Thursday, August 20, 2009

Too Busy to Post

Obviously, I have neglected this blog! I've been busy in the garden and with many other adventures, including a week of horse-camping in southern Wyoming.

The garden is going great, and we are learning a lot. There are quite a few things we'll do differently next year, but all in all, we are very happy with the results of all our labor. We've been enjoying many vegetables and sharing extras with others, as well as learning to can, dry, freeze and preserve whatever we can for the winter months.

The icky fungus that was in the garden has been gone for some time. We've found cabbageworms in the broccoli and tomato hornworms on the tomato plants, earwigs in the ears of corn, and we are working on controlling them organically with neem oil spray and garlic-pepper spray. I guess I hadn't believed the bad bugs would find us, but they did--I should have been more proactive about preventing their arrival (garlic spray, for one). Next year!

The roma tomatoes are weighing down the vines and sagging from their heaviness. I should have done better at staking them, I suppose, and next year will plant them farther apart, perhaps with more beneficial companion plants interspersed. I've made a couple of batches of marinara sauce from them and am amazed at the amount of work and cooking that goes into one pot of sauce! The cherry tomatoes are prolific as well, and the brandywines are finally ripening. Unfortunately, most of the brandywines have deep cracks in the top, apparently due to inconsistent watering from a few heavy rainstorms (per one of my books).

The pepper plants are doing fairly well, and I'm waiting for the red peppers to turn red. So far they are getting bigger but still green. I made some pretty good chiles rellenos out of the ancho peppers, and am experimenting to find the best way of canning the pepperoncinis. The first batch came out mushy, so I'm looking into lacto-fermentation with salt & vinegar (not cooking) for my next experiment. That may be today. The jalapenos are going into the freezer.

The summer squash has been good. Three of the plants shriveled up, but I still have plenty of squash on the others. The trick is to cut them quick, while they're small, or I end up with monsters. I've made a couple of roasted vegetable lasagnas with them, which are delicious, and have experimented with drying them as well.

The corn is coming out now, a couple of ears at a time--just enough for dinner for two. A couple of the ears were "bonus ears" with one large ear and another small one on the side, growing inside the husk. I never saw anything like that before. Last night I had my first bad ear of corn--the kernels were small and only about half the ear had kernels at all. Win some, lose some, I guess.

The basil, oregano, thyme and sage are all doing well. The basil is especially delicious. Today I plan to prune it way back and freeze and dry the harvest. The cilantro was great for the first batch, but the second batch I planted was taken over by the prolific oregano and didn't have a chance. I'm planting more now and will hopefully have another harvest before it gets too cold.

Some of the flowers I planted got way bigger than I'd expected and are taking over. The calendula were pretty for a while, but I've pulled them all out after they got big and lanky with not many flowers.

There's plenty of winter squash growing, and I'll have to figure out when they are ready to pick. I've got cucumbers, both lemon and Japanese burpless. They are in the same bed as the peas, snow and sugar snap. The snow peas aren't doing as well, and I forget to pick them when they're small and tender--there's never enough for a meal, so I just eat 'em fresh. The sugar peas are better and I think I'll limit myself to those next year.

The lettuce did well, but there was too much at one time. I gave a lot away. Same for spinach. In mid-summer these aren't doing so great, I pulled up most of them, but I'm planting more now for later.

The celery looks real beautiful but tastes awful. I had read that it might not do well in this climate. When it looked so good I thought that the warning might be inaccurate, but perhaps this is why. I guess it's too hot here??? Anyway, I've thrown some away, some of the better stuff is in the refrigerator in case I decide to eat it, but it isn't enjoyable eating. Bitter and tough. I end up spitting out the strings. I'm trying to blanch some of the remaining celery to see if that helps, but with celery so cheap at the grocery store I'm certainly not going to grow it again.

I harvested my first batch of rutabegas, and planted some more seeds but they didn't make it. I've just planted more in some soil blocks to give them a better start for a fall crop, along with more broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, lettuce & spinach.

The onions are doing very well, and I hope I can successfully store them to last a long time! I'm also looking forward to the garlic, and apparently soon will be the time to plant another crop for next spring's harvest.

The strawberries did not do well. Perhaps next year I'll get a different variety and/or plant them differently, possibly in a different location. Perhaps they need more acidic soil. I did not test the soil before planting or do anything to add acid.

Whew! I think that's a pretty good overview of the crops.

After some repair issues with the tractor, Tim is getting our compost bins situated, so we can have good compost for our spring planting. With the horse manure, garden waste & kitchen scraps, we should be able to get a good amount of compost cooking. Next we plan to work on sheet mulching the rest of the garden space to prepare for next year. We will expand, spread things out a bit more, plant more of some things and less of others, rotate our crops, plant some fruit trees and vines, and definitely more corn!

Maybe next month I'll get around to posting again, and maybe I'll add some photos.