Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Garden Update - September 21, 2016

Happy almost Autumnal Equinox, around here it starts at 7:20 am tomorrow morning. Next week I'll have to switch from a Summer Garden label to a Fall Garden label. Another happy thing to report is a retreat of the smoke from the valley so I got to enjoy a lovely view across the valley this morning. (The view up the valley at the moment is dismaying - there's a huge plume of smoke, but at least it's not coming this way).

While I was enjoying the view I snapped a couple of overview shots of the garden.

This view gives a good perspective of how tall the Puhwem corn is.

The beans on the right top out at 7 feet (2.1 meters) and the tip of the tassels next to the beans reach 11 feet (3.4 meters) and a number of the stalks are even taller.

Puhwem Corn
I'itoi Onions
One thing in the garden that I'm excited about, and it's so nice to be excited rather than PO'd about something in the garden, is that the I'itoi onions that I planted a couple of weeks ago are sprouting already! What a difference it makes to plant fresh healthy bulbs as compared to the shriveled little specimens that I started with. My original bulbs each pushed up one or 2 blades and very slowly started to multiply. These ones, and I started with single bulbs which must have started to multiply internally because each one has produced at least 2 clumps of blades. Oh gosh, I hope they don't become a tasty treat to some pest.

I'itoi Onion

Kongo Kohlrabi
The kohlrabi is starting to fatten up. I picked up a seed packet of a kohlrabi duo from Renee's Seeds (available at the local hardware store) mainly because one of the varieties is Kolibri which seems to be popular with some of my favorite garden bloggers. Kongo was the other variety, but I haven't heard anything about it. Notice that I left them to grow in the water bottle sleeves because I'm sure the rodents would LOVE to munch on those juicy stems.

Kolibri Kohlrabi

Tronchuda Beira Cabbage/Kale
I just removed the protective sleeves from the Tronchuda Beira and Russian Hunger Gap plants yesterday. No nibbling last night. So far...

Russian Hunger Gap Kale

Dazzling Blue Kale
The Dazzling Blue kale is recovering nicely from the big trim and treatments for powdery mildew and aphids.

Medieval Syrian, Golden, and Peppermint Stick Chard
I set out some chard seedlings. Three of Medieval Syrian since they are small plants and will bolt quickly and one each of Peppermint Stick and Golden chard. The Peppermint Stick and Golden varieties should grow through the winter and if they behave as they typically do they will get to be huge by next spring and 2 plants will be more than enough to meet my needs.

Pink Plume Celery
That's the 3 remaining Pink Plume celery plants. I've tied them up because the outer stalks tend to flop outward. You can see how there are numerous side shoots that develop. These plants are prolific producers. It will be interesting to see if they hold off bolting this fall.

I haven't figured out which melon variety this is, but a few plants have set some fruit. It's still questionable if they will mature enough and resist the advances of the rodents to produce anything edible. I've set the melon atop an overturned cottage cheese tub to keep the sowbugs and millipedes  from eating it from the bottom up.

Blue Speckled Tepary Beans
The Tepary beans have set a number of pods, but the plants are already starting to die back before the pods have gotten very full so I'm not sure if the beans will mature enough before the plants die. I haven't grown Tepary beans before, so perhaps this is normal.

Discus Buttercup Squash
The Discus Buttercup squash are maturing. Unfortunately, yes more bad news, the squash that are sitting on the soil are being munched by sowbugs (woodlice) and little millipedes. Not all is lost though, a number of squash set that are hanging over the edge of the bed and those seem to be pretty safe although I did see signs of rodent sampling but they didn't get far, perhaps the skin was too tough for their dainty little palates.

The update gets progressively more depressing from here on out.

Hestia Brussels Sprouts
Yes, it looks like there are sprouts developing, but they are weird and worst of all they are infested with aphids.
Gustus Brussels Sprouts
The Gustus Brussels sprouts are not as large yet and there is perhaps a chance of keeping aphids out if I start with a regular treatment program. So yesterday I mixed up a batch of Azdiractin and Pyganic and the sprouts got a thorough spraying. The Azdiractin doesn't kill outright, it keeps the insects from growing on to their next stage and it does has some residual effect so it will help to control the aphids that weren't killed outright by the Pyganic. Azdiractin is also effective against cabbage moth worms, a few of which I came across in the patch. That combo has been the most effective organic treatment for aphids on brassicas that I've ever tried.

The eggplants are languishing. Some seem to be wilting, others have yellowing leaves that are dropping. There is perhaps some sort of fungal infection on the leaves. The pots seemed dry so perhaps they aren't getting enough water or maybe the drip lines are pinched or clogged. I gave them extra water and I'll wait to see what happens for a while, but if they don't perk up they are compost.

Hopi Chinmark corn

The rodents seem to have developed a fondness for corn silk. I hope this ear got pollinated before the critters started to munch. And there's aphids in there too, but they don't seem to be doing much damage, they're just creating a sticky mess. I noticed that another plant that hosted a pretty large community of aphids a while back got cleaned up by something so it's probably just a matter of time before the good bugs find their next feast here.

Here comes the really nasty bits. This is what I didn't have the heart to show last week.

Most of the pepper plants have been entirely or or are in the process of being defoliated by powdery mildew.

Gogosar Peppers
Some are starting to shrivel and others are being damaged by too much sun. There's some good ripe peppers in there, but there's loads of small green peppers that will never mature properly.

Shepherd's Ramshorn Peppers
One of the Florina pepper plants had mostly ripe and ripening peppers which I stripped off and another plant had pretty mature peppers that had barely started to ripen. I don't know if the green ones will ripen properly, I doubt that they will be as sweet as they could be.

Florina Peppers
The Turkish peppers were just starting to ripen as well. I haven't tasted them yet but I think that these may be good in their green stage. I'll have to sample some and if they are ok I'll strip the plant and enjoy them now.
Turkish Peppers

Aji Peppers
The one bright spot in the pepper patch is that the baccatum plants seem to be pretty resistant to powdery mildew. I hope so. The Baby Aji Amarillo plants are loaded with green peppers and the Aji Amarillo Grande plant is just starting to set pods.

And one last bad/good bit to report. A number of the tomato plants are also looking awful, the leaves are dying faster than I can pull them, but at least the fruits are holding in there for now.

So there is actually one good thing that might come from the early demise of the pepper and tomato plants. I'll get to experiment with an earlier planting of fava beans.

That's the latest. I'm hanging in there, trying to find the good things in and around my blighted garden. Not all the critters hanging about are pests. There's a huge covey of California Quail that seems to be mostly babies that are living on the hillside. They are so fun to watch and listen to. The Western Fence Lizard population is booming. I see them everywhere and there's bunches of babies skittering around as well. My favorite lizard, the California Whiptails have returned and they too are hatching babies. A pair of Mourning Doves nested somewhere nearby and the other day I got to watch a pair of awkward youngsters that I think may have recently fledged. So there's still plenty to enjoy around the garden and that's what I'm trying to focus on these days.

I hope you are finding good things in and around your garden too. Happy Autumn!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Harvest Monday - September 19, 2016

Is the Autumnal Equinox nearly upon us already? But wait, we haven't had SUMMER yet!

I finally started harvesting some peppers that were ready to be harvested because they were ripe or nearly so and not just because they were damaged, although one of those golden Etiuda bells was sunburned on one side.

Violet Sparkle, Odessa Market, Gogosar, Etiuda, Florina, Petite Marseillaise

Violet Sparkle
Violet Sparkle is a very pretty pepper. It has an elongated heart shape and it retains some of its violet streaks when it is ripe, the photo really doesn't do it justice. It has medium thick sweet flesh. I cut it up to include in a tossed salad. Very nice so far.

Rossa Lunga di Firenze
The Rossa Lunga di Firenze onions were ready to clean up and bring inside.

And the rest of the Exhibition onions needed to be brought in as well.

Piccolo Dattero, Reisetomate From Transylvania, Camp Joy, Sweet gold
The cherry tomatoes are coming in at a steady pace. There's finally enough now that Dave can take a good handful or two in his lunch every day.

Jaune Flamme, Lime Green Salad, Reisetomate, Pantano, Chianti Rose
The rest of the tomatoes, especially the larger ones, are still being modest in their production. But that's not really a surprise to me because I pruned them fairly hard as they grew. My goal this year was for a variety of tomatoes without excessive production. So far that's what is happening, but I have to say that it is a bit strange to not have a huge glut of tomatoes.

Rattlesnake, Golden Gate, Brinker Carrier
I inadvertently chose snap bean varieties that have been producing pretty much in succession. First the Golden Gate Beans produced the bulk of their crop (although rather modestly), then the Brinker Carrier beans came on strong, and then as the BC beans slowed down the Rattlesnake beans started to produce. I couldn't have planned it better. I have harvested far more beans than we can eat fresh so I have sliced, blanched, and frozen a few pounds of the Brinker Carrier and Rattlesnake beans in approximately 1/2 pound portions. I don't necessarily like to eat the frozen snap beans as a veggie side dish but they are perfect to use in soup or in a frittata. The Rattlesnake beans aren't as colorful as they could be because the plants are quite overshadowed by the corn plants that are towering above the bean trellis, but they are still surprisingly quite productive in spite of the competition for light.

I hope that the vines have enough vigor and time to produce a second round of beans. We'll see. So far the weather and powdery mildew just haven't been conducive to good production from the summer veggies so I won't be surprised if they poop out pretty soon.

Calabrese Broccoli, Tromba d'Albenga, Romanesco, Tasty Treat Cukes,
Mostly Rattlesnake Beans
The first Tasty Treat Japanese cucumbers were ready to harvest, although they were rather sad misshapen specimens and the vines aren't very vigorous so I don't know what is in store for the coming weeks. I guess they don't like cool and smoky "summer" weather. And my second Tromba d'Albenga squash plant finally produced a couple of squash. The squashes from this vine are atypical, being a fairly solid dark green rather than the usual light green with lighter streaks. I haven't cooked either of them yet so I don't know if they differ in their culinary qualities. The Tromba vines just aren't as vigorous as usual either and I can only attribute that to cooler than normal weather as well.

Romanesco Zucchini and Tromba d'Albenga Squash

Pink Plume Celery
Maybe it's the cooler than normal weather that keeps the celery going and prevents all of it from bolting. I took out one plant that was bolting and then decided that I don't need all SIX remaining plants so I cut down three more.

Cured Capers Fresh From Brine
I thought it might be interesting to show some of the capers that I harvested a couple of months ago. They have been sitting in a brine solution at room temperature on my kitchen counter. It was time to see if they were still good and it turns out that they are just fine. I have experimented with curing the capers by just tossing them with coarse salt or immersing them in a brine solution. Perhaps I just haven't worked out the proper amount of salt to use for the simply tossing them with salt cure, but they always seem too salty to my taste when I've prepared them that way. My preference is for the brined version. After I drain the brine I set them on towels on a tray to dry at room temperatuere for 24 to 48 hours. Then I pack them in jars and put them in the fridge where they will keep for at least a couple of years.

My reports on the Soberanes fire aren't finished yet because the fire continues on. Today is day 60. Yes a full 2 months. Over 117,000 acres burned. The local paper reported that this is the "costliest blaze to suppress in US history", the cost standing at over $200 million now and it will certainly be much more than that even if they can contain the fire by the (optimistically) projected date of September 30. The daily cost is about $2 million, down from a high of $8 million. The latest Incident Management Team (they seem to change about every two weeks now) has taken an aggressive stand with the fire, possibly because they have more resources available, and conducted a massive burnout operation of something like 5,000 acres on the east side of the fire to strengthen the containment line in hopes of keeping the fire from burning east of the Carmel River. That area (Chews Ridge) happens to be not far from here. OMG the smoke. The last couple of mornings the Air Quality Index has been between 190 and 199, the high end of the Unhealthy rating (151 to 200), meaning "Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.". A rating of 201 to 250 means "Health alert: everyone may experience more serious health effects.". It only took about 15 minutes outside for my eyes, throat, and sinuses to feel uncomfortable. So regardless of whether I wanted to garden or not, I could not. Ah well, time off from gardening California Fire Season style. Smoke break anyone?

Smoky "View" of the Park Sunday AM
Can you see the tiny orange moon in the photo above? It's there! Click on the photo to enlarge, maybe you'll see it.

Normal Foggy Morning View of the Park
For those of you interested in the fate of Tassajara Zen Center - it still stands. They are under an Evacuation Order now, meaning no one is allowed into the area, those who stay do so at their own risk and if they leave they can't return. Twenty-nine people stayed to protect the center from the fire. Thankfully, at the moment the fire seems to have slowed its progression toward the center, but that situation could easily change. I hope they have stockpiled plenty of food.

Back to the harvest report. There's a few items that didn't get photographed. I weighed all the dried Black Coco beans. A couple more small heads of Calabrese broccoli were ready. A few more eggplant hit the harvest basket.

Here's the details of the harvests for the past 2 weeks:

Brinker Carrier beans - 5 lb.
Golden Gate beans - 11.9 oz.
Rattlesnake beans - 3.3 lb.
Black Coco dry beans - 3.2 lb.
Calabrese broccoli - 1.3 lb.
Pink Plume celery - 4.5 lb.
Green Fingers cucumbers - 14.4 oz.
Mouse Melons - 1.6 oz.
Tasty Treat cucumbers - 5 oz.
Bonica eggplant - 11.7 oz.
Sicilian eggplant - 1.3 lb.
Exhibition onions - 6.7 lb.
Ramata di Milano onions - 3.1 lb.
Rossa Lunga di Firenze onions - 12.8 lb.
Etiuda peppers - 2.1 lb.
Florina pepper - 3.7 oz.
Gogosar pepper - 6 oz.
Odessa Market pepper - 5.6 oz.
Petite Marseillais peppers - 5 oz.
Violet Sparkle pepper - 4.3 oz.
Camp Joy cherry tomatoes - 14.5 oz.
Chianti Rose tomatoes - 1.6 lb.
Jaune Flamme tomatoes - 2.1 lb.
Lime Green Salad tomatoes - 1.2 lb.
Mavritanskite tomatoes - 14.9 oz.
Pantano tomatoes - 2.9 lb.
Piccolo Dattero cherry tomatoes - 1.2 lb.
Reisetomate From Transylvania tomatoes - 1.1 lb.
Sweet Gold cherry tomatoes - 2.3 lb.
Romanesco zucchini - 9.8 lb.
Tromba d'Albenga squash - 1.8 lb.

Total harvests for the past 2 weeks - 73.4 lb. (33.3 kg.)
2016 YTD - 576.5 lb. (261.5 kg.)

Harvest Monday is hosted by Dave on his blog Our Happy Acres, head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Garden Update - September 14, 2016

There's not much new to report for the past week. I'm still waiting for the most of the peppers to ripen. Tomatoes are trickling in and likewise for the cucumbers. The melon plants are growing and blooming but there's not much sign of fruit yet. I do believe the fall melon project will probably be a bust, the weather has just been too cool - it got down to 45ºF (7.2ºC) last night. The corn is still tasseling and I think a few ears have developed, some feel a bit fat. If the weather stays dry there's a chance for mature dry ears of corn. Tepary beans are setting, so there's a chance for them too. Peas are just poking along but I did spot the first blossom.

I'm not going to show the ugliest part - the defoliated pepper plants. I purchased some Serenade the other day and will give the pepper plants a good dousing, perhaps I can slow the powdery mildew down on the less affected plants enough so that the immature peppers can size up and ripen. The larger peppers are starting to color up nicely and the fabric that I've draped over the worst hit plants seems to be keeping the peppers from being too damaged by the sun. The plants that were defoliated by the rabbit will be done once the surviving peppers ripen, which ticks me off since they usually put out more peppers that will ripen in October or early November.  Oh, I did surround the entire pepper/tomato bed with 1/4-inch hardware cloth which seems to have deterred the rabbit. It then went for the Gigande beans, plowing through the foliage at the bottom of the vines and leaving a bunch of immature pods laying on the ground in its wake. So, more swaddling fabric... Maybe I'll get enough beans to renew my seed stock.

Honestly, I feel like it's a war zone out there. Me against the pests. And I am really tired of it.

Dazzling Blue Kale
That's what the kale looked like a few days after I gave it a severe haircut because it was full of powdery mildew and the aphids had started to move in as well. It's obvious how one of its parents earned the name "Palm Tree" kale.

Batavia Broccoli 
And I gave up the battle for the Batavia broccoli. I was holding my own against the rats and rabbit and the powdery mildew wasn't too bad, but I lost to the aphids so I ripped it out.

I really just don't want to deal with the unnecessary battles at the moment. I can buy good organic broccoli at the farmer's market and there's still some Calabrese broccoli in the garden. If the aphids don't get too bad on the Calabrese I'll let it stay, but if it gets too buggy it's gone. And that goes for most of the other veggies in the garden as well. I haven't been having much fun in the garden lately and if it isn't fun, well, why do it? I'm going to stick with what's left in the garden for the year, but whatever gets to be too problematic I will let go. I'll put in things that shouldn't be pest magnets. I've got some chard, celery, and celeriac seedlings coming along so I'll plant them out. The critters don't seem to bother the celery and celeriac much but the chard will be iffy. I just planted some I'itoi onions, those will probably be pretty safe, and I'll start some onions from seed this fall.

Manoa Crisphead Lettuce
I set some Manoa Crisphead and Jericho Romaine lettuce seedlings out. If the rodents don't invade the tunnel they should be ok. But really, I'm fed up with tunnels too...

Jericho Romaine Lettuce

Pink Plume Celery
And the celery plants needed to be trimmed back in a big way. All the plants were producing numerous side shoots that were taking up a lot of space. The side shoots are small and not the best eating so I just whacked them off and tossed them in the compost. The less crowded plants are also less comfy for nesting rodents. One of the Pink Plume plants is bolting, the bushy one in the center, so I'm going to cut it down.

Dorato d'Asti Celery

Anyway, I'm reevaluating just how much effort, time, and resources I want to invest in my garden. I can't give it up, I know that, I'm totally addicted, but at the moment my garden is the source of too much frustration, anger, and disappointment.

I hate having to set traps.

I hate wasting so much time setting up barriers.

I hate going into the garden and finding something new that's been attacked or infected nearly every day.

Most of all I hate the feeling of being robbed of something that used to bring me such joy.

Part of me wants to rip it all out and just take a break.

But I can't.

I'm totally addicted.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Garden Update - September 7, 2016

I don't have a lot to share this week that is new. The holiday weekend around here was busy and didn't even leave me much time to do enough harvesting much less garden work. So I only got a few new things planted in the last week.

The space that gave up the summer lettuces is now home to a couple of new leafy brassicas.

Russian Hunger Gap Kale
I set out a couple of seedlings of Russian Hunger Gap kale. This variety is supposed to be more bolt resistant than most other kales so overwintered plants are supposed to produce until later in the spring, thus bridging the hunger gap.

Tronchuda Beira Kale/Cabbage

Tronchuda Beira is generally marketed as a kale in the States but I've read that it is actually a primitive non-heading cabbage and it tastes more like cabbage than kale, at least in my opinion. I put out 2 seedlings of them also.

Corsican, Italian Mountain, and Profomuo di Genova Basils
The basil seedlings are ready to go into the garden but I haven't had time to do so yet.

Kongo Kohlrabi
The kohlrabi plants are starting to develop "bulbs". I need to get those sleeves off while I still can.

Calabrese Broccoli
A second Calabrese broccoli plant is sporting a main head. This one is much smaller than the first.

Speckled Blue Tepary Beans

Hopi White Tepary Beans
The tepary beans are finally sporting some pods.

Zuni Tomatillo
Whoa, the Zuni tomatillo plants are bursting out of their cage (can you see the cage?). I'm amazed at how vigorous the plants are considering that the plants lingered in their little starter pots for too long. Still no fruits of any significant size yet.

Tasty Treat Japanese Cucumber
It looks like the first Tasty Treat Japanese cucumber has set.

And I think that a glut of tomatoes is finally on the way.

Golden Sweet Snow Peas
Here's a surprise. It looks like a Golden Sweet snow pea plant volunteered in the Brussels Sprouts patch. I know there were some mature pea pods that dropped to the ground from the overwintered plants that were in that spot. The plant actually looks pretty healthy and has got me thinking that I may have to try them as a summer crop next year - if I can find the space.

A few more peppers are starting to ripen.

Yummy Belle

IPK P 262 (Turkey)

Pimento (Turkey)

Petite Marseillaise

And the Aji Amarillo Grande is FINALLY sporting some pods.

Aji Amarillo Grande

And now the bad news.

Aji Amarillo Pepper
Can you see that the DAMN RABBIT has been attacking my Aji Amarillo plant?

Odessa Market Pepper
And it's already done significant damage to the Odessa Market plants.

And then there's the powdery mildew problem.

It has nearly defoliated a number of other plants.

And now too much sun is damaging the peppers.

So I've erected some lightweight Agribon over the plants that have been hit the hardest. I hope the added shade will protect the peppers enough to keep them from getting spoiled.

It seems like it's going to be a race between the powdery mildew and the rabbit to kill off the pepper plants this year. But, and this is just getting to be crazy, my dear sweet husband had to listen to me fuming about the DR and how I may just have to erect a hardware cloth barrier around the entire tomato/pepper bed. I don't know if I was really serious about my intent, but he said how much do you need and went out and bought me three 25 foot rolls of the stuff. Talk about the $64 pepper! Now I just have to find the time to put up the defensive barrier...

That's the latest, greatest, baddest news from my garden. See you next week.