Friday, September 2, 2011

Tomato Harvest

This year is going to be a lean year for tomatoes.  Naturally, my salad tomatoes (Juliet) are doing the best.  I'm getting a decent harvest off the two I'm growing.  The larger ones are the Moskvich early tomatoes and I'm getting a couple every few days.  Not bumper by any means.

Bad for me this year was that I lost 4 of my tomato plants because they hated the containers.  And those were the beefsteaks.  I've also all but lost my brandywine to black spot.  I have exactly two tomatoes that look good.  The rest are tiny and way too late for this season.

I am definitely going with a new tomato plan next year.  All tomatoes are going to be early varieties.  Gone will be the beefsteaks and brandywines which are wonderful but they take too long to produce in my foggy summer.  I'm also hoping for at least two more productive plants next year because they won't be in the barrels.

But live and learn.  Even with my sad results, it seems I'm doing better than lots of people in my area.  So I'll consider myself lucky!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Other Side To Gardening

I love posting all my pretty plants and vegetables, but it occurred to me that I might be giving novice gardeners a complex by only sharing the successes. In reality, gardening is a ton of trial and error. It's a lot of study and research. And success one year in no way guarantees success the next.

Take this, for example.  What is eating my bok choi?

I've got no clue.  I'm thinking it's either tiny caterpillars or tiny slugs.  Last year, my most successful bok choi was planted in this very container.  It's exactly why I planted it here again.  After last year's success, I'd decided this was THE spot for bok choi.  Now, something's eating it, and I may never know what.  I don't bother posting pictures on the garden forum I frequent, because I know I'll get seven different answers.  Honestly, unless you can catch something in the act, it's all a guessing game.  So I've sprayed it with Bt, which will kill the caterpillars.  If I can get up real early on a foggy morning, I can see if there's any slugs.  Short of that, I just have to hope the plant overcomes and I end up with bok choi I can actually eat.

Moving on, this tomato was a complete failure.  So was the other one that is no longer planted in the container next to it.  And I purchased, stained, leveled and filled these wine barrels JUST for tomatoes.  I've learned tomatoes are like children.  Just because you slave over something for them doesn't mean they'll like it.  These tomatoes hated these pots.  Probably because the spot doesn't get the sun I thought they would.  My fault for doing this all in the winter when I couldn't really check with any certainty how many hours of sun I'd have in July.  

I am now trying out cool season veggies in the pots.  I'm determined to find something that likes them on a regular basis.

And speaking of cool season veggies, take my cabbage here.  Why, pray tell, are all my cabbage doing beautifully except for this little one on the end?  They are all exactly the same seeds.  They were all grown exactly the same.  They were all planted exactly the same.  They get the exact same water, light, everything.  Yet this one isn't happy at all.  Why?  Who knows.  There's some green leaves coming out of the center, so I'm hoping it snaps out of it's funk.  If not, it will end up as compost.  But for sure, the mystery will never be solved.  It's why I always plant lots of everything.  You never know how much will actually make it.

And while I'm asking why, what is this rusty looking crap on my green beans?  I get it every year.  I let it be there every year, mostly because it never seems to bother the green beans.  I always get tons of beans and the plants keep growing.  So I just live with ugly leaves and hope I'm not growing some sort of fungus that will infest my entire garden.

Here's another why:  Why did I only get one butternut squash on this healthy looking plant?  I got lots of flowers.  I get a zillion zucchini on a plant.  What was up with this one?  No clue.  But next year, I plan to plant 3 butternuts instead of one, anticipating that they'll be as unproductive next year as they were this year.  Watch.  Next year, I'll be up to my ears in butternuts.

And lastly, why are some of my cucumbers horribly bitter, while other ones are fine?  I've been playing that guessing game for a while.  Maybe I left them on the vine too long.  I'm trying to pick them earlier.  Maybe it's just a crappy variety. So next year, I'm scratching these seeds and will plant something different.

But there you have it.  With every success, there is 5 failures.  And starting from seed is even more ridiculous.  I've killed so many seedling attempts, it's a miracle I've got anything to plant at all.  But the more I do it, the more experience I get.  There is such a thing as a Master Gardener.  I don't think it's possible for anyone to master gardening.  I think you just end up with fewer self-inflicted failures the more you do it.  But the key word is fewer.  I'd like to meet that guy who has none.  If he/she exists, I'd call them liars! LOL

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Subbing as a Shade Cloth

Have you priced shade cloth lately?  I've checked several sources and haven't found anything for less than the price of a small car.   So instead, I'm using the Agribond row cover fabric I bought for frost protection and subbing it for shade protection.

I think it's working just fine.

This time of year is tricky for me.  I need to get my broccoli and cabbage planted for fall.  If I plant too late, it will overwinter and not do a damn thing until February.  If I get it in now, I'll have lots of yummy broccoli come November.  The problem is, we aren't out of the danger of massive heat waves.  This week, the temp in my garden got up to 100 which will ruin cool crop starts.

So I set up this shade panel.  It's perfect.  It's just a sheet of cloth wired to rebar and set at this angle to shade the starts during the hottest part of the day.  And in the winter, I can use the same fabric to protect my peas from freeze.  Bonus!

Mmmm Garden Veggie Saute

(You can click on the picture to see it up close)

This is my favorite summer dish to make with the bounty I get from my garden every year. I eat it at least once a week, and the nice thing is, it burns through a lot of green beans and zucchini.

I blanch the beans in the pan first. Then add pretty much whatever I've got hanging around in the fridge. In this case, onion and zucchini. The whole thing gets sauteed in butter and olive oil (which I can use a decent amount of because the veggies are ZERO Weight Watchers points!). Seasoning is salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and fresh garlic. At the end--and this is a must--I throw in chopped tomatoes. The juice from the tomatoes blends with the liquid from the zucchini, butter and olive oil to make a delicious sauce.

The whole thing gets served over rice.