Monday, September 23, 2013

Harvest Monday–23 Sep 2013

Slim pickings from the garden this week while waiting for the fall crops to reach harvest stage. The weather was moderate with a lot of daytime sunshine and cool nights, with an occasional rain storm. The squash and cukes are kaput, except for the Tromboncino squash which is still trying to put out a few more fruit. My peppers are rebounding and I got a nice crop of the Aconcagua frying peppers. Meanwhile I have been clipping some of the herbs for drying before they get killed by a frost.




The week was brightened a little by the arrival of some of the seed garlic I ordered last month. I grew two varieties last year, German Extra Hardy and Red Chesnok, and they are safely stored in my basement now, with some bulbs reserved for seed stock this fall. We have been enjoying it and it is amazing how much better tasting fresh hard neck garlic is than the spongy bulbs in the supermarkets this late in the season. Some of the supermarket garlic is actually imported from China so you have to check carefully.


Since the experience growing garlic this year was so satisfying, I went looking for just one more variety, maybe Spanish Roja which I considered buying last year. I found it but along the way was intrigued by Viola Francese, a softneck garlic popular in southern France and Italy, so I bought some of that. Then searching for reviews of the Francese, I kept encountering rave reviews about Rosso di Sulmona, a hardneck garlic from the Sulmona area of Abruzzo. That variety is imported from Italy by Seeds of Italy, and fortunately for me they receive their stock late because of USDA inspections and fumigation, so I was still able to order it this late. And they ship very quickly.




Above is the Rosso di Sulmona, nice big bulbs with large cloves covered with a purple-striped skin. Seeds of Italy is very generous, throwing in some loose cloves with the four bulbs to make sure I got my half-pound of garlic.




This is the Viola Francese, my first softneck artichoke variety, so I hope it does well in my climate. I got it from Cook’s Garden, which I guess is now owned by Burpee’s since it came in a Burpee’s box from Warminster, PA. You can see a tinge of the violet color on the wrappers, but the cloves themselves are an orange-brown color. I’m still waiting for the Spanish Roja from High Mowing Seeds, so still something nice to expect in the mail.


That’s what is going on in my garden this week. See what other gardeners around the world are doing by heading over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Harvest Monday–16 September 2013

The summer garden is winding down and yielding a few things here and there. This year I actually did plant some fall crops, maybe not as early as I should have. The hot dry, weather in August didn’t seem like the ideal conditions for starting radish and spinach seeds, but I did anyway. They are starting to put on some growth now with the recent rain and cooler weather. However, the squash and cucumbers are not liking the 50°F night-time temperatures, and also beleaguered with PM and bacterial wilt, are starting to shut down, capping a really lousy year for the cucurbits.




The beans are just about done except for a few stragglers here and there. The Dunja zucchini and Tromboncino squash are still alive enough to put out a squash or two a week but won’t last much longer. The tomatoes are ripening up their last fruit. Most of the plants have survived relatively disease-free and are showing some new growth, but they are doomed by the weather and the shortening day length. At this northern latitude, the sun is dropping lower in the sky each day and its strength is tangibly decreasing.




The peppers, while not liking the cold nights, are holding their own, with new growth and flowers. The Jimmy Nardello peppers are ripening the last of the mature fruit while still flowering and setting new fruit. My Padron peppers are starting to produce again. And the Aconcagua peppers (the long, skinny one above), a Cubanelle-type heirloom from Argentina, are now starting to produce heavily. Even my one Fish pepper has set a few of its variegated fruit and is flowering extensively. Both the Aconcagua and Fish peppers are known as late-season producers so it is a gamble to grow them here.


That’s all from the garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting, head to Daphne's Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Harvest Monday–9 Sep 2013



Oops! It’s Tuesday and I completely forgot about Harvest Monday. It was that kind of a weekend. I would just skip it but I have a few things I want to show. Saturday was work day at the community garden. We did fence repairs and removed weeds and a two-foot strip of sod around the outside of the fence. We then laid down cardboard and covered it with wood chips. This will deter the weeds for awhile and make mowing easier and safer. We already had the mower come too close and rip off a six-foot section of fencing. With that big of a hole, more than bunnies can get through. After four hours of manual labor we all went home stiff and sore.


Sunday was the Patriots-Bills season opener (Patriots squeaked by with a win) followed by the garden pot luck dinner. Sunday morning I cut a huge bag of kale and turned it into a kale, white beans and sausage dish which was well received (and it got rid of a lot of excess kale). I also managed to clean up my Red Bull onions (above) and put them in storage. Five square feet yielded 8.5 pounds. A few big ones and a lot of small ones.


On to the harvest. Below, the zucchini at the top is my first (and maybe only) slightly-overgrown Romanesco squash. Unlike Michelle who has harvested something like 600 pounds of zucchini from her plants, I get one and the PM gets the rest. The Jimmy Nardello peppers are getting added to the string for drying.




More beans and another Green Fingers cucumber. A lot of beans were donated to the Hudson food pantry on Saturday, along with a large bag of kale. Lots of Portuguese in Hudson so hopefully people there know what to do with kale, which is a very healthy and nutritious vegetable.




Here is what I particularly wanted to show. The two Tromboncino squash below are my first and there is another ready for picking soon and lots of flowers. It’s nice to feel somewhat successful and these Tromboncino are making me feel good about my garden. I can grow something besides weeds. There also are a couple of my Tiburon Ancho poblano peppers, Spicy Globe basil for drying, and some decent-sized Purple Peacock shoots (now that I am following Michelle’s advice for cutting sprouts).




The Tromboncino are getting prepared tonight in one one of my favorite dishes. There is no recipe for this. The story is, long ago my wife and I took the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard with only our bikes and cycled to Edgartown. We stayed at a B&B and since we were hoofing it around town, we ate at a nearby Italian restaurant. It was a la carte and absolutely nothing came with the (already pricy) entrée. The waiter suggested a side of zucchini and it was fabulous. I don’t remember what the entrée was but I remember this dish. The zucchini was steamed but still bright green and crisp. It was covered with a  fresh tomato sauce with basil and oregano, thickened with bread crumbs and topped with shredded Parmesan.


That’s all from my garden, time to go prepare dinner. To see what other gardener’s around the world are harvesting  from their gardens, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Harvest Monday 2 Sep 2013



The weather has been moderate, with warm days and cool nights. The humidity has crept up to the point where it was really uncomfortable by the end of the week. It has also been dry, with some overcast days during which it looked like rain but never did. The beds have to be watered at least every other day, and really every day if I can get to the garden. The holiday weekend has been overcast and gloomy, with real rain supposed to come today. Loving it anyway is my Tromboncino squash. What you see above is a female flower just starting to open. Yes, it’s over a foot long before it is even pollinated!




The harvests from the garden this time of year are boring, mostly beans, squash and cucumbers. The Jade beans above have a heavy set of beans ready now. There are over a dozen beans ready to pick on just the two plants shown above. I now have lettuces, endive, escarole, choi, and broccoli transplants set out and pea, radish, turnip and spinach seeds have germinated. The beet seeds have not sprouted. I didn’t presoak them and I think the beds are just too dry down deep. We really need a long, soaking rain (not another monsoon, please) to saturate all the soil again, which hopefully will happen today.




Among the tomatoes above are a Gilbertie paste tomato and my first Green Zebra that was not cracked and rotted. This is my first year growing Gilbertie, an heirloom, and I picked the fruit above a little early so it wouldn’t crack when we get rain. Yes, it definitely is going to rain sometime soon.




More beans. Lots of the darker green Jade bean on the right.




Beans, a few beets, my second zucchini, peppers and cucumbers. The apple-shaped cucumber is Crystal Apple, a New Zealand heirloom that can be eaten without peeling if you don’t pick them too large.




And yet more beans, and another couple Gilbertie tomatoes.


That’s all from my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their gardens, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Peppers In review



While walking around in the garden inspecting my plants, I found my second hornworm of the season. The first worm was much smaller and firmly attached to a pepper leaf stem. I couldn’t pull it loose so I clipped the leaf and set it outside the garden where hopefully a bird made a meal of it. This one is full grown on a Sungold tomato. I was less worried about it because it is paralyzed by a wasp sting and parasitized with lots of wasp larvae, which will soon eat it alive from inside.


This year I decided to try a new strategy for growing peppers, which have been only partially successful in my raised bed garden. I outlined what I was going to try this year here, a strategy inspired by the pepper culture guidance in the Territorial seed catalog. Most of the advice was conventional and common sense: plant healthy, robust plants after weather and soil is consistently warm, etc. What was a bit unconventional was the advice to use a lot of fertilizer, particularly nitrogen, to encourage rapid vegetative growth. Most growing guides warn you to not over fertilize to avoid the vegetative growth that Territorial recommends. But common sense tells you, you are not going to get a large pepper harvest from small plants. The pepper plants need the root structure and vegetative backbone to support a large set of fruit.


So, what are the results to date? The bar is not very high from last year, when I got two Jalapenos and one Hungarian wax from all of my plants. I succeeded in growing robust, healthy pepper plants this year, versus last year's disaster using a coir-based starting mix.




Then weather intruded and cold, rainy weather delayed setting out the plants. I finally decided to go ahead and transplant since the plants were getting very leggy. The peppers did OK and seemed to be growing nicely, but then with continual cold, wet weather that frequently flooded the garden, the pepper plants were hit with an unknown, probably bacterial, disease. They were saved by copper spray, but removing affected foliage almost denuded them. Once weather warmed up and dried out, they did rebound but were obviously set back in development. We then encountered an extended period of temperatures in the high 90s °F (32++ °C). The pepper blossoms dropped and growth essentially stopped.


Finally, the hot weather broke and we have had temperate, almost typical NE summer weather, although a bit dry. The peppers are now growing and blossoming again and I am getting some new fruit set. This post is a request to the weather gods for another month or two of summer-like weather so I can see my pepper experiment to completion. Here’s some of the supporting evidence for the request.




Above is an Aconcagua pepper, an Argentinian heirloom that produces long, Cubanelle-type peppers for frying. Last year these were stunted and didn’t produce a single fruit. This year I have harvested a few small peppers, but now the plants have achieved enough size and are starting to flower again and set fruit. It would be nice to have a basket of these in the kitchen.




My Jimmy Nardello peppers above have been the most productive and definitely are on the list for next year. I’m letting a few of these completely ripen so I can try drying them ristra-style. After the first flush of peppers, they are starting to blossom again and it would sure be nice to add a few more to my ristra.




These are my Lipstick peppers and you can see another one starting to ripen. This is a small, corno di toro type pepper bred by Johnny's to ripen early in short season areas like NE. It is a thick-walled red pepper, ideal for preserving, and I wanted to try the method Michelle mentioned, developed by Hank Shaw. So far, not enough peppers to try this. If the weather gods grant my wish, I may get enough from my four plants to actually try this method. The plants are blooming again and setting fruit.




My Tiburon ancho chilies above (an F1 hybrid poblano from Johnny’s) are now huge, 3 feet tall, and starting to blossom and set fruit again. I had a few peppers early but most of them had rotten spots. The new crop look great and all I need is another month or two of summer so I can finally make some chiles Rellenos from fresh peppers. It would be even nicer to be able to freeze an extra bag of the stuffed peppers for the winter.




The Pimiento de Padron peppers above gave me a small harvest early on, enough for my wife and I to have a couple of treats. They are now starting to flower again and I sure would like to have some more of these.


So, all I need from the weather gods is 4-6 weeks more of moderate weather, with no heat extremes or really cold nights, please. And none of the usual tricks, like a killing frost the end of September followed by 4 weeks of balmy Indian summer weather in October!

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