Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20th Garden Update

Comic Relief        Chipmunk update....GRRR!   All of my wonderful healthy Kentucky Wonder pole beans have been eaten...and not by my family.  The chipmunks have been at it again with a voracious appetite.  I noticed some nibblings on the leaves of the beans.  The next day half of the crop was stripped of leaves.  I quickly installed a garden fence and anchored down the edges so no one would slip under.  I reset my handy dandy RatZapper and loaded it with peanut butter.  I sprayed the perimeter with an organic animal deterrent which smelled suspiciously like rotten eggs.  I even opened a box of Decon and left it in the center of the remaining beans that now qualify as an endangered species.  ( Totally fenced so that my dogs do not have access.)  ~~~~The next morning ALL of the beans were stripped and even the volunteer tomato plant was eaten to the ground.  There were entrance and exit holes the diameter of a softball leading safely under the fence. So much for the animal deterrent.  I should have been suspicious when my dog licked the bottle and rolled on the sprayed ground as happy as if she had found her very own road kill.   The next step?  I patiently replanted my beans around my two naked tepees.... and I upped the ante in the RatZapper with fresh juicy dog food.  Yehaw!  Two chipmunks took the bait and my new beans are peaking through the soil.  Is it too early to be optimistic?  We wouldn't be gardeners if we weren't optimistic now would we?  But....I wonder how big their family is???  Score:  RatZapper 3: BB gun 1: Decon unknown?

Enjoy the Garden Chef's Recipe Collection

Sugar Snap Peas have just about finished.  The vines are yellowing but still sending out the odd pea or two.  I froze the last large picking as we have been swamped with more that we could eat.

 Freezing peas is super simple.  1. Wash and string your peas.  2. Bring kettle of water to a rolling boil.  3. Drop in peas and blanch for 90 seconds.         4. Immediately dump the boiling water and immerse the peas in a bowl of ice water to cool and stop the cooking process.   This process is called blanching.  Veggies contain chemicals that cause them to ripen in the garden.  Exposing the veggies to boiling water or steam deactivates the chemicals and halts this process. Without blanching, the chemicals would remain slightly active in the freezer and cause discoloring and an altered taste. 5.  Put individual servings of peas in freezer bags, remove all air and label.   Now we will have peas to add to soups or pasta dishes in the fall and winter.  YUM!

Broccoli.  Did I mention that the broccoli plants are huge??? Delicious but huge.  All of the main heads have been harvested and enjoyed.  Check out the broccoli slaw recipe.   We are just waiting for the small but flavorful side stalks to develop.

The final Spinach has been harvested and enjoyed.    I had planted two varieties: Matador and Bloomsdale longstanding.  The Matador lasted 2-3 weeks longer before bolting.  I didn't notice any measurable difference in flavor.

 Lettuce is still happy in the shade of the broccoli.  Some of the mesclun is bolting but the Black Seeded Simpson and Lettuce Bowl are still producing tender leaves.

The second planting of Radishes is going to seed.  The seed pods will lend some added flavor to salads and stir fries.

My Potato plants are starting to die down.  I will let them stay a little longer before digging for the sweet treasure.  You can dig for new potatoes soon after they flower.  If you leave potatoes in the ground longer they will get larger and the skin will toughen for better storage.  The ground is free storage as long as slugs or blight isn't a problem.  Once you dig your potatoes, don't wash them.  Spread them out to dry off for a few days before storing in a cool dark area.  I store mine in a basket in an area under my house. 

 I pulled another Carrot to check their progress.  They are about 4 inches long and tasty.  You can leave them in the ground till after it frosts.  I will plan on eating these carrots and planting more.

Tomatoes are growing.  I have harvested 5 small golf ball sized

ripe tomatoes.  Can't wait for juicy red tomato slices!!

Peppers are growing slowly.  I will need to research why my peppers don't look too sturdy.

 Onion tops are flopping over and bulbs are still forming.  I have planted a few additional onion sets where we pulled some onions early to enjoy as scallions.

Squash and Zucchini are producing like crazy.  One plant of each should definitely provide all the fresh squash our family can eat.  A few of them developed blossom end rot which seems to have corrected after adding organic fertilizer.

Cucumber vines
 Cucumbers are growing.

Butternut squash are vining. 

Asparagus is spindly but I suppose that is to be expected during the first year.  I hope the site I have chosen is providing enough sunlight.


  Chard is healthy.

Beets:  ??? The beets produced pretty leaves but absolutely no beet roots.  What did I do wrong??

Friday, June 3, 2011

June in the Garden

June 3rd and already it is a busy month in the garden.... I love it!!

Tasks for the day:

-Tie up enthusiastic tomato branches. ~ I use either strips of old t-shirts or knee highs.  Both are gentle on the vines and relatively free.

-Pull the random weeds in the raised beds. ~  The planting medium we used plus the intensive beds have prevented almost all weeds! 

-Pull more weeds in the traditional beds containing pole beans, herbs, and a couple of tomato plants.

-Put Jobe's organic fertilizer stakes around tomato plants.
-Pick tons of peas.

-Cut the first harvest of broccoli from all plants. ~ Additional smaller stalks will form after removing the main broccoli head.

-Water potted tomato and herbs. ~  This happens frequently.

-Harvest one wilted potato plant. ~  This is my first attempt at growing potatoes.  Potatoes are not something my grandparents raised so I had no idea what to expect.  I pulled one plant that had totally wilted and found....drum roll....potatoes!  I know, what did I expect? Turnips?  :-)  I was as excited as a little kid over her first puppy.  My first potato!!

- "Hey Honey.  Come look at the tomato on my potato." 

Another discovery for this beginner potato grower is that the potato will produce fruits similar to small tomatoes.  At first I thought I had a genetic wonder on my hands but I learned that tomatoes and potatoes are very closely related genetically and will produce similar fruits.  The fruit of the potato is NOT edible and is actually toxic. 

Collectively, the veggies considered "nightshade" plants all produce a nicotine chemical in their leaves.  Eggplant and peppers are also included in this group.  Studies have shown that ( and other studies have not) that the chemicals in these plants may exacerbate arthritis.  Say it isn't so! That luscious red tomato I so look forward to may be a contributor to my ails.  Hmmm... tomato - joint pain.  Maybe I'll wait for everyone to agree and in the meantime I'll enjoy my harvest.

-Spray potatoes and one tomato plant with Neem Oil - I found those nasty flea beetles on my potatoes along with a few Colorado potato beetles.  The pictures are posted in May.  I read several sources that recommended Neem Oil for tons of aliments in the organic garden so I decided to use it on one tomato that has some yellow/burned/curled leaves.  The tomato is otherwise very tall bush and green and has bunches of baby tomatoes and more new flowers waiting for their pollinators.  I will let you know if I love Neem Oil as much as others have reported.

- Prepare Wheat-berry Veggie Salad with Sesame Dressing to share with friends for dinner.  ( It was a hit.  YAY!) Check out the recipe!

- Water all plants

A little info about Neem Oil:

I only hope Neem Oil is the magic organic cure it is touted to be. It seems to be given all the miracle properties of  Snake Oil from the Wild West Days in America.  From my research, I've learned that Neem Oil rids gardens of detrimental insects, fungus, parasitic roundworms (nematodes), mites, and algae while remaining safe for all the beneficial critters such as nonparasitic nematodes, earthworms, honey bees, etc. 

How does Neem Oil work?  Many fungi and soft bodied insects are killed on contact.  For others, Neem Oil acts as a hormone disruptor.  Just as in human, hormones control hunger and coordinate body changes for reproduction.  With the destructive creatures in the garden, Neem Oil causes them to lose their appetite and prevents them from reproducing.  Caterpillars are frozen in time, never to mature.  Eggs don't hatch.  Fertile females don't lay eggs....and none of these unwanted guests are hungry.  All die of starvation leaving your garden untouched. 

Very Interesting!!  I mentioned Neem Oil to an Indian friend who told me there were many uses for Neem in India.  More research has turned up that it is good for skin problems, as a moisturizer, has anti-inflammatory properties, cures acne, eczema, and even is used as a contraceptive.  Hmmm... I wonder if I can tap in to the appetite suppressant qualities without the anticopulation side effects???  Now that would have me setting up a side show like the Snake Oil salesmen of the old West.    Ha!  I wonder if rubbing Neem Oil on my joints will canel the effects of eatting tomatoes???