Friday, August 21, 2015

Mid-August Update - Main Garden Beds


This past month was about mulching.  I finally finished doing the paths in area #1 and the front of the house and now I have to move on to the paths in area #2, which I hope to finish this weekend.  But even with lugging all that mulch around, I was able to get some work done in the beds and start some fall crops.

I’ve picked all of the main broccoli heads and am now relying solely on side shoots.  Most are fairly tiny, but there is one plant that is producing huge ones:

Broccoli Side Shoots
 
The baby choy that I sowed a couple of months ago has sized up & isn't much of a baby anymore.  I'll have to look back in my notes as I'm not quite sure which variety it is at the moment.  I'll be harvesting these any day now for a stir fry:

Baby Choy
 
The Just Right turnips are a 60 day salad variety & they are getting to a harvestable size now.

Just Right Turnips
 
The Contender bean plants started to yellow a few weeks ago & their production was dismal this year - I think they may have had blight:

Yellowing Bean Plants
 
I pulled them a while back and now the only bush bean variety left is the Oceanis, which is not showing any signs of disease, even though they were right beside the Contenders:

Oceanis
I'm leaving these to mature so that I can harvest the seed for next year
 
Oceanis was a very sporadic germinator - I think I must have sown 20+ seeds and only ended up with 3 or 4 plants.  The beans themselves look really nice - they are a fillet variety, which I've never tried before.  I decided to let the few beans I did get go to seed - maybe I'll have better luck growing these next year when I use my own fresh seed.

The rest of this bed held the spring planted favas & sugar snap peas, both of which were pulled a while ago, so I decided to sow the fall lettuce here.  I scattered seed for 5 different varieties in strips on half of the bed.  I'm crossing my fingers that they germinate, but with this recent hot spell, I'm having my doubts.  I'm also going to pre-germinate some spinach seed to see if I can get some fall spinach happening.

The cucumbers are not doing that well this year – dribs and drabs is all I’m getting.   I once again made the mistake of spacing the plants too closely as I had more seedlings than space - one of these days I'll learn.

Cucumbers
 
So far, the most prolific variety has been the lemon cucumbers.  Funny how things change from year to year - least year, the Garden Sweets were the star performers.

Lemon cucumber vines have already
reached the top of the trellis
 
The Suyo Long plants at the end of the row were too shaded by the other cucumber vines and they barely grew at all, so I ripped them out.  The rest of the vines are yellowing/browning – after examining the leaves & comparing them to photos on the internet, I'm pretty sure what I have is a case of downy mildew.

Suspected downy mildew on cucumber leaf
 
The 1 month old Romanesco is now fairly large, all things considered:

Romanesco Zucchini - 4 weeks
 
It also has some babies on it, so that is especially promising:

Baby Romanesco
 
The late sown tromboncino is vining:

Tromboncino
 
As I recall, the tromboncino was a late producer last year and with this years late planting, I’m not sure if it will end up giving me a harvest or not.

The carrots are doing well, but I do need to get out there and do some thinning:

Carrot Bed
 
Next up are the tomatoes.  These have been doing ok, although not fabulously like last year, even though the weather this year has been prime tomato growing weather.  I haven’t been feeding them as often as I should have and this may account for the slower growth compared with last year – the garden has been in a constant state of catch up practically all season, so I have let some things slide.

Tomato Beds
 
As with many other aspects of the garden, I’m still trying to find my “way” when it comes to how early to start the tomatoes and the best configuration for the beds.  This year, I placed 3 rows in each bed with plants 24” apart within each row – and I don’t like this layout at all - much too crowded.   I prefer what I did last year better, where I had 2 rows in each bed with a shorter crop on the south side of the bed.

Amish Paste

Bloody Butcher


Brandywine


Chadwick Cherry


Costoluto Genovese


Juliet


Mountain Magic


Opalka


Speckled Roman


Sungold


Taxi


Yellow Pear

These photos were taken a few days ago and since then, I have seen ripening tomatoes on almost every variety except for Brandywine & Opalka.

The tomato bed is not without it's bad news, however.  I have early blight running through the beds especially on the Brandywine, Yellow Pear and Costoluto Genovese.

Early Blight on Tomatoes
 
I also have several cases of septeria leaf spot.  Once again, the Yellow pear is infected, so perhaps that variety is just more susceptible to it which is why I’m getting it again this year, even though I purchased new seed from a different source.  And the Speckled Roman, which is right behind the Yellow Pear, is afflicted as is the Costoluto Genovese, which is actually the worst of the lot.

Septoria Leaf Spot on Costoluto Genovese
 
More devastating still is that I've noticed late blight lesions on the Costuluto Genovese stems.  This variety wasn't that bad in terms of disease last year - pretty much average - but this time round, it seems to be a disease magnet.  So far, it seems to be the only variety with late blight & I've picked off all of the tomatoes that have started to change colour so that they can ripen off the plant.

I’ve been cutting off the yellowing leaves and I gave the plants a good feeding of fish emulsion.  I’m hoping the plants stay ahead of the blight, but since it's still so early & the plants are not as vigorous as they were last year, I'm not overly optimistic that they will last into mid-September.

The 3 allium beds were empty except for the perennial bunching onions & four leeks in bed #6.

Jolant Leeks

Perennial Bunching Onions
 
Both the Nebuka & Evergreen Hardy perennial bunching onions are looking more promising than the He-Shi-Ko variety I grew last year, which were a good 1” or more thick before they even thought about multiplying (I prefer bunching onions that are on the smaller side).  Both of the current varieties are splitting into 1/2" thick or smaller stems, which is good, but the rate of multiplication is fairly slow.  There are many single stems, a few doubles and only one or two triples.

Nebuka's dividing
 
This bed had some space on either side of the bunching onions which I decided to make use of.  I sowed cilantro in a 2x4 spot as I really need to replenish my stock in the freezer.  The other, larger 4x4 spot will be sown with overwintering spinach in early September.

This past weekend, I planted up the other empty allium beds.  I had a couple of cell packs with transplants (Komatsuna & Joi Choi), but most of the beds were direct seeded with rapini, baby choy, kohlrabi, turnips, tatsoi, mizuna and radishes.  I haven’t grown most of these as a fall crop before, so I’m considering this a bit of a test to see how my timing is for each variety.

Some of the recently seeded brassicas
have already come up, such as these radishes
 
Speaking of transplants, I had quite a few issues starting the lettuce and Swiss chard this summer – I’m actually thinking that my seeding mix or soil tray may be infected with the damping off fungus as germination was fairly poor and I also had a few of the Swiss chard seedlings keel over shortly after they emerged.  I had a similar problem with the Bright Lights chard in the spring, but no issues with the lettuce – this time round, however, the lettuce seeds sprouted, but then they just as quickly died.

I transplanted the Bright Lights seedlings that survived into the vacant spring spinach spot.

Bright Lights Seedling
 
Right beside them are the spring planted Peppermint & Fordhook Giant chard plants, which I had recently harvested from:

Peppermint & Fordhook Giant Chard  

I ended up with only a handful of lettuce seedlings:


Lettuce Seedlings
Why does my camera always want to focus on the drip rather than the plants?

Not exactly impressive, are they.  On a positive note, my lettuce seedlings often look pretty pathetic when I first transplant them but they usually recover quickly and end up giving me a great harvest.

I normally do a big cleaning & disinfecting of all my trays, pots, etc. in the fall & purchase fresh seeding mix in the spring to help with damping off (I had BIG issues with it a few years ago).  If I purchased new seeding mix now, by the time spring rolled around it would be “old”, so I didn’t want to do that just for a few cell packs of seedlings.

I definitely needed more lettuce than those few transplants which is why I decided direct seed some in the fava/pea bed using the scatter method.  I prefer to harvest larger leaves of lettuce rather than baby leaves, so this method is a bit of a pain for me as it requires a lot of thinning, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

The weather hasn't exactly been conducive to cool weather crops this week with highs in the 90's, but things are supposed to get back to seasonal as of today.  Hopefully I'll see some germination from the lettuce patch soon.

My shady bed # 8 has been stagnant for the last couple of months, so last week I finally decided to rip everything out & salvage what I could of the veg in that bed.

Bed #8 - Beyond pitiful
 
My original plan had been to direct seed the fall lettuce in this bed.  However, after pulling up the brassicas, I struggled to aerate the bed as it was matted with thin, fiborous roots.  I had noticed this last year as well when I dug up the carrots & had just assumed that the roots were from the carrots.

This time round I noticed that the ENTIRE bed was covered in these roots and it was extremely dry, even with all the rain we had recently.  Every other bed I worked at that time was still moist an inch or so down.  And that’s when I realized that my issue with the bed may not be solely about light.  I have a feeling that these roots are from the same renegade willow tree that is shading the bed - it is sucking all of the nutrients and moisture out of that bed.

My plants strong growth in the spring followed by absolutely no growth during the summer all of a sudden makes complete sense.  The spring rains & the amendments I worked into the soil before transplanting gave my seedlings that initial burst of growth.  But within a couple of months, the willow would take over and suck that bed dry of both moisture and nutrients and my plants would languish.

The tangle of roots is so bad that it has made the bed essentially unusable:

Bed #8 - Nothing but clumps of matted roots from end to end
 
That tree has got to go; I’m hoping that we can get to it this weekend.  Unfortunately, the bed is a write off for the rest of the season.  Once the tree is gone, I'll turn over the soil & mulch it heavily - if I'm lucky, a good chunk of those roots will rot away by next year.

And lastly, a bit of good news - it looks like both my red and yellow spring planted raspberries are going to give me a tiny bit of fruit this year:

Heritage Raspberries
 
I won't celebrate just yet, though - they still have a ways to go & I'm probably not the only one eying them.

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. Blight is such a devastating disease, I hope you manage to salvage your tomatoes. It's sickening to grow the plants all year and have no crop to show for it. Hopefully, you might be able to keep the plants with early blight going for a while by removing some foliage. I'm really surprised by my tomatoes this year, they've ripened much earlier than other years and I'm getting a great harvest. I thought my cucumbers had had it when we had a cool spring, the plants didn't like the conditions and have never really recovered but I'm getting a decent harvest from the Mini Munch. The lemon cucumbers are another story.

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    1. Last year was the first time I had blight (both early and late) and it was pretty bad, especially the late blight. I'm considering pulling the Costoluto Genovese as it seems to be the only one afflicted by late blight so far. I had really been looking forward to testing this variety as a sauce tomato (it's supposed to be great for that), but I don't have enough tomatoes for that yet. I could let it go on for a bit in the hopes of giving me a few more tomatoes. But if I pull the Genovese, I may prevent or at least slow down the progress of this disease on the other plants. Still debating on that one.

      I'm glad you are having a good tomato year & your Mini Munch cucumbers are holding their own - every year presents different challenges, doesn't it?

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  2. Those yellow pear tomatoes (and the brandywines too, let's face it!) catch every disease known to man. But the taste forces me to grow them both every year. Mine have blight, hornworms and gawd knows what else, but once I FINALLY get one, it will be all worth it!

    And you're so correct on those darn willows---they'll put out roots 2 miles long if there's moisture to be found. Get rid of it, and be prepared for a hellish battle with the roots!

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    1. Each year, the diseases that come up surprise me. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the whole notion of not EVER ever having a disease free year.

      Oh boy - I hope I don't end up having to dig up that bed and replacing the soil - that's one expense and backbreaking chore I can do without.

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  3. Your Tomatoes look great--I hope the blight holds off a bit until you have a chance to harvest them. My Cucumbers didn't produce much this year, but they're in a weird spot, and in a garden that only gets sun for about five hours of the day. I don't think I'll plant them again next year--maybe if I ever have a sunny garden again. That Baby Bok Choy looks tasty!

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    1. I was just doing a walk through of the garden this morning and my cucumbers are pretty much on their last legs. Bok choy is one of my favourite Chinese greens. You should give it a go sometime - it would do quite well in a spot that received part shade.

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  4. So many tomatoes!! Your garden really is impressive. I'd whack that tree down, too. :o)

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    1. We love our tomatoes - or at least I love our tomatoes. They are one of those veg where you spend hours agonizing during the winter over which varieties to grow as there are just so many to choose from. And that tree is comin' down in the next few days - I just hope my rabbit fencing doesn't get smushed in the process.

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  5. I am hoping that when we next visit the plot that blight hasn't struck as the past few days has been conditions that blight thrives in.

    We are mini cucumber converts one thanks to Jo.

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    1. I'll have to try mini-cucumbers. I grew a small, gherkin variety this year - Correntine - but I'm not overly impressed. To be fair, I'm not impressed with any of the cucumbers this year other than the Lemon; it's just been a bad year for them, so I don't think I'll write off any of the varieties just yet.

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  6. I'm glad you can get that tree out ... I'm stuck with the neighbouring yard's poplars and the roots grow all through my garden space. I'm constantly cutting and digging out huge roots. Your variety is impressive! Not just the many tomatoes you have on the go, but everything! How do you like the fordhook giant chard, by the way, as I was thinking of trying that myself?

    I also have some type of mildew on my squash plants and will be pulling them soon (just waiting for a couple more squash to mature).

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    1. I really like Fordhook Giant - like it's name, it does produce giant leaves & has a nice, mild taste. That's one of the reasons I continue to grow it even though there are prettier varieties out there too. I'll probably be pulling some of the cucumber vines this week - the last thing I need is for whatever is on the cucumbers to cross over onto the Romanesco squash & further reduce what small harvest I may get.

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  7. It's funny isn't it how year to year different varieties do better than others.
    I've had really bad powdery mildew this year as it's been so dry. I did try a milk spray early on but didn't keep at it. The plants have still continued cropping but probably not as well as if they'd not got it.
    I was thinking that with the willow you might need to look out for new shoots coming up once you've cut it down, depending on the particular species. The cherry tree in the plot next to mine has been sending up new trees quite far from its main trunk. But hopefully that won't happen for you!

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    1. I think that the milk sprays help - I didn't get around to doing any this year, but I did last year, although, like you, I wasn't very consistent.

      We did have another similar ornamental tree gone wild that we got rid of last year as it was a wasp magnet & it had loads of suckers coming up from the ground, even before we cut it down. This one doesn't have any yet, but we will definitely keep a watch out for that. I've heard that a possible, non-toxic way of dealing with that is placing a heavy duty black garbage bag over the stump, securing it with zip ties - haven't tried it but it's something they are attempting in an old growth forest near us where buckthorn (an invasive species) is a real problem.

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    2. That sounds like a good idea. You could always cover a slightly wider area with a bigger bit of plastic and weigh it down with bricks or something, which might prevent any reshooting directly near the trunk. You might need to watch out for slugs hiding underneath though!

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