Monday, June 29, 2009

Close Looking

Serrano pepper flower

Lobularia maritima (Sweet Alyssum) This is the first flower blooming in the "butterfly garden" mix I planted. It's not native.

Ants crawling all over the red bell pepper flowers.

Habanero flower!

Cherry tomato flower, with little green fruits in the background.

Eggplant flower

Papaya pear summer squash buds

Eeew, scary! Colorado potato beetle eggs

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Celosia! It's kind of a bonus. I had the seed from a couple of years ago. It took a long time to germinate, and I'd given up on it. But there it is! I'm excited about my cut flower garden. I usually run out of space for flowers, but in this garden I found four pressure treated timbers buried in a section of the garden, so I had to put inedibles there.

Cilantro! First harvest this week. We put it on venison burritos.

Molly-dog! This is Molly-dog chillin' with a groundhog snack. One hour before this picture was taken, I was chasing the groundhog away (for the fourth time) from what remains of my lettuce. Twenty minutes previous, Chris watched Molly wander toward the groundhog den and asked, "Do you think the dog will catch a groundhog?" Ten minutes before, I was covering the rest of the garden with floating row covers to hide the juicy plants from groundhog view, so as to discourage more pillaging. Then I noticed her chewing on a furry object. I squealed like a little girl (again).

Then I found deer tracks in the tomato plants.

Iced tea! That's not beer in that pint glass and growler. It's too hot for beer! This has little to do with my garden, but with the recent rise in temperature and humidity here, I've rediscovered the wonders of iced tea. Starbucks has "shaken iced tea" on their menu, which is just plain silly, but because it's "shaken" they can charge 2 or 3 bucks for it. It's Tazo Passion iced tea. Whoa! Red, tart, berry goodness. No sugar needed. When I lived in NC, there was a little restaurant called LuLu's in Sylva that served all sorts of wonderful fresh and local food. They also served "Wild Berry Zinger." And when I saw it on the shelf the other day, I was immediately transported back to those hot summer evenings when I'd order one. It's fun to say. Try it. Anyway, both have berries and hibiscus flowers in the tea. I don't have any hibiscus in my garden, but I'm adding it to my future to-do garden list.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Just When You Think It's Safe

to let down your guard, this scene plays out
on a hot and humid June afternoon:

Gardener takes Cherry Garcia out of freezer
and gets spoon, but
spies groundhog at work in the lettuce patch,
throws down ice cream,
struggles to put on boots,
curses the rodent,
runs out to garden.
Groundhog tries to hide behind a patch of mowed-down lettuce,
thinks it can hide under the table,
decides it's time to make a run for the den,
disappears behind a jungle of burdock and waits,
finally bolts to the den after the scary monster makes lots of threatening noises.

Gardener hunts for groundhog entry point without success,
resolves to harvest what is left of the lettuce,
sits down with melted ice cream,
and begins plans for a groundhog relocation program, or extraordinary rendition.

Pest Control (Chemical-free)

The ominous-looking white powder on the plants above is diatomaceous earth. I've been using it for the last three or four years to keep pests at bay. Last year was the most serious I've been about it. My potato plants were full of flea beetles and Colorado potato beetles, so I regularly sprinkled this stuff on top and underneath the leaves. It doesn't work once it gets wet, so the most effective way to apply it is after a rain or watering, when there's a chance there will be at least a full day of dry weather. You have to reapply after each rain. Diatoms are a form of phytoplankton found in both salt and fresh water. They are a microscopic algae that have very sharp shells made of silica. They are really beautiful under a microscope. Diatomaceous earth sucks the waxy layer off of an insect's exoskeleton, and then it dehydrates. Slugs and larvae also desiccate when they come in contact with it. So, it's nice to have something to keep the insects from chewing devastating chunks out of your plants. But I do use it sparingly considering the not-so-fun consequences for the insects. Also, I've decided to use it sparingly during pollination times. It's a great tool for the early stages of plant growth when the flea beetles and slugs can do real damage to tiny plants. Once the plants get big and healthy enough, they can survive some insect snacks.
This year I've put the diatoms on potato plants to keep the flea beetles from doing too much damage. I also put it on the small tomato plants when I found a couple of flea beetles there, but they didn't ever do too much damage anyway. All of the cucurbits were getting munched when they were tiny, so I used it on them. My zinnia and sunflower plants were taking a beating, too, and after a couple of days of the stuff, they were able to get ahead of whatever was eating them and now they look very robust. Just for the heck of it, I sprinkled it on the tiny carrot plants to attempt to keep root maggots from making homes in my spring carrots, but then I had second thoughts of continuing the experiment because I always find black swallowtail caterpillars on the spring carrots.
I've just run out of diatomaceous earth. A four pound bag lasted me one and half seasons. I've got to track some more down today. I bought my last bag at the Agway in Pulaski, NY. You can also get it at pool supply stores because it's used in some pool filtration systems. It's also sold as a household treatment for ants and roaches. I always used gloves when applying it, but recently I used my bare hands. I try not to breathe it or get it in my eyes. I wash my hands immediately after I'm done because you can get a scratchy, dry feeling from it. But I haven't had any lasting reaction to it at all.
Floating row covers can also keep pests away, especially if you secure them with soil or other more substantial anchors. The ones above are mostly to get the soil and ambient air temperature up around the peppers and tomatoes on cool, cloudy days.
There's a little flea beetle and the tiny holes they put in potato (and plenty of other) plants.

Visual Update

I looked at the garden the other day and thought, "Well, here it is." Those early days of April, with the cool weather and the bare soil, can make you wonder if it's all really going to happen or not. These pictures were taken June 16th.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tomato Tent

It's actually a good thing I put this  hoop house up for a week. It was a late start on my part, but it turned out to be perfect timing. For one week we had perfect hoop house weather: 55 degree highs and 36 degree lows. 

It reminds me of my first tent I had for backpacking. A little bigger. 

The tomatoes are under there, along with serrano, habanero, and sweet peppers. 

I open this guy up during the very warm, sunny days because it easily gets up to 105 F in there. This is also good for keeping the wind at bay. It's been a windy spring. (A VERY windy spring. I've heard some people say that it's been unusually windy, which is music to my ears, because it's been VERY windy. I really hope that it's not normal.)

The hoop house allows you to fiddle with the temperatures. It keeps things just a bit warmer at night and brings the temperature up during the day when necessary. I've read that tomatoes and peppers like when nighttime temps are above 60 and daytime temps are about 75.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bean Update

Turns out:
1) Moles are insectivores. 
2) Some bean sprouts have popped up in my garden.
3) Germinating seeds inside can damage seeds.
4) Beans do not like to be transplanted.
5) In colder soil (60-70F) beans may take two weeks to germinate.

So, the lesson continues.