Monday, November 11, 2013

Harvesting sweet potatoes, kohl rabi and more

Last  spring some of the sweet potatoes I had purchased near Thanksgiving and began to sprout.I investigated how to produce sweet potato slips from them and successfully came up with about 12 slips. Digging into the bed behind my shed and readying it for the slips was the easiest part. Not much grows in the summer heat and I was pretty busy with camp anyway. The vines got really rangy and in August I snipped some and shoved them into a pot just for greens. I should have used a bigger pot as when I pulled the soil out it was full of little fingerling potatoes.Last
With a frost predicted this week I began harvesting my sweet potatoes. I decided to use my weed weasel in hopes that I would not damage the potatoes. Great choice! The harvest was not bad, about 3 gallon jugs but I probably would have had more if I had known to cut my vines and either harvest the leaves or just have more individual plants. As it is I put up three bags of leaves for creaming and probably will have another two or three bags this week as I complete the harvest.

Some of the kohl rabi from last year didn't make any  rabes or bulbs but because the leaves are so tasty I left six or seven of them in the garden. After all of the heavy rains during the last month, imagine my surprise that they're making rabes or bulbs. With the cold weather I have pulled the last of the okra plants and am still harvesting A handful of green beans that survived the bugs. It is still nice to have a variety of fresh vegetables right from the yard. We still have several eggplant in the garden that are full of blooms and baby eggplants as well as green peppers that probably will need to be covered with plastic to survive these cool fronts.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Summer harvests are slow but keep coming

 We are really eating from the garden even in the heat. The trick is to make great stuff with the vegetables that are coming to harvest and rotate in the ones that I put into the freezer. We are getting better at this after having tomatoes at night for weeks--George is not complaining. As the heat has increased we are seeing a lot more eggplants setting fruit. The weird rains  in July though meant the tomatoes are all having some blossom rot again. Black-eye peas are coming on and so is the malabar spinach--finally found a lettuce from Nevada that might be able to survive in the shade and give us some leaves. Just when I thought the greens were dying down the kale has gone nuts from the rain (it should be dead) and we are doing kale chips. Celery is growing well and actually looks like little stalks. Doing rainwater only on the property is a bit tough some days. Hopefully next year I can get an irrigation system of some kind to work off the barrels.
All of the onions and garlic are now in the house in keeping. Garlic tastes great and smells so good. Red onions are not sweet but are terrific--now if they just have the same kind this fall! Only one more meal of potatoes and they are all gone. Asparagus though is thriving so maybe next spring we'll have a good harvest.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tomatoes are a challenge but just keep coming

the weather this year has not been a good friend to the tomatoes but they just keep coming. The challenge are that the Early Girls, Brandywines, Jaunne Faumes, and Super sweet 100 are suffering from early blight. In researching this, I should have been giving them preventative treatment to counteract the really wet spring we have had. I have trimmed off the diseased leaves each week and thrown them in the trash. Good news is they are putting on new growth and still producing and I have a round dozen of them. We are eating fresh tomatoes every day--someday I will put some by.

The San Marzanos in the front are having intermittant blossom end rot issues. Have found that if I pick them a little green and use them with the rot cut off they are just fine. We like green tomatoes too. The extra dose of tomato fertilizer was not much help--heavy rains a few days later. On the advise of a friend I have given them a good dose of calcium carbonate--she said smash rocks but I figure it comes in pills so dissolve a handful and use that. There are only 5 plants. They are full of tomatoes both with and without the BER. The black cherries looked bad but are coming back--every day 2-5 of these beauties and the Thai pink egg is a stunner. we just pick and pick on this one. As it is in a container I have rigged a watering bottle to help through the high 90s days we are now having.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June Garden Guild meeting

Judy Barrett, author of: What Can I Do With My Herbs?  What Makes Heirloom Plants So Great? Recipes From And For The Garden, Tomatillos: A Gardener's Dream A Cook's Delight,
will be the presenter on Herbs.  Judy makes frequent appearances on Central Texas Gardener and is a recognized expert in her field.  You can check her out on the sites listed:
We'll meet as usual at 10:30 AM at the Rec. Center to share plants, seeds and conversation and the meeting will start at 11:00.  Come join us for a delightful time of sharing and learning.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Garden thriving on cooler weather but humidity is bringing problems

Boy oh boy is stuff growing well! Instead of being blistering hot at this point, the weather has continued to be a bit cooler and a lot wetter. We have had RAIN weekly and kept the rain barrels full in addition to watering the garden. I have pulled the last of the winter beets and am harvesting the onions and hanging them to cure. 
Tomatoes are going crazy. I do have some blossom end rot on the San Marzanos but they are producing well and we are eating those green or half ripe and they are good. the Thai pink egg and early girl are really coming in--we are eating as many fresh as we can right now.

Green beans are doing well and giving us a dinner every few days. Eggplants are just starting to produce and the okra is growing so we'll have plenty later. I did a photo tour  of the garden to share. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tomato experiment this year

I am working on a new watering scheme for the tomatoes this year. First I got seeds from the Sustainable food center that are recommended for our area (I did check the A&M list too) and started Early Girl, Brandywine, San Marzano, and Supersweet 100s for this year. I also started a Thai pink egg that did well last year and a black cherry that did well for others. I also got 2 Jaune Flammee from the SJC.
Transplanting was tricky with the weather but they got up potted several times and went into the ground in mid-March. I set gallon milk jugs near each one inverted so I can give them a gallon of water without directing it to the surrounding soil. Calculations are that the plants need 2-4 gallons/week depending on the heat. This also is allowing for direct application of fertilizer without hitting the leaves.

On the advise of many tomato growers, I am nipping all the suckers this year. God they sprout fast and often. I have rooted several and thrown a lot of them away. Pinching them off below bloom level sounds like a great idea in theory--in practice it takes a lot of vigilance but the plants are full of blooms and fruit at this point about 7 weeks after transplant. I did cage all of them so they may not get as much air as they might if I only staked them. We will see. Although we have had a very cool spring it looks like things will heat up soon so now every plant will need some mulch around the jugs.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring is slow to settle in--plants are loving it

I keep going out to look at the plants because my tomatoes have NEVER looked so good. I have taken lots of advise about how to grow good tomatoes and what varieties to grow and am having a great year so far. every plant on the lot (20+) was grow by me from seed except for 2 that I got as transplants. I am pleased that the Early Girls are living up to their names--each has cascades of blooms and are setting most of them. So far most plants look to have 5-6 or more tomatoes on them. The San Marzano's are just behind them and since they went in 2 weeks later--doing great. They also have lots of blooms and have set 3-4 tomatoes per plant already. The Supersweet 100s and black cherry are also ramping up as is the Thai Pink Egg (top corner above) We are excited that the new Jaune Flammee(center), an orange tomato is setting clusters of 5-6 tomatoes and is blooming like crazy. They are getting measured water and fertilizer each week and had protection from the cold winds a few weeks ago with row cover. I was really worried as I waited and still they got a bit more cold than I thought they would do.

The herb area and the front part of the garden are getting a real facelift this year. It is fun to make it so colorful and unique. The cucumbers seem to love their rales and the scarlet runner beans are already blooming on the bamboo trellis. I am still not pulling out the peas as it is cool and they are still producing enough to keep us eating a time or so every 10 days. 

The onions I planted last fall are really getting big. I have been scraping back the soil from around the bulbs and think the harvest will keep us in onions for months. I have harvested about half of the green cabbage but none of the purple yet. The heads are doing well and getting big. I was able to trade a couple of heads of the green for eggs and make 3 - 1/2 gallon batches of kraut plus slaw. We intend to eat some cooked too. Brocoli is going well but will bolt if the heat comes on too fast. good thing it is getting within days of picking. I am already planting beans where I had beets this winter. There are only a few beets left out front but I am replanting in the back were there is more afternoon shade. Lettuce too in shadier spots so we have it until bad heat.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

New growth as garden goes from winter to spring

I have been so busy trying to rearrange the plants and cope with the crazy weather we are having. Hot days in early spring confuse the plants and are making me cover and uncover to keep things on an even keel.  Got all the tomatoes in just after the last freeze date around March 10th only to have very cold nights a week later--37-39 is not freezing but way too cold for the little guys. I did a different thing in up-potting them that I will do again. I put the seedlings into 4" round pots that fit into quart yogurt containers and had self watering seedling pots. Roots came down, plants grew great and transplanting went really well. No root bound plants.

I put in a second round of broccoli from the nursery and am encouraging the brussel sprouts to make little heads--fighting the bugs. We will see how it goes. Peas are just about done and need to come out so I can plant the blackeyes there or peppers there and blackeyes where the cabbage is.
Was lucky to get another variety of eggplant at the sustainable harvest spring event and put them in and got one more in a plant exchange.
I harvested 3 beautiful cabbages this morning. Biggest yet--around 4-5 lbs. each. I am going to shred some for slaw and kraut and cook some for dinner. well worth planting!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

March Garden Guild focus on shade gardening

Wells Branch is an aging neighborhood and with that comes a wonderful cover of shade from mature trees. Or maybe not so wonderful if you're trying to figure out which plants to grow in the lower level of sunshine. Many people also are trying to find perennial or drought tolerant plants to add to their landscaping. 

The March meeting for the Wells branch Garden Guild will help you with all these questions. We are lucky to be having Michelle Pfluger from Green and Growing in Pflugerville to talk to us about shade plantings. In the brief discussion I had with her recently, she reeled off all kinds of ideas to address this "growing problem." Join us March 16th at 11 at 3000 Shoreline  for the presentation and at 10:30 for chat and seed/plant exchanging.

Winter crops coming along

Seemed like such a long time since I planted the cabbage and the cauliflower and broccoli in the beats. All of a sudden all of them are getting ready to harvest. We have been eating beets now for several weeks, both the cauliflower and the broccoli have small heads on them and the brussels sprouts are taking off and putting on lots of their small heads on each stem. The spinach didn't fare too well this winter but we are getting a smattering. The bok choy keeps bolting because of the warm weather however is the flowers are absolutely covered by bees every day. They have put on nice large leaves which I'm harvesting individually. Even the lettuce is finally beginning to produce. I have two different kinds of P is growing and the ones that only get about 2 feet tall are producing well the other ones finally are blooming but they're getting mildew on them so we'll see how they do.

Going inside the greenhouse makes me smile. I have four different kinds of peppers in there and two different kinds of tomatoes as well as basil and one eggplant. All of the peppers are producing nicely and one of my tomatoes given to me by a friend is covered with small tomatoes that we have been able to ripen every few days. I am using the shelf to bring along the tomato seedlings  until I can plant them in March. I have had to move most of the herbs out of the greenhouse and put them in the ground as they're big enough and have tolerated the transplanting.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter garden presents challenges

This falls garden has presented a number of challenges. The infestation of whiteflies and other insects I had in the front yard garden has carried over onto many of the fall garden plants. I have pulled out all of the infested plants throwing away many eggplants and squash plants. Faithfully using fish emulsion on the suggestion of green and growing and the sustainable harvest people I have managed to have plants that are once more thriving except for the beets. They are being particularly hard hit by something that's eating holes in their leaves but I don't want to risk putting too much nitrogen on them and causing them to not make adequate sized beets. I have also found a number of very large cut worms in the soil which were doing significant damage to my bean plants and others. I have dug them out and smash them in hopes of reducing their population. At least we have had several flight freezes in late December and early January.

We were able to get the greenhouse repositioned and covered with its plastic in plenty of time for the cold weather. In fact as soon as we had it ready the weather was not cold for several weeks again. The plants seem to be thriving in there with the extra humidity and heat. I have about six different kinds of pepper plants in the greenhouse and all of them have numerous peppers on them. This morning I noticed almost 20 small tomatoes on the four tomato plants and one more eggplant. I have a shelf mounted on the side to nurture small plants before I transplant them to the garden.

I use the tops of several 2 L bottles to make cloches for my broccoli and brussels sprouts transplants and these  seem to have caused them to grow better. Experimenting with the tops and the middles of the 2 L bottles leads me to believe that the tops that are closed with just a small hole work better then a 4 inch tall surround from the middle of the bottle. Now I wonder if using the bottom that is totally closed over the plants will also work well. However I will use whatever I can use so that the plants are protected from all the wind we have had.

The garlic and the onion sets that I planted are  growing well this year. I did get to mulch them with about an inch of leaves just before the freezes to keep the moisture into the ground. I think that only two or three of all the garlic bulbs I planted failed to germinate. We've been stealing a bit of the tops and they taste wonderful. I can hardly wait till this summer when we harvest them to have much superior garlic to what we've had in the past.