Monday, August 26, 2013

Harvest Monday–26 August 2013



The Sunburst squash is continuing to produce a good supply of sunny yellow patty pans, but you wonder if it was named after the color of the fruit or the exuberance of its flowers. The other story in this picture is the persistence of the powdery mildew this year. I have sprayed with various organic-approved concoctions including Green Cure and Serenade, but the strain of mildew this year seems resistant to everything and does not go away and it is affecting even the “resistant” varieties like Dunja and Summer Dance.




Despite the powdery mildew plaguing most of the squash and cucurbits, I recorded four firsts this week: from the left, first Dunja zucchini, first Summer Dance cuke, first Green Fingers, and first Jackson Classic pickler, with more on the way if I can keep the vines healthy. The Crystal Apple cucumber has also set several fruit so I should be able to try those soon.




Every couple of days now I am picking a large pile of beans, so I won’t show all of them. Above are the four types of bean I am growing this year. Top from left: Provider bush, Trionfo Violetto pole, and Fortex pole. On the bottom are the Jade beans which are just now coming into production after almost all of the first planting failed to germinate. In this photo you can see the difference in color from Provider and Fortex. Jade is a much darker green and one of my favorites. Below is a close up of Jade (top) and Provider.




With all these beans coming in, there is pressure to do something to preserve them, even though a lot still go to the local food pantry. I don’t like freezing them. It’s a lot of work blanching them and I don’t like the mushy texture or even the taste, even when I vacuum sealed them. Forget canning them. Dilly beans are on my wish list but will probably not happen. I do make batches of stewed beans and tomatoes and freeze them, which works well. But then I ran across this article on freezing beans without blanching. It is simple enough, just trim the beans and throw in a zippered freezer bag.  I am trying this method this year as an experiment. I am also labeling the variety of bean so I can compare which type freezes better. Now I just hope we don’t have another week-long power failure this winter.


Finally, the Beedy’s Camden kale is prolific this year and is being used in many creative ways. My garden neighbor mentioned using it in a “massaged kale salad” and said her kids, who are otherwise allergic to the color green, like this salad. She described sprinkling chopped kale with salt and lemon juice and “massaging” it for 5 minutes, then adding olive oil. I’ll leave it to your imagination how you massage kale leaves, but I did try this classic method and it was very good. If you search the Internet for “massaged kale salad” you will find dozens of variations that can even turn it into a more substantial main dish. So there’s hope in getting through piles of kale like the one below.




This is a sampling of what came from my garden last week. Check out what other gardeners around the world are doing in their gardens by heading over to Daphne’s Dandelions, out host for Harvest Monday.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Harvest Monday–19 August 2013



The garden is in a weird place, somewhere between spring crops and summer crops. The lettuces and greens are gone, except for kale and chard, but a lot of the summer crops are not ready yet even though it is mid-August. Above is a Sunburst squash which is finally producing but the zucchinis are just starting to flower. The cucumbers have lots of flowers and bee activity but only the Summer Dance has set even a single fruit. The tomatoes and peppers produced an early flush of fruit but the weeks of hot weather caused them to drop flowers. Only now after a couple of weeks of moderate temperatures have they started to show signs of growth and new flower buds. The garden is starting to look promising again but I think I will run out of time unless we have a very warm fall.


The Red Bull onions fell over, several weeks after the Copra onions, and I pulled them last week. They were a nice size and I’m pleased with the harvest. The onions are now drying in a tub on the back porch where they will be out of any rain.




Other harvests included beans, kale and the Sunburst squash. I finally got to taste the Trionfo Violetto beans. The texture is firm with a nutty flavor. I liked them a lot and will probably plant them again next year. They are way ahead of the Fortex beans planted at the same time.






So while I am waiting for the squash and cucumbers to start producing, I’m planting fall crops as I clean out the beds. I have peas, radish, turnip and spinach seed planted and I have started broccoli, lettuce, choi, and kohlrabi in cell packs. The days are getting shorter and the nights cooler. Just hope these new plants get established soon.


That’s what is going on in my garden. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their garden, take a trip to Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tower Hill Garden Tour



This is Coleus Henna, part of the foundation plantings in a shady courtyard outside the Farmhouse at Tower Hill Botanical Garden. It’s beautiful but can you eat it? We were at Tower Hill to take a guided tour of the Vegetable Garden and vegetables were on my mind. Turns out you can eat some Coleus and it is actually a member of the mint family. It is also used as an herb in some eastern medicines.


The tour was conducted by Dawn Davies, Curator of the Vegetable Garden. She has the fun job of planning the garden and selecting the varieties, based on an annual theme. The Garden pays for the seeds and provides her interns to do the dirty work of weeding and picking insects. The garden theme this year was Cultivating Taste. Good taste in vegetables is certainly important and gardeners learn to do it by selecting cultivars, adjusting growing conditions, and timing the harvest.


The tour through the garden was very thorough, with Ms. Davies stopping at each of the beds to discuss what was planted and pointing out the characteristics of each plant and why it was selected for the garden. She even did what we couldn’t do but wanted to, she pulled beets, carrots and radishes out of the ground and picked some of the fruits for us to inspect. Since this is a demo garden and appearance is important, many of the varieties chosen for the garden were very colorful and attractive, just like the coleus.


Their garden is behind where it was last year, just like mine. One of the fruits she showed us was a Summer Dance cucumber, which I also grow. Here it is mid-August and that was the first cucumber from the Summer Dance vines at Tower Hill garden, run by a professional horticulturist! I’m happy that one of my vines has finally set a fruit, but unhappy to note that the vine right next to it just died from bacterial wilt.


What I particularly like about visiting Tower Hill is the chance to see new and interesting plants actually growing in a realistic garden setting, unlike the picture-perfect vegetables displayed in the seed catalogs, For example, unlike the catalog photos, every single Cherokee Purple  tomato I have grown has been butt ugly, but I don’t mind because of their taste. The curator of this garden is always looking for new and attractive varieties to try and you get to see the results in the field.


I mentioned some plants that I found really striking in an earlier post here. Below are some additional vegetables that Ms. Davies showed us that I particularly liked, with sources for the seed. I apologize for the lack of photos but we were in a large group and I didn’t have the opportunity to take any.


  • Radish Bora King (Territorial) – A radish is a radish and not particularly noticeable when you just stroll around the garden. But when she pulled one from the ground, it was a stunner. Bora King is a very large, elongated, plum-colored radish. She says it remains juicy and pith-free even at its large size and has a mild radish flavor. She was excited to find seed for it because Roger Swain used to grow these on Victory Garden but she could never find seed. This is a new offering from Territorial in 2013.
  • Onion Shimonita (Territorial) – This is a bunching onion from Japan. It is striking because it looks like a leek, short and squat with a thick white stem and blue-green tubular foliage. It is very mild and can be pulled young for scallions. Or, given enough room and left to mature, it produces a thick white leek-shaped onion.
  • Tomato Absinthe – This is a green-when-ripe tomato that was grown next to an Aunt Ruby’s German Green tomato. It was by far more robust than ARGG and the fruits larger and more attractive, which caught my eye. Turns out this tomato was bred by Alan Bishop about 2000, a cross between Emeraude, Aunt Ruby's, and Brandywine tomatoes. From the reviews I’ve read the flavor is great and productivity good. You won’t find this one carried by the large seed vendors. Look for it among the small companies that specialize in heirloom tomatoes.
  • Garlic Leningrad – Their garlic was harvested in mid-July but we were shown examples of some of the garlics grown. The knockout was a variety called Leningrad. It produces huge white bulbs which she said were even larger last year. Leningrad is a porcelain garlic with white wrapper and purple-striped cloves and excellent flavor, starting out hot and mellowing at the finish. Ms. Davies said you could spot it from a distance because the very large plants towered over the other garlics. A number of garlic vendors carry Leningrad.
  • Lemongrass – Ms. Davies showed us lemongrass planted in among lemon basil and eggplants. It was grown from seed, which surprised me. I thought lemongrass had to be grown from divisions, but you can indeed buy seeds from Baker Creek and other vendors. I’m not sure it survives winters here but if you can get it to useable size during our growing season, it may be worth trying. The trick is going to be getting it to germinate and grow. The seeds require heat, humidity and light to germinate and can take 10-90 days to germinate.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Harvest Monday–12 August 2013




The Trionfo Violetto pole bean finally has set some beans. This is the first of significant size but I should be able to start picking this week. The beans are a dusty purple color when mature but they start out green. You can see two immature beans above, the smaller one is green except for the tip and the seam. As it matures, it starts turning purple in patches. The shape is flattened, not round, and I sure hope I like them because it looks like I am going to get a lot.




The picture above has my first Sunburst patty pan at the bottom. At the top, the large tomato is my one and only Pineapple heirloom, with some splits due to the recent rain. The first fruit had a bad patch of BER and rotted so I removed it. The weeks of high 90s heat caused most of the larger tomatoes to drop their flowers. Ditto for the peppers. They are starting to flower again, so all I need is two or three more months of summer weather and some sunshine.




Some chard/silverbeet and another batch of Boro beets.




The mustards started bolting so I am harvesting what I can from them. I need to start some more and replant for the fall. The nice thing about kale and collard is that they are essentially biennials and need a winter before they bolt, so I can continue to harvest through the warm weather right into late fall.


I am cleaning up some of the beds and getting them ready for fall planting. I have lettuce, broccoli and kohlrabi seeds started and need to get more beets, carrots and turnips seeded into the garden. The Red Bull onions have dropped and need to be pulled before it rains again. They went at least two weeks longer than the Copra onions and it looks like there are some good sized ones.


Thanks for stopping by. To see what other gardeners around the world are harvesting from their gardens, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Allium Update



I finally finished cleaning the last batch of garlic. These are Red Chesnok, a Middle Eastern hardneck variety from Georgia. This variety is supposed to be especially good for baking (or how about a batch of Freddy’s Roast Potatoes). Each head has 6-7 large cloves and a few smaller ones. Last year when planting these, I got 45 cloves from a half pound of seed garlic. In contrast, the German Extra Hardy garlic has larger cloves, just 5-6 per head, and yielded 24 cloves from a half pound.


I harvested 2.5 pounds of Red Chesnok and 2 pounds of German Extra Hardy. That’s 4.5 pounds from a pound of seed garlic. A half pound of each was set aside for seed garlic for this fall. I did not weigh the Chesnok bulbs because there was such variability. But I did weigh some of the bulbs of the German garlic. The largest was 1.5 ounces, but most were 1.3 or 1.4 ounces. If you assume an average of 1.35 ounces per bulb times 24 cloves planted, I should have gotten 2 pounds, which is exactly what I did harvest. So knowing the average bulb weight and the number of cloves planted, I can roughly predict what my harvest should be next year.




Finally, I cleaned up the Copra yellow onions that were drying on the back porch. From 6 square feet I harvested 8.75 pounds of onions. That might last me a couple of months. Given how cheap onions are in the stores, I ‘m not sure it is worth the effort and space to grow them given my small garden. Maybe I should try growing a sweet onion instead. Red onions are another matter. They are more of a specialty item used for salads and certain cooking versus a utility item like yellow onions. I grew a few last year and it was a treat to have a red onion available any time I needed one. This year I grew 5 squares of Red Bull onions and they are now starting to fall over. Pulling them is on the task list for next week.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Harvest Monday - 5 August 2013



The Trionfo Violetto pole bean is vigorous and attractive with its prolific purple flowers, leaf veins and stems, but so far I am waiting for a few beans to sample them. Fortex is only half the height now though planted at the same time. At least the always reliable Provider bush beans are producing, and the Jade beans are not far behind even though I had to completely re-seed them. Below are Provider beans with an assortment of tomatoes, including a small Big Beef, a couple of Gilbertie, and a Striped Roman on the right.




Some Golden and Boro red beets with  peppers and beans.




I finally pulled all of the Copra yellow onions and they are now drying on the back porch. They are not as large as I would like but I am still pleased.




The Beedy’s Camden kale is being its prolific self. It is shading my carrots but it grows back as fast as I trim it. My MIL is visiting from Mississippi so I also cut some collards. She has been enjoying the variety of greens coming from the garden and is helping me eat them up.




More beans and shoots. My mustard is now deciding to bolt after the 2 weeks of hot weather so I am snapping off the flower stalks and throwing them in the stir fry with the broccoli shoots.




Another assortment of peppers and tomatoes. I got my first Green Zebra tomato. I think it was ripe, it was yellower than the photo shows. Kind of tangy, would be a good salad tomato. My two small Cherokee Purple tomatoes were coloring up so I picked them. Both were so badly split they were spilling their insides, so I did not photograph them. The plant, a $9 grafted plant, is only two feet tall, a real disappointment. I thought, that’s it for CP, I’m done with it. I sliced off some pieces to salvage what I could and we had a little taste test with the Green Zebra. Wow, what an excellent tomato flavor the CP has, no wonder I have been planting it every year in the hopes I get a few. The Juliet tomato, however, is as amazing and reliable as ever. The early, heavy fruit set is now ripening, but the plant is still adding height and setting new fruit. The plant is healthy and the tomatoes have been BER and crack resistant.




The rest of the garden seems to be in slow motion. The summer squash and cucumbers are finally starting to grow and put on some size. The Sunburst is now flowering but just male flowers at this time. The Green Finger cucumber is also flowering but no fruit so far. The peppers I am harvesting are from the initial fruit set. The hot weather shut them down but a few are starting to flower again. Since we had Fall-like weather the past few days and you can tell the sun is now lower in the sky, it makes me wonder if I will get anything before cold weather shuts down the warm weather crops.


That is what happened in my garden last week. To see what other gardeners around the world are doing in their gardens, head over to Daphne’s Dandelions.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Baker Creek Update

During my trip to southwest Missouri in late June, I had the opportunity to visit Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri. Mansfield also happens to be the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House on The Prairie (LHOP) books. The house where she wrote the books is now a museum. And Baker Creek Seeds has a simulated pioneer village that is free for visitors.


My grandniece, Bailey, is a big LHOP fan, as are several of her friends. They formed a LHOP fan club and have meetings where they read and discuss the books. I visited Baker Creek with her mother, my niece Cheryl, who thought a trip to Mansfield would be a great summertime field trip for the girls and was able to make it happen this week. On top of all that, they actually met Jere and Emilee Gettle, the owners of Baker Creek Seeds, in the village restaurant, which really makes me envious I wasn’t there.


It was a beautiful day and the girls had a great time. This is my niece, Bailey, on the right with a friend, posing in the village square. Although the perspective of the photo masks it, the site is quite hilly. The retaining wall in the background encloses the demonstration garden and you can see the hotel, mercantile store and apothecary buildings behind it.




The mercantile store carries dry goods, including bolts of cloth and patterns. They also feature hand made textile item like these country dresses the girls are trying on. Bailey bought the dress she is wearing with the profits from her lemonade stand, which should make club meetings more fun.




If you are planning a trip to Branson and have a LHOP fan in your family, consider allowing a day for a side trip to Mansfield to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and the Baker Creek Pioneer Village. It’s well worth the time.

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