Moist

I’ve read that “moist” is one of the most hated words in the English language. This summer I’m starting to understand why. The moist weather and moist air are a bother for some crops. The trouble I am having with my onions has only gotten worse.

Black Onions

All of the yellow Spanish onions lost so much foliage I finished pulling them all this weekend. The red ones seem to be more resistant but they’re succumbing, too. It was disgusting. Every time I touched them clouds of black spores would billow up. They are curing in trays under the umbrella on the deck and I’m hoping this won’t affect their storing abilities. I have no idea. 2014’s last onion is sitting on the counter waiting to be used.

The garlic was infected with something, too so I’m not exactly sure if it was ready to harvest or not. I knew it was getting close so I dug it all in one session. Last year we had too much and this year there is even more! I need to look back in my records and see how much I grew back when we didn’t have enough and figure out a compromise.

Tomato Stems

The tomatoes aren’t liking it so moist, either. Back when they were just big enough to do so I started plucking off the lower leaves that were showing signs of disease. Fungal spores can splash their way incrementally up a tomato plant from the ground. That’s why I use straw mulch instead of leaves from the community pile. I eventually had them limbed up pretty well—think miniskirt instead of ball gown. They’re still yellowing and spotty.

The last several years August has turned dry. I’m sort of hoping that happens again, although it’s too late for the onions and the tomatoes appear to be robust enough. The other crops don’t seem to have any complaints about the moisture. Some things I grow are absolutely loving it, but that’s a topic I’m working on for a future post.

Fascinating But Annoying

I was just outside on the deck and noticed something flying around the mason bee hotel. Since the tubes are almost all occupied I was curious who might be looking for a place to live. As I watched I saw a small wasp climbing around on the outside of the bamboo carefully inspecting them with her antennae. Then she assumed a rather arched posture and I assumed the worst.

Ovipositing

Yup, somebody’s laying eggs! If you look closely you can count her six tan feet versus one black, evil (if you’re the poor, parasitized pupa inside) ovipositor.

Bamboo Crack

When I looked around the other side I could clearly see the crack she had discovered and was exploiting. It’s a flaw in the fortress that will probably cost more than one mason be his or her life. Bummer. Yet it’s fascinating. This makes me think I should be changing out the bamboo each year. Replacing it will not only lessen the occurrence of vulnerable cracks, but also reduce the buildup of parasitic mites.

Seems there’s always something going on.

Waffling Leekily

I haven’t done a cooking post in I don’t know how long. Seriously, I don’t even care to look back to see when that was. If you’re up to it, knock yourself out and report back here. There are three very good reasons it’s been this long. First, I can’t take a decent food photo to save my life. Second, I was coming to hate our kitchen countertop where food tended to be viewed. Third, we have a tendency to want to eat what we’ve made fairly soon after it’s cooked so taking time to get an image is not always an option. It’s only reasonable.

Then an idea entered my foodosphere. I’ve encountered menus with waffles that aren’t your  usual syrup-soaked breakfast affair before, but they never really clicked. In a period of less than a week I encountered enough references to savory waffles that the concept finally sparked in my brain and I decided it was A Thing I wanted to try.

Leek Waffles

The opportunity came one evening when I was making a Greek beet salad that was heavy on the allspice. It needed something to go with it. A little whole wheat waffle/pancake mix, some sliced leeks, a healthy dose of grated parmesan and there we were. They were a little more flat than I’d hoped and the flavors were a bit “International”, but it’s a start.

The food was delicious, the new countertop made a decent background, and I got to take off in a new direction in the kitchen. I’ve collected a decent handful of recipes to refer to in my future waffling experiments and hope to be incorporating even more of the produce that’s coming from the garden.

Have you messed around with savory waffles? Share your experiences, ideas and suggestions in the comments!

A New Way to Stake Tomatoes?

I made the title a question because I don’t actually know if this is the original, brilliant, ingenious method I’d like to think it is. In any case, I was thinking about the different ways gardeners keep their tomatoes up off the ground. I found out early on that the little cages are just worthless. I quickly moved on to using individual stakes for each plant, pruning to one or two vines (at least at first) and tying them to the stake. It’s a bit laborious. I was considering moving to training vines up twine to save on the number of stakes I’d have to install but I’d still have to have a support structure that was even sturdier for the twine. Then I had something of a brainstorm. What if I gave each plant it’s own stake and twine? The whole step of knotting and cutting the support ties could be eliminated!

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I started with one of the wider stakes I have that was ripped from an old piece of cedar decking. I drilled a hole at the top…

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…and one at the bottom. I looped a length of heavy, non-stretching cord—clothesline, I think in this case—through the holes and tied snugly to lay flat against each side of the stake.

Starting to Train

When my test subjects were tall enough to start training I just pruned as usual and started to loop them around the cord. At first it was a bit random looking because the plants had leaned away from the stakes and I didn’t want to snap them by forcing them too far. With a cord on each side of the stake I can train two vines from one plant separately.

Totally Twisted

Now that they’re taller and I’ve made a few more turns making sure to hook the leaves around the cord. It looks like it’s actually going to work! I wish I’d done more than a few stakes, now. Not all my wooden stakes are wide enough to drill like this and still maintain their strength, but I think I could rig up something similar on them as well as the steel stakes I have. If this method continues to work, I might well be growing all my plants this way next year. It takes considerably less time to train up the plants.

Trouble in the Onion Patch

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I pulled the first onion today! It’s a good size and the top had definitely fallen down which is what I take as a signal to harvest. Lots of onion leaves are toppling.  Whether that’s a good thing, I’m in the process of looking up right now.

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There’s something that looks like a fungus attacking the leaves of the onions. It seems to be spreading from one area making me think it’s something that’s spreading by spores helped out by the near-daily showers we had in June and the cool weather that’s been hanging around. Preliminary investigations are leading me to believe we’re not going to be eating our own onions for a full year like we have been until now.

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I also took a leek in the garden Winking smile Every year I’ve been ignoring them until they’re big monsters so I’m making an effort to eat them as the season goes along. Fingers are crossed that this disease won’t attack them, too.

There was insect activity today, as usual. I’m slowly working at learning what some of them are and, more importantly, who’s a friend and who’s a fiend.

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An obvious friend was this bumble bee hard at work pollinating the tomatoes. Look at that load of pollen!

Bee on Cilantro

This little solitary bee was one of the critters feasting on the cilantro flowers. First, I hadn’t realized how pretty cilantro flowers were until I started looking at these pictures. Second, see her cute little tongue probing the bloom?

Bee on Cilantro 2

Here’s another angle so you can see how she carries pollen on her leg hairs, not all packed in a ball like the bumble bees and honey bees do.

Fly on Cilantro

This fly was visiting the abundant cilantro flowers, too. I can tell it’s a fly and not a bee because its eyes meet at the top of its head.

Bug on Cilantro

I almost didn’t notice this bug on the plants nestled between unopened buds. There were several of them just hanging out. I saw one on a pole bean tee-pee, too.

Grasshopper on Squash Leaf

This little grasshopper, on the other hand, was easy to spot on a squash leaf.

I’m really enjoying observing and trying to photograph the insects that I’m encountering in the garden. Discovering the burst mode on my phone’s camera has helped a bit in photographing them. It also means I have dozens more images to sort through to see if anything is in focus. There was an amazing fly with a ridiculously long nose working the cilantro blooms that I just couldn’t get because it was moving around so fast. That will be the next challenge to overcome.

For the time being I’m back to researching onion diseases. My fear is that they won’t keep as long as they would have otherwise or, even worse, they’ll need to be discarded right away. Wish me luck!

Tomato Color!

Two of my tomatoes are showing some color! I got a little arty with the images to make them stand out, but the color you see is the color they were.

Mexico Midget

This is ‘Mexico Midget.’ It should be red when it’s fully ripe, I believe. We got this one because we liked it so much at a Seed Savers Exchange tomato tasting we attended.

Indigo Apple 2

The other front-runner in the color department is ‘Indigo Apple.’ I was surprised it was developing so much of its purple hue this early on. This cultivar is a tank. The stem is sturdy and thick so while I’ve started tying up all the other ones, these are standing on their own. Very different from what I’m used to.

It’s been a few days since I took these pictures so, despite the fact it’s rained almost every day since, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or the other was ready to pick should I make it up there today.

Mid-June Garden Update

Today I went up to the garden and took advantage of a rare period between rainy days to do some weeding. The soil was nice and moist from the aforementioned frequent rains so the weeds came out easily.I got the whole garden done in no time at all, including some grassy edges that  may have extended into neighboring plots.

I’ve found over the years that one of the easiest ways to keep records of what the state of the various things in the garden is at any given time is to just take pictures. I can look through them by the date they were taken and get an idea of how different seasons measure up to each other. So, today after the place was tidied up I went around and snapped some images. Warning: there are a lot of them!

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Look! The first tomatoes are forming! Not surprisingly they are a cherry variety. This one is ‘Mexico Midget.’ Several of the tomato plants are blooming.

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The tomato plants are looking pretty good. When I set them out they stayed pale and lackluster long enough that I was beginning to worry about replacing them all. Once they settled in and probably grew roots on the long stems I buried they greened right up. I went around and plucked off the lower leaves of all of them and started snapping out suckers already. They’re a little shy of being ready for tying up, but soon. I’m trying an experimental method of my own design this year that I’ll share with you later.

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The pepper plants we purchased are well ahead of the ones I started. I only got a few just for a bit more variety.

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My own peppers looked pretty lame when they went in but have started to grow again, like the tomatoes.

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The purchased poblano is the first pepper to bloom this season.

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The tomatillo is doing well and also blooming already.

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The basil, on the other hand, looks awful. All of it. I may resort to purchased plants.

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The bush beans are looking good. There are a few holes but nothing serious.

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I scattered some sweet alyssum plants around the garden and they all immediately stopped blooming. I’m glad to see they’ve started up again. Pollinators love this stuff.

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Lentils, the “fun” crop of 2015 are looking great at the moment. I like their leaves.

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The pole beans all look pretty bad.

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Something is chewing the heck out of them. I looked for bean beetles but didn’t find any adults, eggs or larvae. I hope they recover.

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One of the bush squashes is blooming. I’m growing three varieties this year and I forget which one this is.

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Bush cucumbers are likewise doing well after a slow start. I have cans or pots around all my cucurbits after losing one to a cutworm.

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Carrots are unimpressive. These are being overgrown by the lettuce whose days are probably numbered. Even my big salads aren’t big enough to keep up. I’m making a note of exactly how much to plant next year. It will be much less.

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The mint is looking pretty chipper. Could be tabouli time soon if the parsley would take off.

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Kale is doing well having apparently outgrown the flea beetles. I’m not crazy about the taste all by itself but I’ve been putting it in salads. Dehydrator kale chips may be in order, too.

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Here’s the black kale.

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The cilantro is about to bloom and get on with becoming coriander. I’ve got another sowing in and I should probably do a third soon so I can be sure to have some when salsa canning time comes.

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Here is how it looks under the gourd trellis after I ripped out the last of the spinach. There are three gourd plants and four more bush squash in there now. The spinach had to go as it was starting to shade them out.

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The broccoli (and Brussels sprouts there in the background) are doing fabulously. I got them in late but expect they’ll grow fast now and we’ll be munching on them soon.

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Onions are bulbing up! A few tried to flower but I nipped that in the bud.

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I’m liking how the leeks look. They took foreeeeeeeeever to get going. Hard to believe that those little, threadlike plants can turn into a vegetable as big as my spindly arm. We’re going to keep an eye on them this season and start eating them before they get gigantic. I promise.

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The garlic scapes were all snapped off the other day and now I’m noticing some leaf tips starting to brown—the first signs that they’re getting ready for harvest in a few weeks!

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Snap peas are producing now. Gonna have to snack on a lot of these to keep ahead of them. I did two plantings to extend the harvest but I see the second one is starting to form pods, too. Next year: plant shorter rows longer apart, maybe three weeks instead of two if I can start early enough.

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This is the smaller parsley. The other one—I only had two seedlings make it—is much bigger but in a less photogenic location.

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In addition to the alyssum I planted marigolds. This is one of the better looking ones. Most don’t have any flowers at all on them. They’re taking their time getting established, I guess.

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The other end of the unimpressive carrot row. For some reason there is a big gap in the middle of it.

Panorama

Finally, I made a rough panoramic collage of the garden from the north. Definitely getting green and when the tomatoes, beans and gourds grow up their respective poles it’s going to look like  jungle!

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