Monday, June 29, 2015

Harvest Monday 29 June 2015




The kohlrabies are sizing up quickly so I harvested a few more. These are Winner, but the Azur Star are also putting on size and will be ready soon. I may leave one or two of the Azur Star plants to see how big I can get them. The ones I saw at Tower Hill were the size of a large grapefruit and apparently remain edible at that size. Just more to enjoy. I also pulled another Red Candy and a couple of the Tropea onions to make room for the pole beans.




The snow peas and snap peas are in full production now. And I definitely had a green snow pea mixed in with my Sugar Snap peas, so that adds a little unexpected variety.




More peas. It is time to start freezing snow peas. The snap peas, if they make it home, are being used with kohlrabi and radish slices and some hummus for quick lunches.


There is plenty more to harvest from the garden but weather and my schedule have not aligned. It has rained a lot and temperatures are colder, with some nights in the 50s, and it is rained Saturday night and Sunday. I hope we don’t go into some long rainy stretch here which will just promote the spread of disease. All this rain is coming from tropical storms and Midwest weather and I hope this is not some prolonged pattern. However, looking at the forecast, it rained Sunday and is forecasted to rain Wednesday and Friday, so that is looking like a pattern. Time to start preventive spraying in between storms.


On Saturday I did get to check on the garden, pinch a few suckers from the tomatoes, and harvest the peas above. So far everything looks healthy. I noted some of my peppers are starting to set fruit, which is always an encouraging sign.




Above is the large Jimmy Nardello pepper I showed last week along with its puny siblings. You can see 3 sizeable fruit in the photo but if you blow it up, I count 11 peppers visible. Above the frame the plant is loaded with blossoms. Wish I had 6 of these. I’ll just have to be patient and wait for the rest to grow up and become productive citizens of the garden.




Another nice view is this one of an Hungarian Paprika plant. Wish I had six of these like I planned but I only got two to germinate after a lengthy battle. The seed was sourced from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and they say their seed originated in Hungary but do not provide a local name for it or even say what village or even county it came from. The “sweet, spicy” peppers are described to be slender, 4.5 inches long and they ripen to a dark red color. I have fantasies of making my own Paprika but how do you dry these peppers? Air dry or dehydrator? Does it help to split them open before dehydrating?


That’s what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Harvest Monday 22 June 2015




Harvested some more spinach and the first cutting of tatsoi. I thought the tatsoi was ruined by the flea beetles, but some judicious spraying and a break in the weather caused it to outgrow the flea beetles. There is more in the garden and the cool, rainy weather we have this weekend will hopefully suppress the beetles and allow me to harvest the rest next week.




The bulk of the garlic scapes were harvested this week, after a few early scapes became available last week. Another first picking was the Golden Sweet snow peas. These are growing quite rampantly. I had to use twine to raise the mass of the vines off the  radishes in the middle of the bed and pull them toward the trellis. The prevailing (high) winds have been blowing the vines away from the trellis, keeping the tendrils from grabbing the trellis.




I opened the brassica tenting to see how they are doing and took the opportunity to cut the first harvest of the Beedy’s Camden kale. Now I have kale for smoothies, my baked eggs, and some massaged kale salads. All of the brassicas are still looking good. There are some holes in the bottom leaves of the kale so maybe I should try spraying some Spinosad in there next week. I examined the broccoli and no sign of heads forming, which is good.




More firsts in the root vegetables category. I actually succeeded in growing a kohlrabi, only my second in years of attempts. I started these indoors in soil cubes and transplanted them. This one is Winner. Also harvested were the Red Candy onion and the first Rossa Lunga di Tropea onion, to use as fresh onions in cooking.




Besides the root vegetables I picked a large quantity of the Golden Sweet snow peas and the first Sugar Snap peas.





I pulled most of the radishes from the bed so I can plant something else. The purple Boro King radishes were huge but had a lot of maggot damage.  The white radish is an off-color Boro King. And more strange shapes from the Dragon radishes. I wondered if  this could be cause by some problem, like nematodes or a soil-borne disease. It is not rocks, there are none in the raised beds. Apparently not, daikon radishes often exhibit the same strange shapes and I will bet there is some daikon in these.




After photographing the radishes I found this one in the corner of the bag. It is strange enough to deserve its own photo.


That is what I harvested from my garden last week. Check out what other gardeners are growing by visiting Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tomato Inventory 2015

This year I have 28 tomato plants, 14 each in the raised-bed and in-ground gardens. All but 5 of these were started by me from seeds this winter. There were ups and downs but I generally did a decent job this year starting my tomatoes from seed. In addition to the plants in my garden, I was able to give another 9-10 tomato plants to other gardeners in the community garden. What you wind up with in the spring is not always what you plan for in the winter. Each year you have to be satisfied with what you achieved and supplement it with purchases if necessary. What follows is an inventory of what is actually in soil and growing now. Just forget those garden planting schedules I made in February, they no longer matter.


The Raised Beds

Working counterclockwise around the raised beds.




Above  is Esterina, an F1 hybrid cherry tomato that I am growing in lieu of Sungold. I love Sungold but it has a terrible tendency to crack whenever it rains. Esterina is just as sweet and prolific and more crack resistant. I grew it last year and liked it, so this is the second year. I have 3 of these planted in the raised beds and gave away 2 of them. My seeds came from High Mowing but it is also carried by Territorial and William Dam in Canada.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Harvest Monday 15 June 2015



More chard, Magenta Sunset on left, Orange Fantasia, and Pink Passion. The chard and mustard were overhanging the squares where the cucumbers were to go, so they got trimmed.




The mustard greens are finally large enough to harvest.  Keeping them covered prevents flea beetle damage but I run the risk the higher temperature inside might cause them to bolt. Oh well, they are going to bolt anyway.




The squares in the foreground are needed for the cucumbers.




More radishes, Zlata and Dragon. I definitely have to try making radish pickles. For Michelle, I tasted a bit of the Dragon leaf and it was fairly mild but a little fuzzy. I would eat it, some bacon grease and a splash of pepper vinegar would make it quite tasty.




The garlic scapes have started to form and I got a first picking. The really fat ones are from the German Red garlic I picked up last year at the Mt. Desert Island garlic festival. The stems on this large garlic are at least an inch in diameter so I am hoping for some good size bulbs.




Finally got the last of the peppers planted, the spice and chili peppers that were so slow to germinate. On the left above are the spice peppers, Aji Dulce and Arroz con Pollo. The lighter green peppers on the right are the Lemon Drop chili peppers. All of these went in the raised beds.




As an example how crazy the variance in pepper seed germination is, the picture above shows two of my Jimmy Nardello peppers, a variety that I really like and really want to grow. The large plant was the first to germinate and one of the first seedlings I had to pot up. The rest did not germinate and/or I killed them, but I scrambled and used the paper towel in a baggie method and eventually got 6 peppers, 5 like the one on the left and one like the one on the right. Naturally I would like to be planting 6 peppers like the one on the right. I need to do something better, but at least it is not like last year where I killed just about all my pepper seeds that decided to germinate.




The Soloist Napa cabbages are heading so I tied them up to help, and to get the leaves off the ground so they don’t provide a convenient ramp for the slugs to get inside the heads.




I also tied up the heads of endive to blanch the hearts, which makes them more tender and less bitter. I should be harvesting some of the endives in a few weeks.


That is what I harvested from my garden last week. Check out what other gardeners around the world are doing by visiting Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Planting Cucumbers with Surround WP




Growing cucumbers is an almost impossible task lately because of the cucumber beetle problem here. The beetle harbors a bacterial wilt disease in its gut and infects the cucumber vines when it feeds on them. The actual damage done by the beetles is minimal, but their bite is the kiss of death to the vines if they are carrying bacterial wilt (Erwinia tracheiphila). Within a few days the vine starts drooping and eventually dies as the bacterial infection clogs up its vascular system. There is no cure except prevention, and that is difficult. The beetles are tiny and elusive, and they like to hang out inside of the cucumber flowers which makes them difficult to locate. I have not had success controlling them.


This year I am going to try something new and use a kaolin clay product, Surround WP. Surround is a finely ground white clay that is used to coat the leaves and stem of the plants you want to protect. It is not a pesticide but a deterrent to insect activity. It comes in a 25-pound bag and is mixed with water to form a slurry, which is either sprayed or used as a dip. Since I started my cucumbers inside in peat strips, I chose to dip the plants in a bucket of Surround for first application. Later on I will have to spray the plants to reapply it after a rain.





I used a small one gallon bucket to mix the slurry, adding water to the powder and stirring to get it wetted. I tried a stick at first but found my fingers were more effective. You want the slurry thin enough that it drips but does not run off the leaves.




When ready to plant, I took a peat strip, broke off the top edges so they will not stick out of the soil, and swirled the plant in the clay slurry.




Once the plant is reasonably coated, it is ready to put in the ground, looking like a white ghost. I wondered if the clay has a negative effect on the plant, but it apparently does not and has some advantages. The clay breathes and sunlight can get through so photosynthesis is not affected. At the same time, the clay prevents sunburn of new plants and reduces transplant shock.




Here is a row of newly planted Homemade Pickles, a pickling cucumber, looking quite ghostly.




The most difficult to plant were the Monika cukes above, a pickler from Poland. The plants were very compact so it was difficult to plant them without soil getting on and sticking to the wet clay.


Time will tell if this type of treatment works. UMass seems to think it does. It is important to start it at plant out because cucumbers are most susceptible when they are young (less than 5 sets of true leaves). Surround is widely used by commercial growers and both Johnnys and High Mowing Seeds use it in their fields. It is widely used in orchards and vineyards. And it is also useful for other plants and pests, such as flea beetles on eggplant, thrips on onions and squash vine borers and squash bugs, so I may apply it elsewhere in the garden, once I get a sprayer than can handle a wettable powder.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Brassica Update



This year I have a fifteen foot row of brassicas planted in the in-ground garden. I used black plastic mulch and they are covered with Agribon-19 spun bond row cover to ward off pests. Biggest problem is preventing the cover from blowing off in the frequent winds we are getting this Spring. The brassicas seem to like their environment and are looking very healthy. Most remarkable is the absence of pest damage from flea beetles and cabbage caterpillars. Last Sunday I opened up the tent to do some watering and harvest some kale, so I took a few photos to give you a tour of the tent.




This the the broccoli end of the row, with two varieties. Plants are large and healthy with no signs yet of heads forming. At least they are not bolting. Both varieties are new, based on recommendations of other gardeners.




This is Arcadia, first time I have grown this variety. It is a bit later but is supposed to have large heads and abundant side shoots.




And this is Fiesta, another first for me. Daphne has grown this one with success, so I decided to give it a try. Catalog descriptions do not mention side shoot production at all, but reviews by gardeners all mention prolific side shoot production.




In the middle are four Brussels spouts, the standard Jade Cross variety I picked up at a garden center. They are looking good but who knows if I will get anything. I have had one good year, which was fantastic. Sometimes the sprouts stay small, pea size, and never size up, despite pruning and curses . Other years the sprouts tend to loosen up and become leafy, a condition supposedly caused by excessive heat. Nothing I can do about that because I can’t control the weather, but sprouts have a long development period, so here they have to be grown through the summer months. Time will tell. Gardening is all about optimism, and I am optimistic I will get some this year.




To the left are the kales. That is Tronchuda Beira or Portuguese kale with the large leaves in the foreground, which is new to me this year. Further back is Beedy’s Camden kale, a reliable and hardy Siberian kale I have grown for years. I did not photograph the dinosaur kale because it was recently clipped, so nothing to see.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Harvest Monday 8 Jun 2015



The first kale was harvested, some dinosaur kale. It went into a Genius Kale salad, a recipe from Food52 (thanks to Susan from Edible Gardens Point Loma for the pointer).  Thinly sliced kale was tossed with diced cheddar, chopped almonds, diced mango and a lemon olive oil vinaigrette. We had it with steamed PEI mussels from our CSF share and a baguette turned into garlic toast. The wife loved it and I got her to eat kale (and mussels)!




More spinach was picked. The plants are not yet showing signs of bolting but I guess I have the clock ticking as we march toward the solstice. This was put in a spinach and strawberry salad with some more diced cheddar (Cabot’s Alpine artisanal cheddar, my favorite), toasted slivered almonds and tossed with a honey balsamic vinaigrette.




Plenty of chard is now being picked after I removed and destroyed the leaves with the leaf miners. This was chopped and sautéed in butter with one of my Saffron shallots from the basement. The shallots are still rock hard with tight skins. Too bad Saffron was discontinued, it is a great shallot.




I picked the last of the Zlata radishes, and some more of the red Dragon radishes. Was Dragon named for its color or for the weird tentacles it seems to grow? They were very tasty, sweet and juicy with just a little heat. I also pulled a few of the Hakurei white turnips. The Hakurei are not looking great this year, maybe too hot and dry for them.




Finally on Sunday. I cut the first of the Tronchuda Beira, the Portuguese kale. I am growing this in place of standard American collard greens. It looks a lot like collards but is hopefully more adaptable. I am planning to try a batch of Caldo Verde soup this week. From reading recipes, the Portuguese kale soup I make from the Victory Garden Cookbook (with red beans and tomatoes) is likely to be Azorean in origin. A lot of our Portuguese neighbors here in New England actually came from the islands. Azorean food is more rustic, they say. I will be giving give Caldo Verde a try, but I don’t guarantee I won’t go back to the peasant soup we love.


That is the harvest from my garden last week. To see what other gardeners world-wide are doing, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, out host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Garden in Early June



The garden is starting to show some color now, not just the monotone colors of mud and mulch. The Golden Sweet snow peas are climbing the trellis and starting to flower. The buds are a beautiful custard yellow and the blossoms are lavender and tend to come in pairs.





Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Soil Drench for Tomatoes

This year I decided to try a new (to me) technique to prevent or reduce the chance of soil-borne diseases affecting my tomatoes and peppers. In catalogs I have read about natural products like Actinovate (containing the bacteria Streptomycin lydicus) that can populate the rhizosphere and attack fungal infections such as Fusarium and Pythium in the soil before they infect the plant.  It sounded like an interesting idea, maybe worth trying.

A little searching on the internet showed these types of biological products are considered safe and effective and are used by commercial growers. Actinovate is used by landscapers to treat fungal infections in lawns such as brown patch and dollar spot. Actinovate is also OMRI-listed and is being used by gardeners to treat vegetable crops. Renee of Renee’s Garden uses Actinovate as a preventive spray on her garlic fields to ward off garlic rust. There is a lot of discussion on the Tomatoville garden forum worth reading and one of the more interesting threads describes the use of a mix of Actinovate and other products to create a soil drench to be used before planting out tomatoes and peppers. I decided to try my own slight variation of Ami Deutch’s formula from the Tomatoville forum.

The basic idea is to create a soil drench solution in which the beneficial organisms are dissolved. The tomatoes, still in their pots, will be soaked in the solution and then drained before planting in soil. This inoculates the root zone with the beneficial organisms. They colonize the area and promote healthy plant growth and help the plant resist attacks by fungal diseases. You could use just a single product/organism such as Actinovate, but why not make a comprehensive soil drench, since the biggest effort here is in mixing the solution and drenching the plants.

The three components of Ami’s mix are Actinovate, Biota Max, and Myco-Grow (for which I substituted Great White). What are these? Actinovate identifies itself as a fungicide for organic gardening. Since it gets used for lawn problems, it is widely available at garden centers as well as from online sellers and Amazon. If  you buy locally, be sure to check the use by date sticker. The stuff at my garden center was 18 months past the use by date. Actinovate contains a single ingredient, a patented strain of the bacteria Streptomyces lydicus, strain WYEC 108. It colonizes the root zone of the plant, setting up a symbiotic relationship with the plant. It feeds off exudates of the plant while excreting by-products beneficial to and protective of the plant and attacking some disease organisms. Soil diseases suppressed include the soil borne fungi Fusarium, Verticillium, Rhizoctonia, Pythium, and Phytophthora. Actinovate can also be used as a foliar spray and is effective against powdery and downy mildew, grey mold, fire blight, rust, and black spot.

The next major component of the mix is the Myco-Grow or Great White. These are water soluble mycorrhizae inoculants and contain roughly equivalent organisms, both fungal and bacterial. Rather than include the whole list, you can view a comparison I did of the composition of several products here. Both are a bit pricey and you want to get the smallest size, about an ounce, so you can use it up in one season. Myco-Grow has to be bought from the supplier while Great White is widely available from hydroponics stores and from mail-order suppliers and Amazon.

The third component is Biota-Max,  which is described as a Soil Probiotic. I consider it optional if you have trouble obtaining it since it adds just a few new microbes to the mix, but I chose to use it. You have to source it online direct from Custom Biologicals. What you get in your package is a single lozenge, somewhat like an Alka-Seltzer tablet. Ami calls for it to be cut in quarters, with one quarter used in each gallon batch of drench.

To make the drench, dissolve one quarter tablet of Biota-Max in a gallon of pure (chlorine-free) water. Be careful using city water if it is treated because it will kill all your expensive microbes. Then add 2 teaspoons (10 cc) of Actinovate and 2 teaspoons (10 cc) of Great White to the water and mix thoroughly. I used a gallon milk jug to mix and carry the water to the garden. For the dipping container, I cut an opening in an empty gallon cider jug.

After I prepared the planting hole and added all the supplements, I submerged the plant in the drench in its container so the soil mass did not dissolve in the drench. After about 5 seconds when the bubbling stopped, I lifted the plant and let the excess drench drain back into the container and then planted it. The gallon was more than enough to treat 14 tomatoes in Solo cups plus a couple in packs. The left over solution can be poured around the base of the plants. I would like to be able to say that the plants are exuberant and rapidly growing today, but shortly after being planted we started three days of rain with daytime temperatures in the 50s and nighttime temps in the 40s, so the plants are actually looking a little shell shocked. The inoculant is not going to be active at these temperatures, but I am looking at long term results and disease resistance, so it will be awhile before I can decide if this was successful.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Harvest Monday 1 Jun 2015

The last week of May and I finally have something to show. Above are Zlata and Red Dragon radishes. The leaves had some flea beetle damage but those nasties were controlled pretty well with some Spinosad sprays, so I am getting a good radish harvest. And no maggot damage!

I finally made a cutting of Tyee spinach. The plants look good and there was no sign of bolting. I know it is all about day length, but maybe the cooler weather and rain we are getting will prolong the harvest. I didn’t have a chance to cut some chard, but that is ready to start clipping soon. The leaf miners got under the cover so I need to start removing and destroying the affected foliage before I lose it all.

The kohlrabies are starting to size up, and this may be my best harvest of them yet. Above is Azur Star and below is Winner. Just ignore the weeds, they are on the list but I have higher priority tasks right now.

Saturday was a work day in the community garden so I did not have time to do anything to my own garden except water the bean seedlings, which are starting to come up. Sunday I did get to the garden despite the threats of rain. The plan was to plant the tomatoes in the in-ground plot. When I arrived, of course it started sprinkling. I almost left but decided to sit in the car awhile and it stopped within a few minutes. So I went ahead and planted 14 tomatoes in tropical steaminess, with occasional sprinkles, muddy hands and huge mosquitoes buzzing my head so I dare not swat. A hot shower never felt so good.

I did prevail and half my tomatoes are planted. Hopefully this rain is enough to wet the raised beds where the rest of the tomatoes go. The raised beds were dry all the way to the bottom and water just beaded up on top. What I really need is a slow, soaking rain and it looks like we will get it. Once the rain stops, next step is to get the rest of the tomatoes and some of the peppers planted, so we can get on with the gardening season.

That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners are harvesting, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.
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