Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What's Happening in the May Garden Veggie by Veggie?

     Let me begin May by saying that as of May 17th I have not had to add any water to the garden.  Rain has been plentiful but not detrimental.  Everything is flourishing happy and healthy making Spring my new favorite season.  The structure of my raised beds and the composition of my planting medium must be the reason.  Yea!  I am sooo happy.  I've only had to use the protective covers once this month due to a late frost.  According to planting guides, our average last frost date is somewhere between April 15th and 28th.  When you have an average you have to have some that fall before and after so I shouldn't have been surprised to bring out the covers.  Luckily the covers I decided to use are easy to use and to store.  They are definitely something I will continue to use.  ( Don't ya just love adding things to the list of things you will do again because they worked?)

Critters love veggies too!  We live in the semi-country and have plenty of wildlife ~ turkey, deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, snakes, birds, dogs, and chipmunks.  Did I mention CHIPMUNKS? Those cute furry playful creatures are not so cute any longer.  So far they are the only animal messing with my garden.  Do they not know there are no acorns in my fresh dirt?  Maybe they think it is the perfect place to tunnel down in the nice loose medium and build a home to raise a family.  I found dozens of little divots about 2 inches in diameter but no deeper than the surface and I blamed my smallest dog, Bailey.  Then I found a tunnel.... and another....and another.  The newly planted cucumber seeds were gone.  This means WAR!  My husband laughed till he cried when he came home to find me sitting quietly against the house clad in my colorful garden clogs,  garden hat , long sleeved shirt and pants ( You know the ones... comfortable but hideously ugly) and my trusty BB gun slung across my lap. I was definitely channeling Granny Clampett.    When he asked what I was up to I replied in my best Elmer Fudd imitation " I'm hunting chipmunks."   After a looooong afternoon and one chipmunk in the bag I determined that this may not be the best use of my gardening time.   Researching  posts on Dave's Garden  convinced me to invest in an electronic " Rat Zapper" which runs on D batteries.  So far I've removed one mouse but no chipmunks.  I will let you know my opinion as the season progresses.  So far it is BB gun 1: Zapper 0.
I've not taken any other precautions such as fencing nor wire covers.  Frankly I didn't want to bother with them.  We have 3 dogs which I hope will deter all our animal neighbors from venturing into our garden.  I've got my fingers crossed.


Bush Beans

May 17, 2011 Bush beans are a new plant for our garden and were planted earlier this month.  The baby plants are becoming established.  I hope 1 plant per square foot allows enough space for them. I could have already planted my pole beans but I haven't gotten my poles yet.

 May 24, 2011  Bush beans have sprouted at about 75% germination rate. The growth is slow which I will attribute to tons of rain and cool weather.  Pole beans are planted.  I created tepees out of bamboo poles from Lowes.  Six poles for each tepee are tied at the top with garden twine.  I planted 7 beans around each pole.  I hope the tepees are sturdy enough for all those beans. I'll keep my fingers crossed!

1st beet planting
 May 17,2011  Another first timer in our garden, the beet leaves are happy and bushy.  I want to pull one to see the progress but don't want to sacrifice one of these future sweet treasures.  I've read that I will see their rosey shoulders when they are ready to harvest.  The smaller beets are said to be more tender.  Yes!  I won't have to wait as long.  My husband declared that he did not like beets until he tasted a roasted beet fresh from the farmers' market last year so he agreed to giving them a place in our garden.  Hummm...another veggie that tastes totally different straight from the garden!

May 24, 2011 My curiosity is killing me.  I pulled a beet to see the progress and found a definite beet!  It was only about an inch in diameter so I will let the others grow a bit more.  ( I pushed this one back in the soil just in case it can survive.)

May 17, 2011  Talk about big and bold.  These plants look like giants among all the other cool loving plants.  No flowers yet to harvest but I have located a few suggestions for preparing the leaves of the broccoli plant as you would chard or other leaves.  These will serve well as a shade for lower plants such as lettuce, radishes and carrots
May 24, 2011  Lesson learned...do not plant broccoli next to the peppers or anything else that needs lots of sunlight.  The broccoli leaves will definitely be placed in the center of the bed with lettuce and spinach all around next year.  I think these will be the perfect pairings.  The flowers are starting to show in the center of each plant. Yea! 

1st carrot crop

   Carrots:  May 17, 2011 I think carrots are pretty plants.  Their airy frilly leaves remind me of ferns.  Germination rate seems to be close to 100%.  We pulled one just to see the progress and found a 2" long white root.  Not quite an orange baby carrot yet.  Patience grasshopper.
     May 24, 2011 The teeny tiny baby carrot is orange!  More patience grasshopper.

Tender Chard

Chard:  May 17,2011 The Swiss chard is beginning to look like a smaller version of what I have purchased from the grocery store.  I haven't harvested any yet but could begin to clip a few leaves to include in a yummy frittata. One lesson learned so far.... be ruthless...thin plants to 4 plants per 1' x 1' square.  I planted 1-3 seeds in each spot and just couldn't bear the thought of destroying those baby plants.  I now have 4 bunches of plants per square where there should be 4 separate plants.  Literature states that my overall harvest will be less because the plants must compete for resources.  Next year I promise to select the most vigorous plant and sacrifice the others by clipping them off at the ground level as to not disturb the roots of the survivor.  Another option would be to carefully remove the sacrificial plants and attempt to reestablish them in another location in the garden,  share them with friends , or enjoy a micro greens salad ;-)

     May 24, 2011  The chard is still happy and growing.  It is definitely harvestable.

 Cucumbers:  May 17, 2011  Time to plant cucumbers.  I made 4 small hills 1 foot apart on  the north side of the garden and planted 3 seeds in each hill.  The reusable trellis is made of garden netting stretched across a frame of  1" metal conduit, easily anchored to the ground with 3/4" rebar.  It reminds me of the frame of a roll-away bed.   Some of the cucumbers quickly sprouted and their first leaves are up.  I will need to replant others that have been scavenged by the aforementioned chipmunks.  On a positive note, this will provide a staggered planting I had not previously considered for my cucumbers.  Thanks to our furry pests, we will extend the season with a small second planting. 
     May 24, 2011  Cucumbers are spouting but the weather has been raining every day and there are limited hot temps sooo the progress is slow.

Lettuce in the shade of broccoli
 Lettuce:  May 17, 2011  How much lettuce can a family of two eat?  A ton!  Well...not literally.  By planting three 1' x 1' squares, we have enjoyed some wonderful salads with almost zero work other than careful harvesting of outer leaves.  We began with 3 varieties just to see what each were like.  The Black Seeded Simpson and Mesclun produced the best with Salad Bowl having about 50% germination rate.  The lettuce loves our uncharacteristically cool spring and continues to replace the leaves we've harvested.  I've also planted some in the plot vacated by the earliest radishes.  Those will be sheltered from sun by the Swiss chard.  I can always bring out my protective covers if the sun gets too warm. I wonder how long I can stretch out this wonderful tender crop.

     May 24, 2011  Still tons of lettuce!  The rainy cool weather has been exactly what the lettuce gnomes ordered.

Onions going to seed

Onions:  May 17, 2011 Onions are tall and green with long straight necks. We've enjoyed several tender green onions but will save the majority for regular bulbed onions later in the season.   A few are bolting and developing seed heads on top.  There is nothing to be done once this has started except to enjoy the onion in it's smaller form. Onions that are exposed to fluctuating hot and cold temps may be triggered to send up flower/seed stalks.   We have had temps bouncing between 40 and 80 so it is no wonder my onions are confused. Hopefully some will survive to the season's end. 
     May 24, 2011  Almost all onions have bolted.  I'll be flash freezing some for use in soups and other cooked dishes.  I can't stand to see them go to waste.

Pea Blossoms

Peas:  May 17, 2011 The sugar snap peas are vigorously growing and have begun to bloom.  The are happily climbing the same type of trellis I provided for the cucumbers.  It won't be long before we get to enjoy these sweet treats.

May 24, 2011  Peas still blooming.  Soon...soon.

Ready for dinner

May 29, 2011  Peas!!!  We enjoyed our first peas tonight.  Click on the Peas link for easy yummy recipes.

Sad Peppers

Peppers:    May 17, 2011  Two of the peppers are actually setting fruits!  I can see baby peppers.  The plants were having to compete with the broccoli leaves for space and sunlight so I nipped a leaf or two from the broccoli.   Note for next year:  Plant broccoli beside low plants such as lettuce, radishes, and spinach so their leaves don't bump elbows with other tall plants.
 May 24, 2011  The peppers aren't so happy right now.  Possible causes are the shade of the broccoli; cool temperatures and few sunny days; lots and lots and lots of rain.  The peppers look anemic and more yellowish than bright green.


Potatoes:  May 17, 2011  Wow!  The potatoes are happy.  A few have begun blooming.  This is my first experience with growing potatoes and they sure make me look like I know what I'm doing when neighbors come to view the garden. (Ha!  I've got them fooled!)   I've seen all the pictures of how the yummy potatoes form while hidden under their beds of dirt so I carefully reached down the side of my raised bed.  I guess I expected a baby new potato to come wriggling into my hand like a puppy...but they did not cooperate.  ( Potatoes must be more feline than canine.)  I was too cautious to dig deeper and must be content to wait while I enjoy the lush thick foliage.  Do potatoes send up a flag to tell you when they are ready?  I'll need to look that up.  

Flea Beetles and damage on potato leaves
     May 24, 2011  More potato blooms!

     May 31, 2011  Yikes!!!  Who has been eatting my potato leaves?   I found the culprits... Colorado Potato beetle and tons of Flea Beetles.  I picked and crushed the potato beetles.  I attempted to pick all of the flea beetles but soon figured out it was an impossible task.  Several organic gardening sites recommended "Neem Oil" which is supposed to coat the unwanted critters.  The oil acts by interferring with their desire to eat and mate.  The bugs die from starvation and do not create another generation. 

Radishes:  May 17, 2011  Our family has never been a huge fan of radishes but we decided to add them to our garden with the hopes of them tasting totally different if they were fresh from the dirt.  We weren't disappointed.  We were excited to see what they looked like and pulled a couple too early when they looked like tiny red peas.  With a little more patience we were rewarded with bright red  radishes crowning above the soil.  We won't need many for our family but we will keep easy to grow staple to our garden. 
     May 24, 2011  Still harvesting

Spinach:  May 17, 2011  Both varieties of the spinach have been delicious.  We've gotten 2 heavy harvests but I pulled most of the plants this week as they were beginning to bolt.  My biggest problem now is deciding which favorite spinach recipe to use for this final collection.  Planting guides tell me to wait to plant another crop for cool weather in the fall but I wonder that if the cool weather continues I might sneak in another crop if I reseeded now.  I may try with a portion of my plot.  Spinach recipes.
     May 24, 2011  Still harvesting from the remaining plants.  I will be freezing the excess.

 Summer Squash and Zucchini:  I set out one squash plant and one zucchini plant this year rather than planting seeds.  I did not want to sacrifice additional space in my compact garden to the prolific vines of the squash. The transplants are already blooming like crazy.  If they produce in abundance, our family will have plenty.  If not... it will be a good excuse to visit the local farmers' market :-)   If the plants are really productive, I may try one of these recipes for preparing squash blossoms.  They sound yummy!  Squash blossom recipes.

baby zucchini

baby squash

May 24th:  I see baby squash and zucchini...or is that squashes and zucchinis?

Tomatoes:  May 17, 2011  I've planted tomatoes in the past.  This year I did three things differently; one good, one not so good and one is yet to be decided.  The good thing I did differently was to strip the bottom leaves and place the plant deep into the soil.  The extended part of the stem planted beneath the soil will develop roots leading to a stronger and more productive plant.  The plants look sturdy and full.  Three are full of blooms but the temperatures have been below 50 degrees and fruit cannot set at those temps.  I hope the blooms last until the temps stabilize. 

     The bad thing I did differently was not to stake or cage my tomatoes at the time they were planted.  I know better but they looked so pretty and neat without any supports.  I decided to stake the largest and try cages for the smaller plants.  I've not used cages before so we will see which work better for me.
  The new technique whose success has yet to be determined is to plant in a container on my deck surrounded by basil, dill and chives. I know this plant will require more water but the convenience of having it beside the kitchen door may outweigh the watering duties. 
     May 24, 2011   Plants are growing and growing!  Note:  Tomatoes take more than one square foot in a square foot garden.  This year is going to be mighty crowded.