Sunday, September 13, 2015

Mid-September Update - Hilltop Beds


The hilltop beds are doing very well overall and I'm expecting some good harvests from them in the coming weeks.

The squash plants in the straw bales are starting to look amazing and I must say that I am more than a little surprised.

Straw Bales - Finally coming to life
 
Too bad that it’s just in time for the end of the season.  I harvested two Romanesco's from them last week and two Sure Thing's yesterday:

Straw bale Romanesco

"Sure Thing" zucchini
These were harvested yesterday
 
I’m fairly certain that the Sweet Mama squash is fully developed, but whether or not I should pick it is another matter:

Sweet Mama Squash
 
Fedco states that the stems turn corky/woody when the squash is ripe.  I think I’ll wait a while longer as they don't seem that woody to me just yet.

The lemon bee balm that I also planted in the bales is absolutely beautiful!  Just like everything else I grew in them, it took a while to get going, but it is really blowing my socks off now:

Lemon Bee Balm
 
The chamomile patch looks a bit ratty right now but I’m starting to get another small flush of flowers after cutting them back last month:

The chamomile is a little worse for wear
after I let many of the flowers go to seed last month
 
The potato bed has all but died back.  There are 6 varieties in the bed and the only one left with foliage is Roko.

Potato Bed
You can make out the Roko foliage at the back (left) of the bed
 
Since we don’t eat a lot of potatoes, usually around once per week, I want to be able to store the harvest so that we can enjoy them over the coming months.  Leaving them in the ground for a couple of weeks after the foliage dies back is supposed to increase their storage potential.  I’m planning to dig these up by the end of the month.

The sweet potatoes are still doing a whole lot of nothing.  This photo was taken on September 8th:

Sweet Potatoes - Sep. 8
 
And this one was taken almost one month earlier on August 15th:

Sweet Potatoes - Aug. 15
 
See much of a difference?  Me neither.

I’m pretty sure that the problem has been lack of water.  Since the bin is outside the fenced area, it needs to be watered by hand – and I’m obviously not the best when it comes to that ;)

I’ve harvested about half of the Vermont Cranberry bean pods and they are spread out to dry on newspaper in the garage.

Vermont Cranberry Beans
 
Mark recently asked why I didn't just leave the beans to dry on the plants.  Our weather in September is typically quite wet - not ideal if the goal is to harvest dried beans.  The garage is the perfect spot for them as it is dry yet airy.  The onions and garlic are curing in there as well & we normally leave the overhead door at least partially open for a good chunk of the day to improve air circulation.

I also have this completely unsubstantiated impression that by picking the pods when they are mature (but have not yet started to dry out) I am encouraging the plant to continue producing beans & therefore increasing my overall harvest.  I may do a little experiment in the future to see if that is indeed the case.

The other dry bush bean I'm growing is Walcherse White.  Since I'm not certain what the pods look like once mature, I’m leaving them on the plants.  I'll start harvesting once I see some of them starting to dry out.

Walcherse White Beans
Looks like they are getting close as the deep green colour
on many of them has lightened to yellow
 
The majority of the Trail of Tears beans have been harvested and there is only a handful left on the vines. The Sweet Marie vines beside them were ripped out a while back and the pepper plants, which run along the other side of the bed, are getting some more much needed sunshine now.


Pepper plants to the left of the pole beans
 
You can see the difference between the pepper plants in the pole bean bed above vs. those in the much sunnier bush bean bed:

Pepper plants to the left of the bush beans
 
I finally harvested some Stocky Red Roasters this past week:

Ever try to snap a picture while simultaneously holding back foliage?
Not easy, let me tell you ;)
 
The only variety that I have yet to pick is the Corne de Chevre, but it is just starting to colour up:

Corne de Chevre
 
I’m getting another flush of peppers from many of the plants but the nights are getting a lot cooler now; looks like the final harvest isn't too far off.

One interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that the peppers continue to ripen once picked, just like tomatoes.  I have no idea why it never occurred to me that this would happen, after all they are in the same family.  This is the basket of Jimmy Nardello's from last weeks Harvest Monday post:

Jimmy Nardello's on the day of harvest

To test my theory, I left the peppers as is - except for one of them which I moved and then put back in backwards - and then took a photo 3 days later:

Jimmy Nardello's - 3 days after harvest
 
Pretty impressive, isn't it.  I'm thinking that I've never noticed this before as I normally place peppers in the refrigerator after I pick them, which likely stops the ripening process.

The eggplants are still chugging along, even in their wilted state.  What’s promising is that each variety has new, healthy looking growth – hopefully it’s enough to get the remaining fruits to maturity.


Eggplants - some new growth is encouraging
 
I’ll be picking some more Ping Tung very soon:

More Ping Tung on the way
 
The Slim Jims are further behind in their development, so it will be at least a couple of weeks to harvest these – if the plants and weather cooperate:

Lots of Slim Jim eggplants, but whether or not they mature before
the weather gets too cold is anyone's guess
 
I have 4 butternut squash that are ripening – this will be the first time I harvest a large winter squash and the fact that there are four of them is even more exciting!

Butternuts
Can't wait to harvest these guys!
 
Another one just set this past week, but unfortunately it will not have time to mature before the first frost.

I ripped out the corn stalks when my corn pest (which I now believe was a skunk) damaged one of the squash in its attempt to get at the corn:

A nice gash along with some claw marks
 
I think that the pepper spray I used earlier in the season worked well to deter the skunks initially since after that first round of damage, there didn’t seem to be any more.  But a month and a few spray-eliminating rainfalls later, the damage was back.  Maybe I’ll try the pepper spray on the corn right from the start next year.

And last, but certainly not least, are my asparagus beds.  They are a jumble of ferns right now with lots of spears still coming up:

Asparagus Beds
 
I’ll use Dave's trick to show scale on the new spears:

I examine the beds practically every day for spears &
usually find at least one or two new ones coming up each time
 
These plants, all grown from seed started way back in February, have done amazingly well this summer.  I will be absolutely devastated if my baby asparagus plants do not survive the winter.   The beds will have to be VERY thoroughly mulched with straw once the cold weather sets in.

Till next time...

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

6 comments:

  1. I'm also terrible at hand watering. It is why I grow so few things in pots. I have a pot by the front door with flowers, but it occasionally doesn't get watered either and starts to look ratty. Not good for a showy front door pot.

    When I grew dry beans the weather really dictated how I picked them. Though I tried to let them dry out as much as possible on the vine, if it was going to get rainy, I'd pick and shell and let them dry indoors - I didn't have the space to lay out a lot of pods. But I think I picked them a bit later than you do. More than just mature, but starting to dry.

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    1. I suppose I just have it in my head that if I pick earlier, I will get more beans, even though that probably isn't the case. We have been getting some rain this week and I decided to pick the bulk of the remaining cranberry beans this afternoon...good thing too as I noticed that some of the pods were already starting to get moldy.

      I'm probably one of the only houses in the neighbourhood that doesn't have some sort of planter on the front porch. I can't get my act together enough to water a pot that is right beside the beds that I look at every day - I never come in the front door so you can imagine the pile of brown that would likely grace the entry after a month or so ;)

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  2. I think I have said it before, but a huge congrats on growing the asparagus from seed.

    I agree with you on our rainy weather causing an issue for beans to dry on the plant - I just lost all of my borlotti beans from rot - they are a bush bean and I generally do not need to stake them until the end of the year when they get heavier. I didn't get to them soon enough this year and they were on the damp ground too long.

    I'm glad to see that your hay bale plants are finally doing well ... not sure why they took so long, but hope you get enough of a harvest out of them.

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    1. Oh, that's too bad about the borlotti beans - I was just commenting to Daphne that some of my cranberry beans (which are also a bush bean) also had a bit of mold on them from the recent wet weather. The mold was limited to the pods and beans inside were ok, though. I wouldn't have occured to me that bush beans need staking, but in the case of dried beans, it makes sense.

      And thanks Susie - I'm loving the asparagus which also means that I'm all the more worried that something is going to happen to it before I get my first harvest in a couple of years.

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  3. You must be excited about your potatoes. I can never wait to find out how they've done and of course, you can only tell that by digging them up. I'm sure you'll have a great crop. I don't know if my butternut squash will mature before the cooler weather arrives, I'm willing them on at the moment.

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    1. It has been difficult to hold back on digging around in the potato bed. I suppose I could have tried to get a few potatoes in one section, but we haven't been eating any potatoes in the last little while (we don't generally eat a lot of potatoes over the summer for some reason), so I decided that it was best to leave them to mature.

      Our weather has been a bit of a roller coaster lately - overnight we went from from super hot to sweater weather. I'm crossing my fingers that the weather cooperates and your butternuts ripen for you!

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