Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gardening: long overdue update

OK, just because I've been silent on the garden front doesn't mean nothings happening out there, just that I've been lazy remiss about recording the goings on.

It's well into summer heat here with morning lows in the mid 70's and daily highs in the low to mid 90's. That's normal climate for us but it still seems pretty mild this year compared to last year at this time when much of the country was stuck under a persistent high and regularly hitting the 100's. (Of course this mass oppression was happening just as I started off on another trip.) This means the cool weather crops are done and none highlighted this more so than the spinach and two different leaf lettuces.

In general I think my 'crops' got a late start, even those started inside under the grow lamp, because of a very cool spring which had us seeing night time temps well below 50 weeks after last frost. At least that's what I'm blaming for the mediocre results from several of the plants. I think maybe my results would have been a little better is I had reversed the day cycle on the grow light and kept it on overnight, turning it off for a few hours of rest during the day. This would probably have kept the plants warmer during the nights which were dropping into the 40's and even high 30's once in a while.

As it was, the spinach never had a chance to mature to the point of good firm leaves before the heat caused it to bolt. I got several harvests of spinachy tasting though floppy leaves but was never able to get beyond the floppy stage before they bolted and I cut them off at the knees as lost causes.

The Bronze Mignonette lettuce also stayed very floppy with some harvests of very thin, almost tasteless leaves. It never bolted in the heat but more-or-less just faded away. I have seeds left but I don't think I'm going to try this variety next season. There's so many others out there to try.

The Buttercrunch lettuce also never really firmed up and it bolted big time once the heat set in. Though it was susceptible to insect pests it grew well enough and I harvested a fair amount of it. This one might make it into the next season's lineup but probably under row-cover to cut back on the number of insects harvesting it before I can get there. The stems were about 3/4 of an inch in diameter at the base when I cut them off and one has stubornly decided to send up a new plant. Since I don't have anything else going in this slot I'm going to just leave it alone and see what happens.

I keep thinking the onion leaves are going to fall over and brown off any day, but they keep going. Once they do give up I'll pull the bulbs, dry them and see what we ended up with. This is Texas Sweet which is supposed to be a good, and unregulated, substitute for the highly publicized Vadail that comes out of Georgia. To prove the sweetness I harvested one bulb and ate it like an apple. Pretty good!

The Chard, being one of those heat lovers, is doing well though the leaves have grown past the 'eating raw' stage and must now undergo a little cooking to knock down the bitterness. This variety is Bright Lights which is supposed to have bright red stems and veins but we have only seen a hint of that so far.

The carrots have done better than I expected. The Danvers, over on the left, are seriously browned off now but the carrots below aren't bad. The Little Fingers on the right are doing better but still showing signs of stress. I pull one or two of each, rinse them under the hose, bite off the pointy tap root and nibble on them as I check the garden in the morning. (Don't tell the wife who would freak out if she knew I wasn't scrubbing them down with soap before eating!)

The potato experiment, where on a whim I planted a sprouting potato from the grocery store, continues but I won't know how well it's going until the top browns off and I dig in to see what's been happening below.

I did throw the rest of the sprouting potatoes, a batch of organics we bought that had been out of the ground just a little too long, out into the compost pile and there are now a half dozen, completely neglected but still decent looking plants growing out there as well.

Next summer, assuming I don't end up with plans that will take me away for much of it, unlike this summer, we are going to try sweet potatoes, of which we eat a lot. They are a tropical plant and like the heat so should help fill in the summer garden.

Just because I had empty space where the lettuces and spinach was, I threw down a few bean and squash seeds. Both seem to be doing pretty well but only time will tell if they produce anything.

So far the zucchini has been a bust. It has been producing fruits but they just end up rotting away before they grow as you can see. (The large one is only about an inch in diameter.) As some rot others start growing farther down the stem so I'm just leaving it alone to see if there is any change in attitude here.

The cucumber on the other hand can't seem to get going. it has set a lot of very tiny little fruits but they never grow more than an inch long before drying up and falling off. The dang thing continues to send out tentacles so this is another one I'm just leaving alone.

The yellow pepper has been setting and growing lots of peppers but none have matured beyond the green stage yet. As green peppers are not very welcome at our table I'm leaving these go in the hopes of yellow in the future.

The tomatoes have been a mixed bag.

The Flordade, which has supposedly been bred for a climate like ours, has produced one stunted plant that has set a single fruit which is still very green. This is a red variety so it will get left on the vine to see what happens.

The Beefsteak is almost as tall as the greenhouse will let it grow and has had lots of blossoms, but has yet to set a single fruit. I think this one is a bust.

The yellow pear is doing pretty well. So far the fruits, about the size of a ping-pong ball, have had a very mild tomatoey taste so I'm letting the rest go until they fall off into my hand to see if the taste gets stronger. If it doesn't, good grower or not, it probably won't make next year's garden.

 The Cherokee Purple has also been doing well with lots of fruits though none of them have matured to harvest yet.

So there you have the latest from the garden. Mixed results but, if nothing else, we have been providing habitat and both web building and hunting spiders are among those taking advantage.

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