August 1, 2011 - Harvest Monday

EEEEEK! It can't be August already! Please, tell me I'm having a nightmare, and when I wake up it will still be July. My garden is just now going into July. Nobody bothered to tell it that it's August.

I did finish pruning the raspberries last night. That's usually a mid-July job.

The cosmos and sunflowers are over six feet high and haven't begun to blossom yet. That's usually a mid-July event.

The sweet peppers aren't anywhere ready to pick. I usually begin picking them mid-July.

I only have one butternut squash baby. I always have big green butternuts by mid-July.

The zinnias are still wearing their pretty July dresses.

OK, rant finished. On to Harvest Monday.

7/25 - Fortex pole beans, tomatoes, parsley and stubby little carrots.

7/25 - A big container of Red Sails lettuce from the summer planting, sweet and tender even in the summer's heat.

7/26 - Plump shallots. I'm extremely happy with the size of these. They were planted in the spring, and they are every bit as large as those I've planted in the fall for harvesting the following year.

7/26 - I pulled the last of the stubby carrots. No, they were not a stubby variety, and I have no idea why they grew like this.

7/26 - Baskets of bush beans, basil and strawberries.

7/26 - Tomatoes. Clockwise from top: Pink Brandywine, Bloody Butcher, Matt's Wild Cherry, Una Heartstock, Sunsugar.

7/27 - Sorry for the glare of the flash on the onions. The first Sungold tomato, and the first cucumber, puny and deformed as it is.

7/27 - More Fortex pole beans, being readied for the freezer. They are trimmmed, blanched in boiling water for four minutes, cooled in ice water, and drained. I love these beans!

Once they have drained, I place them on a wire rack in the freezer.

After the beans are frozen solid, they are bagged and sealed with the super sack sucker (Rival Vacuum Sealer).

7/28 - More of the sweet, succulent Red Sails lettuce. It is really making some nice salads for us and the pet rabbit.

7/28 - Pole and bush beans, strawberries and tomatoes.

7/28 - Oops! I missed a few in the previous picture.

7/29 - Rhubarb, the second picking of the year.

It was frozen and bagged for a future pie. I'm not baking in this heat!

7/30 - The Fortex beans are making Granny very happy! The Cherokee Purple tomatoes are getting larger and tastier.

7/30 - I'm still harvesting a few broccoli side shoots.

7/30 - Finally! Pretty carrots! These are from a later planting of the same variety as the ugly, hairy, stubby ones that were pulled this week.

7/31 - A final walk through the garden on the last day of July. First I harvested a big colander of Fortex pole beans. Have I mentioned how I love these beans?

Then I picked a few tomatoes and stopped to admire the zinnias. Have I mentioned how I love my zinnias? This is the first year I've grown pretty ones. They're usually eaten by bugs before they blossom.

By the time I reach the patio, my colander is full. Guess what we had for dinner.....Fortex beans, beautiful carrots and lots of tomatoes.

Then another quick trip to the garden to pick the strawberries. Luckily there were still some shortcake biscuits in the freezer, so it was a strawberry shortcake night.

Beans, bush - 1.25 pounds
Beans, pole - 4.19 pounds
Broccoli - 3 ounces
Carrots - 3.19 pounds
Cucumbers - 3 ounces
Herbs - 10 ounces
Lettuce - 2.38 pounds
Onions - 6 ounces
Rhubarb - 1.38 pounds
Shallots - 1.38 pounds
Strawberries - 3.31 pounds
Tomatoes - 5.63 pounds

Total harvest for the week: - 24.06 pounds
Total harvest for the year to date: - 228.5 pounds

Please join in the Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions!

July 31, 2011 - The Raspberry Patch

I may be cussing Mother Nature out for the slow tomato/squash season, but I can't be angry with her over the raspberry harvest. Cheryl was asking what I do for my raspberries, so since I was in the process of cleaning up that bed, I decided it was a good time to show her. Now, I don't profess to be an expert in raspberry growing and pruning. As with all my gardening, I grow them "by guess and by golly". All I can do is show you how I do it, and what works for me.

***Before I even begin, remember I grow Canby raspberries, which are a one crop summer berry. If you grow fall or everbearing, you will prune yours differently. ***

The first year for my raspberry bed was the spring of 2009. It began with four canes of Canby, which happened to be the only variety being sold at our nearby nursery, planted in the 4'x8'raised bed. I had been hoping to find Heritage, which was the variety I had grown for many years. This was my first experience with a summer bearing variety. I planted them in straight dairy compost, and I harvested a whopping 6 ounces of berries this first year!

Spring of 2010, I amended the bed by adding 2" of dairy manure compost. The canes grew so tall I ended up weaving them horizontally around clothesline rope. A lot of suckers were growing around the base, and I let most of them grow. Big mistake, as I ended up with a jungle of intertwined canes that were difficult to pick.

But the berry harvest improved quite a bit in this second year, as I picked 9 1/4 pounds of fruit. By mid-July the berry harvest was finished, and it was time to prune out the old canes. Of course, this was one of those trial and error things. I knew to prune out the old canes and any that were smaller than a pencil in circumference, so I did that and also removed several that were close to the edge of the bed. I left most of the larger canes to grow for the 2011 crop.

Later in July 2010, the wind began knocking down the tall canes so I decided I should cut the tops back a bit.

The shortened canes survived the winter well, and began to grow new foliage in the spring of 2011, and I again added 2" of composted dairy manure to the top of the bed.

I topped them again as they began growing, trying to keep them a manageable size for picking the fruit. I got a bit carried away, and lopped them down to about 4' high.

Lopping them down must have been the right thing to do, as it didn't take long for them to put forth a lot of horizontal growth and blossoms, promising a good crop of berries for summer meals. In fact, the harvest nearly doubled to 17.2 pounds of berries for 2011!

Now the 2011 harvest is finished, and it's time to clean up the raspberry bed again. I still think they are too thick for proper growth, so I'm being ruthless with the thinning this year.

A lot of canes have been removed from half the bed.

Raspberry canes tossed everywhere.

You can see that the old canes are brown, and the new suckers are light green.

Decisions have to be made as to which canes will stay for the next season. I try to only keep 4-6 of the strongest canes in each clump of growth, removing old canes, small canes and those growing at the inside of the clump, leaving outer ones.

This clump of eight canes will have to be studied a bit to decide which ones to remove. I'll probably end up removing nearly half of them. I've found the canes in the center of a clump don't bear much fruit, but the outer ones, those that get sunshine and fresh air, bear many large juicy berries.

I'm happy with the spacing in this clump of canes.

The results of a morning's work. Most of the thinning and topping has been completed, but it's too hot now, so the rest will be done in the cool of the evening.

July 30, 2011 - What's New?

Nothing. Well, almost nothing. The hot weather finally arrived, though not miserably hot like some of you have been experiencing. Just hot enough to keep me out of the garden except for mornings and evenings.

There is a lot to be done to prepare for fall. doesn't seem possible that it's nearing the end of planting season, as we had no spring and such a cool summer. I have done some fall planting, a row of Ruby Queen beets and a row of Little Gem lettuce where some of the early bush beans had been pulled. I'm just taking a chance the birds will leave the lettuce alone, as it's in an unprotected bed next to the peppers. Yesterday I pulled a large broccoli. It was producing a few small side shoots, but not enough to earn a space in the garden. I amended the soil with compost, and planted some Tyee spinach. There are still two heads of cabbage in that bed, small and full of holes from slugs. I'll leave them for a bit, just to see if they are ever going to amount to anything. I don't really need that space now, I'm probably through planting anything but lettuce and radishes. Those can be tucked in wherever there is an open spot.

The tomatoes are a real bust so far. I'm getting just enough for us to eat, but not enough to preserve. There are some nice Cherokee Purples coming on, but the Brandywines are disappointing, and the only one that's bearing tomatoes looks diseased. One of the three Rutgers has been pruned down to two small branches, I might as well just give up and remove it. All the other plants look healthy, except for one of the two Coastal Pride Orange, which has wilted down terribly. I think the pot it's in is just too small for it. The other one, in a larger pot, is looking fine.

I have two cherry tomato plants that are unknown as far as variety. They came from a packet of mixed seeds, so the only way I can possibly identify them is from the website where they were purchased. The larger plant I'm guessing is Una Heartstock, a large plum shaped cherry. Whatever it is, the two tomatoes I've picked so far were delicious. I will definitely be saving seeds from this one for 2012.

Una Heartstock? It's loaded with large (for cherry) green tomatoes, and has grown up past the roof line of the patio! I'll need a ladder to pick these.

The other unidentified cherry tomato from the same mixed seed packet has much smaller, but plum/grape shaped fruits. It is just beginning to ripen, but I can't yet tell if it's going to be green, yellow or red. Green Grape is the only other cherry listed that looks anything like what is growing, so I guess I should test the one tomato that is beginning to show a yellow color.

Green Grape? It's also loaded with small fruits.

I've had two ripe cherry tomatoes from The Little Sungold That Could, the plant that had no chance for survival! It is alive and well and bearing fruits. So far, I can't tell the difference between it and the Sunsugar. Maybe later fruits will taste sweeter.

Heatwave is showing promise.

Thank you to Mr. H. for sending me the Bloody Butcher seeds. At least we have some tomatoes to eat each day, and the flavor is much improved now that the weather has warmed. I'll definitely find room in next year's garden for them.

For the next few days the garden will be rather messy. I have flowers that need to be deadheaded or cut way back and spent raspberry canes to prune to the ground. It needs to be done soon, but my get up and go got up and went. I keep saying "Maybe tomorrow".


July 26, 2011 - Garden Dinner

How could I not have a "garden dinner" tonight? The first real picking of the Fortex pole beans, the entire row of early planted carrots that were refusing to grow to a respectable size so got pulled out, big fat shallots and sweet onions, fresh red tomatoes, crisp green parsley for the new potatoes that were still fresh with soil clinging to them. No, the potatoes weren't from my garden, but they were grown within a mile of my house. Sounded like a winner to me!

Breaded boneless pork chop
Parsley buttered new potatoes
Green Beans with Caramelized Onion-tomato Relish
Oven roasted baby carrots

Guess what dessert was. That full pound of freshly picked strawberries was just screaming for some biscuit shortcakes, so I made enough for freezing while I was at it.

Mmmm, that looks good enough to eat. I think I will!

July 26, 2011 - Garden Happenings

The first batch of freezer jam, chilling before going into the freezer.

The raspberries are finished for the season, and 15 half-pints of freezer jam, along with 11 pints of whole berries have been put in the freezer. Well, 14 of jars of jam made it that far. I had to keep one out to sample, and it is absolutely delicious! We also ate our fill of fresh raspberries. They gave me a record harvest of 17.2 pounds this year, compared to last year's 9.3 pounds and the first year's .38 pound.

Last week I pulled out the Royal Burgundy bean vines, and today I pulled all of the Topcrop and one row of Gourmet Green French. The Topcrop harvest had fallen to nearly nothing, but the French beans were still blossoming. It was a matter of them being too crowded, and the back row being too far toward the center of the bed, and my back just not feeling great while reaching across to pick them. The rest were left to bear their crop.

Bean vines (and one sweet alyssum plant) heading for the compost.

There are still plenty of Gourmet Green French beans left for picking, and removing the back row makes it much easier to reach them.

It also gives the sweet peppers a bit more room to grow, which they are finally doing!

New fall plantings of beans will soon take the place of those so ruthlessly pulled out. A row of Topcrop were planted on 7/10, and as an afterthought, a second row was planted on 7/18.

Another double row of Topcrop bush beans were planted on 7/18. A double row of Gourmet Green French bush beans were planted on 7/21 where the Royal Burgundy beans had been removed. They have not yet germinated.

The herbs, Lemon, Cinnamon and Opal basils and oregano are so pretty in their containers, I hate to clip them. but today, clip them I must.

Strawberries in both of the barrels are finally beginning to bear some decent sized berries.

The barrel berries seem to be a bit farther ahead than those in the raised bed.

Finally, the warmer weather is making the pickling cucumber grow. This, one of three pots, is beginning to grow tendrils, and will soon (hopefully) begin climbing the fence.

The bush slicing cucumber is just about ready to give us our first cucumber of the season.

I haven't given up on getting a zucchini crop this year. It's actually beginning to form some buds now. Of course they're all male....I don't think there is a female squash blossom anywhere in the garden yet.

Sungolds. YES!!! I should be taking my first bite of these delectable little morsels this week.

My favorite spot to sit and rest on a hot day in the garden.