Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Little More Left

Concord grapes. This is less than half of the harvest. I picked two more of these large bowls full of grapes and even left a bunch on the vine for the birds anxiously waiting in the lilac for me to finish. I have preserved over dozen pints of jam - and if you haven't had home-made grape jam, you don't know what you are missing! I traded some of the grape jam for apples from an orchard owner I know. He gets sick of apples, so was very happy to get something grapey instead.

Empress of India nasturtium and some kind of aster that I don't immediately remember the name of. This aster always looks like it is just not going to make it all summer, but then some time in mid-August it takes off and starts to bloom in September. It doesn't look very good with that red nasturtium, but I think the nasturtium leaves match well. Perhaps a pastel nasturtium next year?

I know a lot of you may see this bloom and say, "Oh no!" But I love this little weed! It is an annual hibiscus. Although it self-seeds freely, it is easy to weed out where you don't want it. I was lucky enough to have a large patch of these this year so that they packed a bigger punch when they did bloom -- which is usually for a few hours mid-day.

Purple Prince zinnia. I need to grow more zinnia next year. They are so easy and beautiful. Some of them even looked like dahlias, which I won't grow because they are too much maintenance.

Gaillardia. I have been trying to spread this sport around. I think yellow is rather harsh, but the orange and red in this one is very beautiful. So far I have managed to multiply this from the initial sport to about a dozen of the same color pattern in the last two years.

Blue Boy phlox. I have had this phlox for years and this is the first that it has bloomed. Not really blue, but a welcome bloom for the garden anyway.

Main garden. It is such a lovely view from my kitchen window.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

GBBD September 2009

I couldn't take pictures on the 15th for Garden Blogger Bloom Day, hosted at May Dream Gardens, as I was at work all while the sun was out. And today, well, it might finally rain, yay! But not such good weather for taking pictures :( So forgive me for the far less than average quality.

Repeat bloomers:
Blue Ravine clematis
I planted these with Comtesse de Bouchard because Blue Ravine blooms in spring and fall and CdB blooms in summer.

It is a native to this area and I was surprised to see it repeat after blooming in early summer. But not as surprised as I was to see this next flower repeat...

Oriental poppy
I do not remember ever having one of these repeat bloom. It must have been the cool summer.

Non repeat bloomers:
Desdemona Ligularia
As always this one is great, for the foliage and the flowers. I grow this one in full sun and it LOVES it! It is usually one of the last plants I have to water too. I don't know if it dug a well or it is just not as thirsty as other ligularias, but I'm not asking if it keeps performing like this.

Plum Crazy hibiscus
I am "plum crazy" for this, the queen of my garden. It is my longest lived hibiscus (all others have perished long ago) and I would like to expand its area, or get other hibiscus. There are a few that I've had my eye on.

Main Garden
Again, sorry about the fuzzy shot, but you can see that I have a lot more blooming: Autumn Joy sedum, sunflowers, Purple Prince and mixed zinnias, sweet allysum, White Swan and purple echinacea, alpine strawberries, feverfew, Stella de Oro, catchfly, Red Prince weigela, Picote cosmos, two kinds of heliopsis, garlic chives, two kinds of rudbeckia, gailardia, and lots of different kinds of asters. Fall has never looked so good out in my garden!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Black-eyed Peas

A few years back my son ate black-eyed peas for the first time and loved them. Even though a bag of them is pretty cheap at the grocery store, I decided to try to grow them this year for him. They have proved to be a very interesting plant.

They were easy to start, just set for a few days in moist paper towel to sprout, then plant in the ground. Just about every one of my bean sprouts survived.

They do not seem to be bothered by pests. Whereas my edamame and Maxibels without protection were eaten to the ground by rabbits, the rabbits left these completely alone.

The flowers are beautiful and vary in color from bright white, to cream, to almost light tan. Unlike a lot of bush type beans, these flowers are held high on the plant so you can actually see and enjoy them.

The beans are, of course, also held high on the plant. They actually sit almost on top of the plant and are held out horizontally. This adds its own interest to this plant. It also makes it very easy to monitor and harvest the beans.

The black ants love these plants and can always be seen at the base of the bean stems. They seem to be harvesting a thick sap that is oozing from that place on the plant. This may be one of the factors that keep the insect pests away. The ants do make it a little tricky to harvest, as they do try to protect their plant, but I haven't been bit yet and a simple shaking of the plant knocks loose most ants.
Here are beans harvested from two ripe pods. The nice thing about harvesting dry bean is that you don't need all the beans to ripen at once for processing. I will just pick as they ripen, dry the beans, and store in a jar for later use. Easy. I like easy.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Food Garden Results Summary - 2009

As you may recall I planted three raised vegetable beds this year. I always crowd my beds, but I stretched the limits this year seeing where I could gain a bit more space. This is an updated report on my findings. All amounts were based on the needs/usage of a family of three.
  • 4ft of curled vates kale More than enough and then some. There was enough for us, our neighbor and the food shelf. It is still producing strong too! Will grow in some shade but prefers full sun. Allow for it to spread at least 12" across.
  • 8ft Bloomsdale spinach Plenty unless you do a lot of freezing/canning. This was direct seeded and was producing within a month. Seed was collected and it was torn out sometime in mid August. I planted some of the seed at that time and it is almost producing secondary leaves. OK to crowd with itself, doesn't make a great understory/interplant plant.
  • 10ft mixed lettuce This was maybe too much unless you eat salads EVERY DAY. I did bring some to the food shelf. I like the mixed lettuce. If one kind does not do well, you always have others and it makes your salads much more interesting. Worked great to plant this under the broccoli along the edge of the bed where it would still receive light but also receive cool shading from the broccoli.
  • 8 Packman broccoli This was a good variety and amount. I had enough for all our uses and some left over for the food shelf and the neighbor. I planted this early (late April) with no cover. They grew well even when spaced only 10" apart - I might try 8" next year. I would also insert a corral around the row when young as they get tall and flop over sometime in August -- or I could just try cutting back hard when I harvest to keep them short.
  • 11 mixed pepper plants These were fussy! Only interplant with very short plants. They do not like competition for light, and they need lots of it! I had 4 jalepeno plants and although this pepper did the best of all that I planted, this was not enough for salsa.
  • 4 Early Girl tomatoes & 11 mixed tomatoes I really like Early Girl tomatoes; they are my favorite that I have grown so far - excellent flavor, size, and consistency for both fresh eating and sauces; and they can be started a lot earlier than all other tomatoes that I have grown (I started them in early May with a row cover). I made the mistake this year of getting indeterminate plants, oops! But these four plants out-produced all my other tomato plants combined! Although, part of the reason that the other tomatoes didn't do as well was because I grew peas on their cages and the peas did better than expected, ultimately completely covering the tomatoes! I might get the indeterminate again and trellis them.
  • 2 spaghetti squash I had interplanted/understoried these in the middle of the tomato corral. This actually worked fairly well as the vine was very long and easily found its way out of the corral and wound around it. I only have one squash fruit - which actually is better than the none that I have gotten in previous years.
  • 2 zucchini This has always been sufficient... except this year. They had silver leaf and only produced three squash so far.
  • 57 garlic Need more garlic!!! This only produced a quart of garlic bulbs for me. I tried interplanting some with the broccoli -- no deal. The broccoli choked them out. The garlic I harvested were planted in a patch all by themselves.
  • 34 Maxibel filet beans This was more than enough, they started producing in June and have produced fairly heavily until a few weeks ago. I ripped out a few of the plants to allow room for my peppers. This sparked another wave of bean production in the remaining bean plants. I LOVE the flavor of them, but I do not like their fuzzy texture. I need to find a great tasting smooth green bean. I tried to interplant spinach and rutabaga, but the beans quickly choked them out.
  • 16 rutabaga I got these from over-crowded seedling in my neighbors garden some time in early July. I interplanted and underplanted them throughout the garden. They work out great for growing along the edge of the bed, but do not survive in shady spots. I have one mature rutabaga right now. My others are suffering from not enough watering. I do not know how well they will store, so I don't know if this is a sufficient amount.
  • 100+ sweet peas Can you ever have enough sweet peas? I think that I did reach that perfect amount this year. I grow enough for me and my neighbor (family of 3+), since she can't seem to grow them. I only use them fresh. If I were to start freezing I would have to grow about twice as many. I found that sprouting the seeds before planting made a huge difference in survivability and proper spacing. I usually grow these on my tomato cages/corrals without any problems, but this year the peas went nuts and overtook most of my tomato plants!
  • 50-75 large leaf sweet basil More basil please!! It takes so much just to make a little pesto that I almost need to grow a whole bed of basil to fully meet my basil demand. I thought I didn't like basil until I tried this variety. I can use this in many of the same ways that I use spinach -- it's just spicier. I always harvest the top half and let the plant regrow, but I'm thinking what I might want to do in the future is harvest just the big leaves and leave all the side buds; they might regrow faster. OK for interplanting as long as they get enough light.
  • 3 yellow straight-neck summer squash I actually loved this squash. Why haven't I grown it before? It turns out my squash-hating husband loves it too. This number of plants was sufficient unless I find more ways of using and storing.
  • 8sqft of volunteer American Flag leek They don't like to be crowded by other plants. These start well for me and even overwinter, but I have yet to get a usuable leek from my patch. What's the secret?
  • 6 turnips They are still tiny as the turnips that I thought I planted earlier were actually something else - salad mustard?? I started these plants from seed late July. I might get some turnips out of them. I've interplanted them with the brussell sprout plants I picked up in late July from Menards for 6/50cents. That's working out very well as the sprouts get tall and leave plenty of room for the turnips to spread out underneath.
  • 1 Triple Treat pumpkin Not enough. Luckily I was able to take over my friends' unused garden and plant 7 more of these :) I tried these on a trellis. They get a little too heavy for that and are probably better off grown ground level. Fantastic pumpkin for pies and seeds (the seeds lack the woody shell), and are great small Halloween pumpkins. Although you can carve these, I want to use the meat, so I just paint them.
  • 2 Table Queen acorn squash This will end up being plenty. They were great producers and grow well on the trellis.
  • 2 buttercup This one is producing better than last year. I am growing it on the trellis and it is taking that well. I haven't tried this squash yet as I didn't get any of the plants to fruit last year, so I don't know if I want more of this one.
  • 2 Waltham butternut The year before this was plenty, but this year they aren't producing as well. I think it is because it is very cool. I am trying them on the trellis for the first time and they are taking that well. I don't think that this affected the production.
  • 6 edamame This will not be enough. They have yet to produce any beans. That could be because the rabbits kept eating them down to nothing all spring until I put a fence around the plants. These plants are tough! I interplanted a few beets with them and this worked out well.
  • 16ft Detroit Red beets I though that this was going to be too many, but now I am finding I wish I had more. If I was just using them for fresh eating it would be plenty, but I want to can some pickled beets and am falling short of what I'd like to have. They are easy to grow and the seeds last FOREVER. They are great for interplanting and underplanting as their leaves don't get very tall and they tolerate shade very well.
  • 16ftblack-eyed peas This is the first year that I have grown them. My son loves them so I thought I would give them a try. They have beautiful flowers and unique fruits - they hold the bean pods horizontally above the leaves. Ants love these plants! I think the plants give the ants a nectar in return for them protecting the plants from pests as I see the ants eating a clear goo from the base of the pod stems and the plants are not bothered by any pests. If these turn out to be worth growing for beans, this will not be enough; otherwise it is a good amount for just some interest in the garden. They don't seem to mind the encroaching squash either. They get too bushy for inter or underplantings other plants with them.
  • 10 sweet yellow onions Not enough, because I really have none. The onions did not mind being transplanted once, but when I had to transplant them again to get them out from under the over-growing squash leaves, they gave up. Not successful for underplantings, but might work well in a loose interplanting - need lots of sun.
  • 6 shallots These were re-freshers (I had bought them from the grocery store but didn't use them before they got too shriveled to use, so I threw them in the garden to re-beef - I do that with my spring onions too). I might try to grow them for real next year. They are growing well even in their shady spot.
  • tons of volunteer lamb's quarter which not only are an edible weed, but are high in nutrients and are darn tasty! I started to pull these out of the garden around the time that the lettuce was on its way out to make way for the other plants growing bigger.

Sunday, September 06, 2009