato blooms
 
Three photos of the potato bed - can you tell how much I'm loving it?  I hope there are some yummy tubers developing under all that soil right now.


Beds #14 and #16 – Peppers, Eggplant & Pole Beans

The eggplants are doing ok, I suppose, as are the peppers.  Neither are as large as I would have liked, especially the eggplants - the ones at the farm are much larger right now.  I'm thinking I should probably start them sooner next year.

Eggplants - Not huge but looking good otherwise
 
One of our tasks at the farm last week was bug squishing - specifically, potato beetles on the eggplants.  Yup - not a good day to leave my gardening gloves at home.  Of course, the first thing I did once I got home was check both my eggplants and potatoes for bugs.  Nothing so far - big sigh of relief on that front.

Since I had such a great pepper harvest last year from the plants that grew in the bean beds, I decided to do the same thing this time round.  Each 8 x 4 bed was divided lengthwise and half was planted up with peppers (and eggplant) and the other half with the climbing beans.

I’ve been having very spotty germination on a couple of varieties of beans and it’s a bit of a  mystery.  I sowed 4 climbing beans varieties (Trail of Tears, Vermont Cranberry, Walcherse White & Gold Marie).  The beans in bed #14 (Gold Marie & Trail of Tears) came up fairly well:

Peppers on the left; beans on the right
 
But the same can't be said for those planted in bed #16 which housed the Vermont Cranberry & Walcherse White beans:

Peppers on the left; beans on the right...beans?  Where?
 
The Walcherse White was especially pitiful - out of almost 50 beans sown, I only have 2 plants to show for it.  I also noticed a bit of munching on some of the bean plants:

Munched Bean Plant
 
My instinct tells me that we are looking at slugs.  I sowed the seeds just before the Blogger Fling and covered all of my unfenced beds with netting or Agribon in an effort to keep the rabbits from finding them.  I ran out of rebar/tubing to make proper frames, so I improvised by using plastic bottles suspended on bamboo & then clipped the covers to the edges of the beds.  It seemed to work fine - none of the covers showed any damage, which you would expect if rabbits had accessed the bed.  But I think I may also have created a safe haven for slugs, especially in light of the rainy weather we had during that time.

Now take a look at this:

Bush Beans
Oceanis on the left; Contender on the right
 
This bed is in the main vegetable garden area.  I sowed a 2' x 4' spot with two varieties of bush beans - Contender (saved seed) and Oceanis (newly purchased this spring).  What on earth is going on?

One of two possibilities comes to mind.  Of course we have the slugs once again - perhaps they found Oceanis much tastier than Contender?  Possibility #2 is that the seeds rotted in the coolish weather we had earlier this month - Oceanis may simply not be as tolerant to cool temps as Contender.

I’m pre-germinating another round of seeds for each of the failures.  This will at least let me know that the seeds are viable and I’m not dealing with bad seed.


Bed #13 - Corn and Squash

I sowed the corn a couple of weeks ago & it is off and running.


Squash & Corn Bed
 
The squash was just transplanted last week.  I’m trying Daphne’s two sisters method of planting butternut squash and corn together.  I grew corn many years ago in my first garden but can’t remember how successful it was.  As for the butternut squash, this will be my first time growing it – thankfully it’s squash vine borer resistant, so at least that’s one problem I won’t have to worry about.


Bed #15 - Kids Bed

My kids are sharing a bed this year – on my daughters side is a lot of different flowers plus tomatoes and carrots (which we still have to sow).  My son is growing peppers & snow peas.  A parsley plant was supposed to go in his bed as well, but I completely forgot when I was planting out the seedlings and composted the extras - I'm kicking myself for that one.  He’s still undecided what he wants in the rest of his spot.

Kid's Bed

Permanent Beds - Asparagus

I transplanted the asparagus on May 29.  There is very little information on growing asparagus from seed, so I basically had to make educated guesses as to the best method of transplanting the seedlings. 

I built three asparagus beds, each of them 2.5’ wide x 8’ long.  I decided that, since crowns should be planted about 6” deep and then gradually filled in as the spears grew, that is how I would transplant my seedlings.  I tapped each seeding out of it’s cell pack and placed it in a hole that was about 5-6” deep.  Then I backfilled with about an inch of soil.  More soil was washed in whenever it rained & only last week, I added enough soil to completely fill in each hole.

Asparagus Beds
 
Each bed contains two rows of seedlings, planted 18” apart.  I planted a total of 26 seedlings although one of them may be kaput as it was browning even when I first planted it.  The fragile ferns on the rest of them got pummelled by some heavy rains we had, but I’m hopeful as I do see some new spears coming out of the soil in several spots.

I have seen a few people indicate that their seed sown asparagus did not survive the first winter, so I suppose that will be the real test.  Next spring, I’ll either be celebrating or planting some new crowns.

Till next time…

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

24 comments:

  1. I would guess your bean seeds rotted in the ground, although you could have slugs as well. A lot of my beans rotted in the ground and a few that did germinate ended up dampening off with the stems collapsing and the plants keeling over in this year's very wet spring.

    Your peppers and eggplants look great to me. Eggplants always seem to take off when it gets warm and their leaves get some size to them. Your beds look amazing. Are those squash planted in your hay bale beds?

    ReplyDelete
  2. You may be right, especially when it comes to the bush beans. The few Oceanis that did come up are very small compared to the Contender so it actually makes more sense to blame growing conditions. Also the Contender plants don't seem to have any leaf damage, which you would expect at least a bit of if slugs were to blame.

    And you are right about the bales - those are squash planted in them. They are sort of an experiment for this year. I just planted them out last week and will hopefully get to a post about them soon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think timing and a fair bit of luck is required to get beans started, and to keep them going. I almost never direct sow beans anymore, the beans would too often rot before they emerged or the critters would munch the tender new growth as the seedlings popped through the soil and I would end up with big gaps. These days I start them in paper pots and set them out after the cotyledons pop out of the soil and the first leaves start to unfurl. It's not necessarily practical for large plantings, but it works for the small plantings that I do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you hit the nail on the head with luck and timing - This is my first year with bean issues (other than the bunny buffet a few years ago - aargh!) and I'm fairly sure I sowed my beans late every year (when the soil was warm) and we didn't get the torrential rains that kept the ground soaking wet either. As with all things gardening, it's a matter of live and learn. I would prefer to start them indoors like you do, but at this stage, it's probably a bit much for me to do as I sow about 100 seeds per bed in 2 beds plus the bush beans. I will keep that in the back of my mind however, as I've actually been toying with changing my spacing on the beans (I think mine is pretty tight at 4" apart in two double rows) and I read somewhere that fewer seedlings with wider spacing actually gives you a better harvest.

      Delete
  4. I think your bean experience demonstrates why we should sow different varieties. I started three varieties of French beans and one variety of runner bean in pots last year. Once I'd planted them out, the slugs devoured the two green French bean varieties but didn't touch the purple variety or the runner beans. I did a second sowing of each and exactly the same thing happened again. Slugs obviously like some things more than others, even down to the variety.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had experienced slug preferences with brassicas but not with beans. Last year, my Mei Qing Choi - a Chinese cabbage - was THE brassica of choice for those buggers. And now that I think of it, all of the beans that I've had issues with are those that are new to the garden. The ones I've grown for the past few years (Contender and Trail of Tears) have little damage & few missing plants. You just never know what veg the slugs (or any of the other pests) will consider a delicacy.

      Delete
  5. That looks awesome! so nice and green.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks you Jenny! Now the trick will be getting it to stay that way!

      Delete
  6. So wonderful that you give your kids a bed of their own to work with (and they get to choose their own veggies as well?!). My first ever veggie growing experience was a tomato planter on the patio of my apartment in my mid-twenties.

    Your potatoes look great - I have just started to see flowers on mine in the past week as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Susie - looks like we had very similar first experiences! Mine was as a teenager or maybe a bit older. We lived in a condo & I set up a light stand in my bedroom & grew a bunch of herbs.

      Delete
  7. You are so industrious, Margaret! I can't believe you grow all that food! I volunteer at a food pantry garden, and tonight we harvested cabbages and broccoli. It's a fun group, and it's so rewarding to grow food for the pantry. Happy summer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When you love doing something, it really isn't work but lots and lots of play, even the tough parts - I know that you know what I mean ;)

      Your volunteer work sounds wonderful - we had a similar program here that was run specifically for the local food banks, but for some reason they decided not to run it this year, which is a real shame. I hope your summer is off to a great start as well!

      Delete
  8. I hope your two sisters bed works out for you. I always bite my fingers when things come up as I've had issues with spotty germination with squash in the past. Well it might have germinated for all I know and been taken down by insects. I've found pregerminating them keeps that issues from happening. Either they come up too fast for the insects or they don't sit in the soil long enough for disease to take them down. Whatever. It has been working for me. But squash is such a vital food for me over the winter. And corn is my husband's favorite crop. I always hope I don't get too many failures in the beds. So this year I didn't pregerminate the melon seeds and they get take down by slugs. lol it is always something. I think those slugs eat them before they really get out of the ground.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't that always the case - you let your guard down and then Mother Nature lets you know that she's still firmly in charge. The whole business of seed failure still feels so strange to me - I always had it in the back of my mind that once I had enough experience, it wouldn't happen...I couldn't have been more wrong, that's for sure.

      btw I did your pre-germinating trick with the corn (in a container with a paper towel) and it worked really well! I'll definitely be doing that from now on.

      Delete
  9. The garden is looking good and those eggplants seem very healthy. Hard to tell what your bean problem is. My rule for here is not to plant beans until first week of June. I direct seed and usually don't have germination problems. Some plants get eaten off as soon as they emerge. No idea what does that but I don't think it is slugs. The bush beans I plant in blocks of 9 per square (foot) and they do great at that spacing. The pole beans get planted 8/square ( 2 rows of 4 in each square along the trellis). Also bean varieties do vary in germination time. Jade always comes up a week or 2 after Provider and is a spotty germinator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, believe it or not I was putting up the trellises for the beans yesterday and guess who I saw on one of my plants - a tiny slug. I gave him a little photo op before he was removed.

      It looks like you use the same spacing I do! I must have gotten it from the square foot gardening book (I have the very old edition, before Mel started doing raised beds). For the pole beans, I sow the seeds along a 2' wide row & sow two double rows in each foot width, 4" apart. Last year I used much wider spacing (I think 8") for some of the pole beans as I didn't have that many seeds left, but since all of my beans got knocked down by the bacterial brown spot, I can't really do a comparison to see how well (or not) they produced compared to the 4" spacing. I did read somewhere that spacing them more widely gives you a bigger yield for the space - I may do a little trial on that at some point in the future, just to see.

      Delete
  10. Ooh, being sick is never fun and I hope you are back to 100% soon. And I feel your husband's back pain literally as I moved concrete pavers yesterday and mine is a bit ouchy today. Weed wacking will do it too, which is my excuse for not doing it more often! ;-)

    Those potatoes are really looking good. I can't blame you for being excited about them! As for slugs, I wouldn't get much of anything from the garden if not for Sluggo. Even then I have to remember to re-apply it, and they still wind up munching on things occasionally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dave...we are both feeling better but I think it will be a few more days until things are back to normal.

      I really wish we had Sluggo here - we do have a product called Safers but it doesn't say anything about being organic so I'm not sure if it is "safe" or not, despite the label! My only defense right now is diatomaceous earth which does help, but applying it is a bit of a pain as it doesn't work that well if it gets wet & you should wear a mask when applying it so you don't breath in all those sharp little dust particles.

      Delete
  11. Hi Margaret, Glad you are starting to feel better. I don't have any straw so put some grass around my potatoes and have been trying to add some compost too. They were so thick that it was hard to add the compost but need to get back to it as some have flopped over a bit from the wind. You have a great deal to keep up to. I think it is wonderful that your kids are gardening also! Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a bit of a hard time getting that straw down in between the plants too - I know that I should have started putting some down when the plants were much smaller but just didn't get around to it. Hopefully we are both harvesting some delicious potatoes very soon!

      Delete
  12. Sounds like you have had a bad year for beans! Mine were mixed too - some produced 100% germination, but others were very poor, so you are not alone. Anyway, I think you did the right thing in sowing seeds for several different varieties, thereby hedging your bets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's always comforting to hear that you are not the only one experiencing issues with a particular veg, insect or disease. I'm crossing my fingers that we both still get a good supply of beans this year, even with the rough start.

      Delete
  13. The potatoes look really healthy! I'd just keep an eye out for slugs under the straw if it's been wet, I've been finding them under my grass mowings mulch. Mind you, there doesn't look like any damage to the leaves, though they can munch on the tubers too. Hope you're both feeling a lot better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been thinking about the slugs too. I think their numbers are down a bit now as we have had fairly dry & hottish weather for the last week or so. I didn't have any more room to hill the soil in the beds, so I used the straw to not only keep the soil cool, but also in the hopes of getting some more tubers. I've heard of people using only straw to hill their potatoes, so we'll see if that works. I hope those tubers are ok - I'll probably be checking on their progress very soon. And thanks Lou - I'm basically back to normal and my husbands back is improving, but likely won't be 100% for a couple of weeks yet.

      Delete

I appreciate and thoroughly enjoy all of your lovely comments :) Please note that in order to foil those pesky spammers, comment moderation has been enabled for older comments.