Sunday, July 29, 2012


As the weather got terribly hot, I got a little lax about watering every day and I could swear my plants are actually doing better for it. We are finally, finally getting viable roma tomatoes from the garden after weeks of only oodles of green ones and then a week or two of every red tomato being half-gone to blossom end rot by the time they ripened. I collected two baskets full this week and today MB put them through my mom's old food mill and we froze sixteen cups of sauce to use in chili and spaghetti. I've also picked six or seven lovely pink Brandywine tomatoes and there are a lot more on the plant waiting to ripen. The grape tomato plant is booming, and it looks like all of my mystery volunteer plants are cherry-sized. We'll be overrun by cherry tomatoes by the end of the summer!

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The pepper plants are doing quite well, though not yielding as much as the tomatoes. I think that's typical, though. I definitely want to plant more peppers next year but space them out better. I'm never sure when to pick some of the new varieties like the red chilis and Poblanos. There are quite a few peppers on the red chili plant, but they're not red so I haven't felt confident to pick them. The Cajun belles are doing well, too, though they are not big bell-pepper sized peppers like I expected. They're bell pepper shaped, but very small! I need to get MB to report on the various kinds and how they taste, how spicy they are, etc. since I don't eat anything but the sweet bananas and bells chopped up in sauces.

The zucchini plants totally died back and though one small one has re-grown, it hasn't produced any squash yet. The cucumbers are more or less inaccessible now due to their own vine and the snake gourd vines covering their fence frame. If I grow any next year, I'm going to turn the frame 90 degrees so the opening is facing out.

The snake gourds are starting to bug me, truthfully. They are WAY overgrown and have started to encroach on the tomatoes. The plants have a funny smell, too, like a faint but pervasive aroma of pee. I'm not a huge fan. As much as I hate to prune healthy plants, I really think I'm going to go out there this week and cut them back.

The blueberry bushes are still really pitiful and don't appear to have grown at all, but they look healthy other than the sunburned leaves, so maybe they're just slow starters. I think the strawberry plants are finally thriving under the cover of the nearby tomato plants. The last time I saw them, they looked good. That was a week or so ago, though. I hope they're doing well under there.

I also finally caught a photo of one of the really neat dragonflies that have been hanging around the plot all summer. I just missed getting a photo of a little green praying mantis on the banana peppers, too, which is SO cool!

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

How does my garden grow

Very well, apparently, even though the weather was horrendous through the end of June and into the first week of July (all temperatures in Fahrenheit, of course):

Heat wave
(list stolen from the local paper's website)

I took down the half-assed string trellis I made for the blackberries since it was already starting to sag. I also wanted to attempt to redirect the insanely prolific snake gourd plants to grow and climb in the other direction so they wouldn't smother the berry plant. I put a large round tomato cage in there and sort of wove the squash vines through it and it worked somewhat. As you can see, they are doing almost too well:

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In fact, they're growing so wonderfully that (provided they keep going strong into the fall), I'm thinking about lobbying next year to build a teepee or A-frame out of wood and planting snake gourds along the base to create a vine-covered hideout for Nico. I got the idea from this very neat guest post on frequent commenter Ruth's blog (hi, Ruth!).

I also added stakes to the sprawling grape tomato area and wrapped twine around the four stakes to make a cage of sorts. It does seem to have helped a lot with keeping the plant contained:

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All our tomato plants are covered with oodles of green fruit. I suspect they're all going to ripen at once and we'll be up for days processing them all into sauce to freeze.

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I'm pretty sure my poor blueberry bushes got sunburned, but so far they seem to be hanging in there.

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My zucchini plants, however, are not doing well at all. I don't know if they finally gave up in the heat or if the nefarious squash cutworm got to them. I lost my last two years' zucchini plants to cutworm, but I was hoping to avoid that fate this year by planting in raised beds with new dirt. One of the plants seems to be regenerating with new growth so I haven't given up all hope, but they really do look pathetic:

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Sadly, they look worse already in just the two days since I took these photos.

At least the zucchini harvest that might turn out to be my last for the year was a whopper:
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I see lots and lots of grating in my future.

The pepper plants continue to look great but produce little. I really suspect that I impeded productivity by crowding them in the bed. Every time I go out to water now I think about what I like about this year's garden and what I want to do differently next year. Right now, I'm thinking:

>> Add another long thin bed for tomatoes and grow only eight plants, four in each long center bed

>> Spread the peppers across the entire back bed (and maybe add a few more varieties)

>> Find a way to squeeze in another bed near the front by the blueberries for zucchini

>> Skip the snap peas - I'm the only one who ate any, and I didn't eat enough to justify the space they took up in the bed. Then I skipped ONE day of watering and all of my pea plants died, which I thought was a bit overdramatic.

>> Attempt to add onions, per MB's request (any advice on onion-growing is welcome!)

>> Grow multicolored carrots with Nico

Even with the changes I'd make, I think this is our most successful year of gardening yet. It's very encouraging!