Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What's Happening in the Garden - Mid-July - Part 2


Technically, it's the end of July, but since many of these photos were taken last week, I'll let the Mid-July heading stand ;-)

This year I was super late with the carrots.  I was originally going to try two sowings, but one will have to do.  My spring sown carrots last year really weren't the sweetest, so this will be a good comparison as they will all be maturing in the cooler fall weather.

The carrots were sown on June 29 and they took less than a week to germinate.  I direct sowed the carrots instead of using Granny’s seed mats like I normally do, just because I needed to get these in the ground quickly.  Once the seeds had germinated, I removed the Agribon (which I used to cover the bed so that the soil stays moist) and I sprinkled the bed with diatomaceous earth.  A couple of years ago, I lost all of my summer sown carrots to slugs and I didn’t want a repeat of that this year.

Carrots - 4 weeks
 
All of the varieties had very good germination, but I think I did have a bit of slug damage as there is a section where seedlings are conspicuously absent (in the photo running along the left side of the bed).  I'm leaning towards slugs as the rest of the bed looks fine and the bare section contains several different varieties.  I don't use the diatomaceous earth religiously, so I have a feeling that it rained, I didn't re-apply it, and the slugs started to chow down.  I have since applied it again and things seem to be holding steady.

I’ve already done the first round of thinning, but there is still much more to go...this is a definite drawback of not using the seed mats.  I’m growing 6 varieties this year – Mokum, Scarlet Nantes*, Chantenay Red Core*, Sprint, Amsterdam Maxi & Napoli.  I grew these (*) last year in the spring and it will be interesting to see if their flavour is better when grown as fall carrots.

Next is my fava bean/bush bean & pea bed.  I used a cattle panel trellis for the sugar snap peas this time round and it worked incredibly well.

Peas on the right side of the trellis; Ianto's favas on the left.
 
I’ve finished harvesting the sugar snaps & any remaining peas on the vines are going to be dried for seed.  One interesting thing I found from last year is that you don’t need to let the pods completely dry on the vine itself.  Once they start to dry out, you can pick them & they will dry off the vine just fine.  Their spot in the garden is then free for the next crop…I’m thinking snow peas.  I'll be ripping the vines out and harvesting the drying pods within the next couple of days.

Last year I had issues with the pea trellises...they were completely inadequate, even for the bush peas.  When I purchased the cattle panel, it came in an 8' length, which was much too high, especially considering that the beds already elevate the garden by 11".  So I cut off about 18" from the panel & used these cutoffs for the bush shelling peas, which worked quite well.

Bush Shelling Peas
 
I’m growing two types of fava beans – a shorter variety (Extra Precoce Violetto) and a taller (Ianto’s).  I harvested some beans from the shorter variety, but it looks like it’s in a bit of a lull now – perhaps because of the hot weather?  I do see a few more beans starting to mature, so we will see what that brings.

The Ianto’s, a later maturing variety, are loaded with pods, although they look as if they only hold a couple of beans each.  I’ll hopefully be picking those in about a week or two.

Ianto's Favas
 
The green beans have just starting to come in:

Bush Snap Beans (right); Extra Precoce Violetto Favas (right)
 
The Contender is doing its thing – I love this variety and have grown it every year since I first started this garden.  The Oceanis beans (new this year) had issues with germination (what’s new?).  The beans were planted side by side and you can see the Contenders coming up with barely any activity from the Oceanis to their left:

Bean bed in mid-June
 
My son also planted some Oceanis in his bed just a couple of weeks ago and once again, germination was not very good.  Definitely can’t blame that one on cold soil and the slugs have not been all that bad lately as we have had a couple of dry spells.  What's more, my daughter also planted carrots in that bed at the same time & those came up without any issues.  I think I may just save the seed from those few plants that did come up & try again next year with my own fresh seed.

You can probably tell that I messed up when I planned this bed.  Having never grown favas before, I didn’t really think about how tall this shorter variety would grow.  The favas are at the end of the bed and now they are essentially shading out the bush beans for a chunk of the day.   You can see how this would have been an issue in the photo above.  The situation should improve in a couple of weeks or so, once this last flush of favas is done & I pull the plants.  Hopefully, it’s not too late by then.

The next bed contained the shelling peas (pictured above, which are now ripped out) & currently holds the cucumbers & two varieties of squash - Tromboncino & Romanesco.  The cucumbers have already given us a few fruits, even though the plants have only just started to climb.

Cucumbers
 
I’m still not sure about the parthenocarpic cucumbers.  These are often called greenhouse cucumbers as they don’t need pollination to produce.  In fact, not only do they not need pollination, but it can actually negatively impact the quality of the cucumbers, making them seedy.

Corentine Cucumber
This parthenocarpic variety has slight swelling on one end,
which is the undesirable result of pollination

Lemon Cucumber
This heirloom variety does require pollination, which was obviously successful
 
Other bloggers seem to grow parthenocarpic varieties out in the open without issue, so I decided to try them.  I have harvested several that are not exactly the shape they are supposed to be, but I think it’s still a bit too early to draw any conclusions.  I find that the first cucumbers are often a bit deformed, regardless of the variety.

The Tromboncino squash was only sown on June 26.  This was my favourite variety of squash last year (even though I didn’t get very many squash) – I loved the flavour and the texture.  So I really can’t believe that I completely forgot to sow them this time round, which is why they ended up in the ground so late.

Tromboncino Squash - 4 weeks
 
Two Romanesco squash were sown in the space that was previously occupied by the shelling peas & these are doing well...in fact, in terms of size, they have already caught up to the Tromboncino that were sown 2 weeks earlier.

Romanesco Squash - 2 weeks
 
I also planted sunflowers in this bed, which are doing ok:

Giant Grey Stripe Sunflowers
 
Ok, that is, until you compare them to the ones that my daughter planted in her bed:

Sunflowers in kids bed
 
That’s the difference between sunflowers that are grown in full sun vs. being shaded for a good chunk of the day, as mine were when the shelling peas were in the bed.  The sunflowers were behind the peas and only started receiving a full dose of sunlight after the peas were ripped out a couple of weeks ago.

Speaking of ripping out the peas, last year, I used a granular inoculant on all of the pea & bean seeds.  But when I examined their roots at the end of the season, I saw very few nitrogen fixing nodules.  This time round, I purchased the typical inoculant powder & the difference was obvious:

Nodules on Shelling Pea Roots
 
When I removed the pea vines, I simply cut them at ground level, leaving all of those lovely nodules in the soil to keep doing their job.

Next up is the shallot & garlic bed.  The shallots were harvested a couple of weeks ago and the garlic just came out yesterday.  Looks like this time round, I actually harvested the garlic at the right time.  Last year, I pulled it when only 2 of the bottom leaves turned brown & found that the bulbs had not filled out the skins properly as the outer skins were loose.  This year, I waited until the bottom 3-4 leaves turned brown & the bulbs were nicely filled out with tight skins.  You'll have to wait until Harvest Monday for the big reveal ;)

Garlic Bed on July 24th
 
Bed #8 in this area is the shadiest bed in the garden, by far.

Bed #8 (view facing north)
 
As you can see, it is surrounded on 3 sides by trees.  It still does get sun, as it faces directly south, but I am only now beginning to understand how things grow in it throughout the season.  In the early spring, while the trees are still leafing out, crops sown in this bed do fairly well.  But come summer, things slow down significantly.  I’m likely going to remove the large deciduous tree beside the bed either this fall or next year.  That particular tree is supposed to be a relatively small ornamental tree, but it was grafted to willow stock and now the willow portion has taken over & is very aggressive.  It's hard to tell in the photo, but the willow canopy extends over this bed.

Bed # 8 (view facing south)
 
Bed #8 currently holds kale, collards and joi choi.  The tatsoi was also in this bed and the last of the heads were harvested this past week.

These greens grew very well in the spring, but now growth is down to a crawl.
The yellowing leaves are likely also an indication of low light
 
Even after the large willow is removed, this bed will still be the shadiest spot in the garden and I’ll have to plan out my rotations accordingly.  The spring planted carrots seemed to work out well in this bed and I’m thinking that lettuce would also do well.  The kale is passable as well, but the collards and joi choi are practically at a stand still.  In fact, I see the joi choi beginning to bolt and I haven’t even harvested any yet.  For comparison, last year, I harvested 13 pounds from 6 plants by this time.

I planted the sweet potato slips into a large metal bin but they are not doing as well as I had hoped.  I think I placed the bin a bit too close to the wooden fence & it was shaded for part of the day.

Sweet Potatoes
Looking nice but nowhere near as large as I would have liked
 
I moved the bin out a couple of feet last week, so hopefully, it will get growing more quickly now, especially with our hot weather.

A volunteer borage plant came up right in front of the onion bed & I just let it do it's thing as it wasn't really in the way:

Volunteer Borage
 
The pollinators are absolutely loving it and I always pause for a few moments when I pass it, just to see who is stopping by for a visit.

You want to see a bee?  Head for the borage!
 
The last bed held the spinach, lettuce (both of which have been pulled) and chard.  A few of the romaines were an ok size, considering the early harvest, but several of them were quite small.  I then realized that I sowed the different varieties in rows instead of blocks & the leaf lettuce ended up shading the romaines that were beside them.  Romaine tends to grow at a slower rate and I have to make sure to keep that in mind when I plan the lettuce bed in the future.

Lettuce bed before the final harvest last week
 
The Swiss chard is doing quite well & ready for another picking:

Fordhook & Peppermint Chard
 
I have some Bright Lights chard in the basement which will go in the spinach spot & I've also started some more lettuce that will hopefully be ready for transplanting in a couple of weeks.

Last year, when the chard was in the shady bed #8, it's growth slowed considerably in mid-summer.  I had attributed that to lack of nutrients as I had not fertilized it since I transplanted it into the bed.  Now I realize that lack of sunlight was the likely cause.

And last, but certainly not least, the plum tree.  Looks like I will actually be getting some plums this year!  Some of the trees VERY long branches have leaned over with the weight of all the plums (now I have a better idea on how I'll be pruning this tree come spring):

5-in-1 Plum Tree
 
Only two of the five varieties on this tree are producing well this year:  Shiro & Burbank.  There are also some French Prune plums, but only a handful...which is a shame, as those were my hands down favourite the last time this tree bore fruit 2 years ago.  Anyhow, I'll hold off on any further excitement until harvest time - as we all know, a lot can happen in the meantime.

Till next time…

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

15 comments:

  1. Lots going on here--I just love your busy--ness!
    I'd use that shadier bed for summer salad fixings---I think that might be the ticket for some summer spinach and some of the more delicate lettuces. I have a pretty shaded bed that I use for "baby"perennials and stuff that needs TLC. We don't get much for hot weather here, but when we do, delicate things appreciate those 1/2 shaded days.
    I am most intrigued by your seed mats. I know Granny used them , but I didn't have luck with them. I don't know if I'm burying them too deep or what the problem is. So--that leaves me stuck outside with a tweezers and a little pot of carrot seedlings and talk about TEDIOUS sowing. But I also despise thinning (am I a murderer? LOL!) So--help me please-how much soil do you cover your seed mats with? And are you using paper towels, napkins, TP???
    Well, I've blathered on as usual. Everything looks terrific. Have a good day in the garden

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    1. Well, I'm definitely with you on the tedious factor of direct sowing carrots! I use toilet paper & I usually break it off into 2' lengths, to keep them manageable. And I don't worry about between row spacing - I do 4 rows per length of TP & then cut it up into 4 strips. Then I position the strips at the appropriate row spacing when I place them in the bed. I also use a marker to write the initials of the variety on each strip as I usually sow several different ones. To glue the seeds on, I use non-toxic white school glue or you can go with a cornstarch/water mixture too. One thing that I found that helped a lot was using waxed paper underneath the toilet paper. The first time I used newspaper & the TP ended up sticking to it & ripping. I then hang up the strips using clothes pegs for a bit until they dry (Granny would even make these months ahead, during her less busy times, so they were ready to go in the spring when she needed them...I'm nowhere near that organized yet!) When I plant up the bed, I made a mixture of half seeding mix (from a bag) and half garden soil. I tried using all seeding mix at first, but it just dried out too quickly, even with the Agribon. I lay each strip at the appropriate row spacing (for carrots I use 3" apart) and top it with just enough soil so that you can't see the paper anymore. Then I place a layer of Agribon on the bed, weigh it down at the sides with rebar, and water. I usually water it once per day until the seeds come up - after a few days, I start peaking under the Agribon to see if anything is happening yet. Ummm...is that a long enough explanation? Guess we both have the gift of the gab!

      And I'm thinking that's a great idea with the shady bed. I do want to incorporate some sort of rotation too, so spinach, lettuce and perhaps spring carrots, which didn't do too badly last year (although not great either). I may try some fall spinach this year, although my attempts at that, even in a sunny bed, haven't been that successful so far.

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    2. Thanks, Margaret! You're the bestest explainererer there is!! (Don't you love my language skills? You'd never know I got straight A's!)

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  2. I appreciate you sharing all that is going on with your garden. It helps a lot when I see what is working or not working in other gardens to make some decisions about my own. I am trying seed mats for the first time. I have used TP for the radishes, which have sprouted, and I used a paper napkin opened up for the beets. They have not sprouted yet, but it's a bit early for them to anyway.

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    1. Hi Audrey! You know, I have learned more in the past couple of years from everyday garden bloggers then I ever thought possible. "How-to" books and websites can't compare to the practical insight that us common folk bring to the table!

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  3. That plum tree looks like it is loaded with fruit! And I can't wait for your report on the garlic. I don't know about the parthenocarpic cucumbers getting pollinated. I generally only grow them in the greenhouse, where they are not likely to get any pollen.

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    1. I'm tentatively excited about the plums. Each day I get a little bit tense when I go and take a look to see how they are doing. I was saying to my mom just this morning...all it takes is one hungry "insert critter name here" and they could all be gone overnight.

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  4. I have to get my carrots in, maybe tomorrow. I tried the Agribon covering but couldn't keep the beds moist enough to germinate any seeds. Going to try covering with cardboard this time. And I am envious that you and everyone else has cucumbers but not me.

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    1. Even with the Agribon, I do still have to water the beds 1-2x per day, depending on how hot it is. There's always that little bit of anxiety if I miss a day, but so far, it's worked out ok. I was in the same envy boat as you until just last week when it came to beans. I'm sure your cucumbers will come very soon.

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  5. I so hate when google eats my comments. Well I'll try again. I was having trouble with slugs in one of my carrot patches too. Sluggo seems to have solved the problem. Luckily in the other patch the slugs couldn't find a way in. Usually my row covers won't stop them, they just go under. But I saw slime trails on the top of the row covers.

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    1. You must have done an amazing job at sealing the row cover edges for them not to be able to get in - I've never been successful with that. I really wish we had Sluggo here - it would make my life so much easier. I'll have to check to see if it's something I can bring across the border - maybe on my next trip over I can pick some up.

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  6. Amazing garden spaces! You have SO much going on. Your bean bed looks so full ... as does the peas/fava garden. I remember asking you about the borage volunteers earlier this year and wondering if I would have any with the nasty winters we get ... oof, they are everywhere! But good to know so I won't bother to start any from seed as I'll just use what volunteers itself.

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    1. It does go everywhere, doesn't it? I even have a volunteer in the hilltop garden and have never grown borage there - the seed must have been picked up by the wind or something. It's so easy to pull in spots you don't want it, there really is no reason not to have a few in the garden.

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  7. You sure have a lot going on in your garden, now that your sweet potato it is getting more sun and with the heat wave it will take off very fast.

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    1. I hope you are right, Norma. A couple of weeks ago, one of my slips died for some reason and when I pulled it up there was the beginnings of a little sweet potato - it got me quite excited about the remaining, healthy ones.

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