Sunday, August 24, 2008

Garden Notes

Early this morning I picked a nice mess of green beans. Once again this year I planted the variety 'Provider.' A bush bean, Provider bean pods are long and straight with small seeds and a nice flavor. My only complaint is I wish the plants were a bit stronger and would hold the mature beans more upright. Even though it would be easier to pick the beans off plants that stayed upright, at least with the garden boxes the beans are held up off the ground and stay very clean. The beans are simmering now with some fresh onion and the aroma is nothing less than heavenly!

A few more tomatoes were also ready, and we now have pretty ones in addition to the less attractive heirlooms. Another discovery yesterday were some ripe cantaloupe. I didn't so much pick them as pick them up. They were lying in the garden already detached from their vines. I'm glad I decided to check on the melons and discovered the self-harvested fruit before they started to rot. The standard sized cantaloupe on the left I believe is Ambrosia' (although I can no longer find the plant tag) and the personal-sized melons are 'Loupey-Lou.' I can't wait to see how they taste!

Today I made a decision to remove the Brussels sprouts plants. All season long I have been fighting worms and bugs on these plants. The sprouts weren't growing very quickly, and I decided I didn't want to eat anything I had to put so much Sevin dust on anyway. I might try Brussels sprouts again next week as a fall crop, or an earlier spring crop, but I sure wasn't happy with them this year.

The garden box which had held zucchini and cucumbers earlier in the year now have some little sprouts of spinach poking up from seeds I planted about a week ago. I guess that even though some of the garden is winding down, I'm not quite ready to give up on gardening for the year.

Soon I will cut seed pods off the lettuce and radish plants I allowed to go to seed. I have also collected seed from the banana peppers and acorn squash. Can you tell I am already thinking about next year's garden?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ugly Tomatoes

At long last, and after a setback or two, the tomatoes are finally starting to ripen. The first to start turning red are some of the heirloom tomatoes I planted. I must say, these are not the prettiest of tomatoes. Having said that, let me add that in my opinion, these tomatoes taste really, really good. Think about it. Many of the pretty, uniform, picture perfect tomatoes available today look good, but lack the old fashioned tomato taste we look forward to every year. This is because so many of them are hybrid varieties, genetically designed to look good and travel well. Many of them have been bred so that all the tomatoes on the vine ripen at the same time, making it easier to pick and preserve them. Hybrid varieties may have their place in the home garden, but I'll never grow them exclusively. Heirloom varieties on the other hand are just what they are. Good, old fashioned tomatoes are not always big on outside appearance, but are straightforward and unpretentious, offering up honest tomato taste. Who would bother to save the seeds of an ugly tomato year after year, from generation to generation, if they didn't grow well and taste great? Given the choice, I'll take an ugly, great tasting tomato any day over the cover girl variety that is all glam and no substance. If you would like to make room in your garden for some heirloom varieties, ask a friend to share some seeds, or check out the heirloom section of your favorite garden catalog. One of my favorite catalogs is "Totally Tomatoes." I haven't yet visited their website, preferring the paper catalog, but their web address is I also like to look for unusual heirloom tomatoes at my local farmer's market. Many growers specialize in heirlooms. If you find a variety you particularly like, save some of the seeds to grow in your own garden next year. Give an ugly tomato a chance. I don't think you'll regret it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fall is Just Around the Corner

How do I know? Here are some of the signs.

There are some pretty good looking apples on the old apple tree.

The resurrection lilies are putting on a show!

The gray dogwood shrubs are sporting these lovely blue berries. I don't think they are edible, but aren't they a pretty shade of blue? They dry nicely for use in crafts.

The sedum are getting ready to bloom and will add some fall color to the yard. In only a few weeks they'll be sporting shades of pink and red.

And last but not least, the State Fair is always a sign that summer is coming to a close. As always, summer flew by too quickly.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Gifts from the Garden

For all the rewards of growing a garden, there are also disappointments. Sometimes gardening can be downright humbling. For example, today I spent some time looking over the tomato plants for signs of ripening tomatoes, and just to see what needed to be done. I noticed that the husky red tomato plants were so husky that in some cases they were smashing their own fruit. All summer long I have talked about what beautiful plants these were and felt they were doing fine. Now that it is too late, I see where I should have staked up stems or pruned away suckers. In trying to make up for it now, I popped 3 nice green tomatoes off the plant. If I would have noticed the need for this 3 or 4 weeks ago, I would not have had this problem. As it is, it looks like we'll be enjoying some fried green tomatoes for dinner.

Some things to add to my do's and don'ts list for next summer:
  1. Don't be afraid to use some Sevin dust (after the plants have finished blooming) on the squash vines;
  2. Do space the garden boxes further apart. Consider some kind of climbing supports for the cantaloupe and cucumbers;
  3. Don't mix different types of plants in the boxes;
  4. Do be more diligent about tying the tomato plants to the stakes.

For all the rewards of gardening, it is also a lot of work. I think that sometimes, people who do not have gardens feel like homegrown vegetables have no cost. The extra tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash your gardening friends share with you aren't really free, however. It takes a lot of planning, sweat, and hard work to have a successful garden. Seeds, plants, soil, chemicals, mulch, fertilizer, and sometimes even water, must be paid for. We gardeners feel these cost are justified and that it is worth the expense to know where our food comes from. We like the ability to be able to enjoy our vegetables fresh from the garden. We have the freedom to choose the varieties of food we grow and eat, and the peace of mind that our harvest is safe. We like to share with our friends and neighbors because we are rightfully proud of our harvest. So, if you know a gardener who offers to share some gifts from their garden with you, be sure to remember the hard work behind the harvest, and smile because they are happy to share their harvest with you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's a start!

Here they are . . . the first official homegrown, ripe tomatoes from our garden! We have some large tomatoes which are starting to turn red as well. All of this hot weather is paying off at last.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Chicken Tomatoes

What are chicken tomatoes? Tomatoes the chickens planted, of course. Last year, our small flock of poultry enjoyed overripe tomatoes from our garden. Nature ran its course, and now the spot where the chicken pen sat last year looks like a miniature jungle. Not only are there a variety of very healthy volunteer tomatoes, you'll also spot the odd ear of corn (and of course, some weeds). Early this spring we began to see the volunteer tomatoes popping up all over the place near the chicken pen. Even though we realized they are not in a sunny area, we knew the soil there was very fertile--also compliments of the chickens--and decided to leave the plants alone and see what happened. Now, several of the plants are covered with small green tomatoes. I doubt we'll get a whole lot of high quality tomatoes from the chickens' plants because of the low light and overcrowded conditions, but you never know! If nothing else, I am sure the chickens will enjoy the fruits of their labors.

Below is a picture I snapped on impulse this evening. The end of the large flower garden is a bit weedy around the crabapple tree, but I couldn't help but be impressed by nature's colorful display. Technically, the Queen Anne's lace is a weed I suppose, but it sure compliments the purple coneflower and black-eyed Susans. I am going to be sure and pull the wild morning glory vine, however. I hate those things!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Photo Album

Here are a few pictures I snapped this afternoon. First are a couple of pictures of an heirloom tomato planted from seeds I brought home from Buffalo Springs Herb Farm. I don't know the variety because they are from seeds I took out of some tomato slices served to us at a luncheon that I put onto a napkin and saved! They may be "Mr. Stripey" judging from the stripes on the shoulders. I can't wait to see how they look when they are ripe, and I especially can't wait to taste them. These will be a good sized tomato.
Next is one of the ice box melons that are coming along very nicely. The vines have grown way out of the garden boxes and are all over the garden. It is really hard to walk between the boxes to fill the water reservoirs without stepping on a vine! We also have two varieties of cantaloupe growing, Ambrosia and Loupey-Lou.

Worth the Wait

At long last, the first batch of green beans has been picked. There were only a few, but many more will be ready for harvest in only a few days. We will enjoy these cooked with some crisp bacon and a sweet onion from the garden. On the flip side, the zucchini has bitten the dust, victim to the squash vine borer. Despite my best efforts, I could not save the plant. This may be the only year I am ever able to say I didn't get enough zucchini! Something else has been chewing on the Brussels sprouts, and we pulled a nasty tomato horn worm off one of the yellow bell pepper plants, but not before it did quite a bit of damage. I do think it will bounce back, however, at least I hope so. Despite my wishes to stay organic, I broke down and got some liquid Sevin and sprayed the sprouts and also the eggplant which was being attacked by flea beetles. The tomatoes are growing and look great, but are still green. Some of the tomatoes are really interesting looking with striping at the shoulders and I really must take some pictures of them as they ripen.

Oh, my! It looks like someone left their shoes out by the back door for too long!