Monday, August 29, 2016

Harvest Monday 29 August 2016


I had a few random pickings from the garden last week, including the first Jimmy Nardello pepper. I continue to bring in the tomatoes as soon as they color a bit to save them from the birds. My mother-in-law had a suggestion for the birds. She used to hang red Christmas ornaments in the vines. The birds peck on the hard red ball and get frustrated. They eventually leave the tomatoes alone. Haven't tried it yet.

The Black Beauty tomatoes are starting to ripen on the counter and we have had a few. They are indeed like the Indigo series of tomatoes, where they turn black on areas of the skin exposed to sunlight and are green elsewhere. The green sections ripen to a red color. The tomatoes are tasty but not up to the hyperbole of the Baker Creek catalog. I am hoping to get one riper than this to taste but a lot of them are rotting from bird pecks so they have to be eaten sooner.

I cleaned up and weighed the Red Wing onions that were drying on the back porch. It was a good crop and I got 27 storable onions weighing 5 pounds (2.3 kg.). Largest was a half pound.These store quite well, for at least 10 months or longer.

Unfortunately, a significant number of onions (10 onions weighing 2 pounds, about a kilo) had what looked like soft, flat spots on them. If you press on the spot it seems hard, but I kept these separate from the storage onions and will use them first.

In the garden I did get peas and spinach planted for the fall. The beds were bone dry down to the bottom so I had to re-hydrate the soil. It took 12 gallons of water to moisten 6 square feet of one bed where I put the snap peas and spinach. Unfortunately the drought continues and no rain is forecast for this week, so continuous watering of the seed beds is going to be necessary to get anything to germinate. At least the temperatures are more moderate, in the mid 80s F.

Sunday we went to the (third annual) Boston Fermentation Festival held at the Boston Public Market. I was surprised fermentation was popular enough that there was such an event. There is even a Berkshire Festival in Great Barrington in September but we will be at the MDI Garlic Festival. If you find one in your area and are interested in fermentation, they are worth attending. They have presentations and workshops. Interesting were the "mobs", where at various times and places they would set up a table with bowls and chopped vegetables and invite people to make their own jar of kraut or kimchi. And really nice, they had a starter sharing table where people would freely share their extra starters, like kombucha starter or sourdough starter. If you search for "fermentation festival" you will find events all over the country, and maybe one near you.

That's what happened in my garden last week. To see what gardeners around the world are doing, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Harvest Monday 22 August 2016


The drought continues despite our getting about an inch of rain last week. I am getting a few small harvests here and there. It is no big deal for me but some of the small farmers around here are going to be hurt. A freak -15F freeze in the middle of 70F weather in February wiped out the peach crop in New England. And some of the orchards are having to irrigate their apple trees for the first time in recent history. Surprisingly the corn is pretty good. Ears are much longer than usual and they are very sweet. But a neighbor up the street who grows a field of corn to sell has corn stalks at knee level in mid-August because he can not irrigate.

The patty pan squash is a Sunburst which is supposed to have a central green spot in the center around the blossom end, but the green has bled out of the center.

I harvested the last two Golden Acre cabbages because their quality was not improving, cooking away in the sun. In addition, the cabbage caterpillars seem to have made their appearance and were chewing on one of them.

The Swiss chard has rebounded with the rain and slightly cooler weather. The coloring on Pink Passion is more attractive than earlier. Some of the leaves do have cercospora spots on them.

I am harvesting tomatoes as soon as they color a little to avoid loss to the birds and chipmunks. I have talked to other gardeners who are having the same problem. The big tomato above is my one and only Mortgage Lifter, an impulse purchase. That plant is not going to pay my mortgage, but so far it is my largest tomato.

More tomatoes. The birds have really attacked my Black Beauty tomatoes so I am removing most of them. One I picked earlier is now showing some red on its green areas. The black color comes from exposure to sunlight so the undersides are green. Apparently the green will turn to red as they ripen. And to top off a smashing year, late blight has arrived and is affecting most of the tomato plants.

The Pink Berkeley Tie Dye I picked green is now almost ripe after sitting on the kitchen counter.  The colors are very attractive, random green stripes on a pink background.

The peppers are happy enough that they are starting to flower. This is Lemon Drop.

Likewise for the Ancho Poblano peppers. They are now almost a meter tall and starting to flower.

Sunday I started some dill pickles fermenting. I had to buy the pickling cukes from a farm stand since my cucumber vines are mostly dead. The garlic and dill seed are from my garden, however. And the grape leaves covering them and in the bottom came from wild grapes in the back yard.

I am also trying a lacto-fermentation of garlic cloves, hoping I can preserve some more of my garlic harvest. This is a quart jar slightly more than half full. It was a tedious job to peel all that garlic, even using a silicone rubber tube designed to peel garlic. The brine is just a basic brine: 2 cups (450 ml) of unchlorinated water and 1 1/2 Tbsp (26 .) of sea salt. The brine looks cloudy in the photo because I added a teaspoon of whey to get the fermentation started. Garlic does not produce a raucous ferment and will need to ferment for about a month.

That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what gardeners around the world are harvesting, visit Dave at Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

PS I was planning to post this early Monday morning but we had a freak storm go through the area at 3 AM. They are not sure if tornadoes or microbursts were involved, but whatever, it took put a tree down in my driveway and across the power lines. So no power until  9 AM. And we did get a lot of rain in a very short time, which will definitely help.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Monday, August 15, 2016

Harvest Monday 15 August 2016

The garden benefited a bit from a few thunderstorms that dropped a little rain. These were mostly small storm cells that produced a quick shower that just evaporated immediately. We had one downpour on Friday that resulted in 1-2 inches, but a lot of that ran off the dry ground and prompted flash flood alerts. So the drought continues and daytime temperatures remain mid-90s to 100+ (35-40°C). The garden is still producing a little while  I still wait (apparently with everyone else) for peppers and tomatoes.


The Revolution bell peppers are starting to produce fruit. The peppers in general are doing the best in these conditions but are taking their time. The plants are stocky with lots of healthy foliage. However, they do not have a lot of time because that first killing frost is maybe 6-8 weeks away. A few of the tomatoes are starting to color, but unfortunately that is causing attacks by the birds. I doubt they are finding many wild berries in these dry conditions,. I picked a green tomato with a bird peck since it will just rot if left on the vine. I also picked the one next to it which was showing some coloring to see if I could ripen it on the counter.

This is a Pink Berkeley Tie-dye starting to show its green stripes. I am really looking forward to trying one of these so I need to try deploying some bird netting. The marketing hype on these says that 10 out of 10 customers at a farmers market taste-off preferred the flavor of these to Cherokee Purple. And so far other than the bird pecks, the fruits are perfect, no cracks or cat-facing or BER.

The Black Beauty tomatoes continue to size up but I still have no idea when one is ripe. I have tried squeezing them gently but so far they are all rock hard. The birds did attack these as well, eating half a mid-size tomato. That tomato's insides were green at the stem end and slightly pink at the blossom end, so no where near ripe.


These are the first two of my flea-bitten Golden Acre cabbages.  This is an heirloom compact cabbage that can be grown in a square foot, which makes it perfect for raised bed gardens. The cabbage on the right was my target since it had formed a dense head. Then I noticed the cabbage on the left had developed an elongated head and I was worried that was a sign of bolting, so it was harvested as well. They weighed a pound and a quarter and a pound and a half (.57 and .68 kg.), which is a nice size for home use. Initially the flea beetles were not a problem because they don't like the waxy surface of the leaves. But once their preferred targets were harvested or killed by the drought, they developed a new fondness for cabbage leaves, but damage was mostly to the edges of the outer leaves.


I declared the Red Wing onions to be done. They have not flopped but the foliage was looking sad and thrip-damaged, so I pulled them and laid them out to cure a few days in the sun. This happened last year with the Red Zeppelin onions. The red onions always take much longer than yellow to mature. Dixondale Farms says 100-120 days for Red Wing, 110 days for Copra. Both are long-day varieties which require long daylight hours to develop bulbs, which starts when the days shorten. They also warn that Red Wing requires a minimum of 15-hour days to bulb, which is no problem here. We get 15+ hour days in June and now in August that has dropped to 14 hours.


The Copra onions harvested a few weeks ago were cleaned and trimmed and put away in the basement. They were not particularly big, which is not surprising given the dry conditions, but they were very health. Thirty-one onions from 6 squares weighed in at 5.44 pounds (2.5 kg). I am thinking I will plant more onions next year so I produce more of my onion needs. I wasted a lot of garden space and my time trying to grow crops like beans, peas and turnips that failed in these dry conditions. Onions have been more reliable.

That's what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, visit Dave@Our Happy Acres, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Harvest Monday 8 August 2016

This will be a short post this week, being away in Maine for a week on a windjammer cruise. The garden is in-between the cool weather crops and the summer crops. I am still waiting for tomatoes, peppers and squash to arrive. I expected to see baseball bats lying among the squash plants when I got back but there were none to be found. At least the Romanesco has a couple of male flowers on it. I also expected to see a few ripe cherry tomatoes but there were none. Since it is almost mid-August, I wonder how much of anything I will be getting. It was dry last week except for a few quick showers that provided no real relief since the water quickly evaporates. My son did help me by watering, keeping the plants alive and healthy.


A last trip to the garden before I left produced a few goodies which went in to the refrigerator. I got my first Dunja zucchini and the first Sunburst squash. A lot of the Hungarian Paprika peppers ripened enough to harvest, since I didn't want to trust leaving them on the plants for a week. I also got a first batch of the Amarylla yellow tomatillos and a few Jalapenos.

I checked out the garden on Sunday and found a few things. The Super Shepherd peppers had a few ripe ones that were suffering from sunscald, so I harvested them. The Helda pole beans yielded a few beans, which might be most of my bean crop for the year. The cucumbers are diseased yet again, despite being planted in a new spot, but we got a couple stunted ones. It is not bacterial wilt that is causing the problem and I have not yet seen a cucumber beetle this season. I also got another ripe Hungarian Paprika pepper so it is time to fire up the dehydrator this week.

That's what happened in my garden the past two weeks. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing, visit Dave at OurHappyAcres, our host for Harvest Monday.
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