Thursday, June 23, 2011

Melon garden!

Here are some photographs of the new melon garden, taken on my iPhone (sorry). Apologies in advance for the image quality.

On the left are the italian zucchinis I've linked in earlier posts. I have nothing but great things to say about this variety. At first I thought the leaves had some type of powdery mildew but that is not the case.... they are just wacky heirlooms that have a very striking pattern. Even better is that they started flowering and bore fruit when they were only half this size. The kids love the large flowers and keep asking to pick up the ones that have fallen off... unfortunately that means walking on the bed itself which I really discourage. I think they understand.

Here on the right are my charentais musk melons which are doing much better than I dared hope with the cold spring we experienced. I think a lot of the credit goes to the cold frame keeping them warm when the nights in May were dropping to 40 degrees. I estimate it added 10-20 degrees during the day depending on how open I left it, and about 5-10 at night by trapping the air against the ground. These melons have tendrils that will wrap and climb around the chervena chushka peppers. If the peppers grow high enough it should not matter but at the rate the melons are expanding they better hurry. This is my second year growing these and I am really looking forward to harvesting them in mid-August if all goes well.

The watermelons have started to flower (1 or 2) but that is about all I can report. I have never grown them before so I am being cautiously optimistic. The seeds themselves took a month to germinate and I almost through them out several times before they did. If patience is the secret to gardening... I am doomed.

Ironically, the cucumbers are behind all of the warm weather plants. I have no good explanation for this but the plants appear to be doing well. It may be that they set fruit early and it has slowed their development. It is a russian variety (Bushy) so it is hard for me to believe it is weather related. A dahlia I thought had died came up on the left.... and on the right.

Tomatoes and Sunflowers

Hosting a picture here for a discussion on Seed Savers Exchange forum.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gardening in hi-res

Most of my gardening pictures are uploaded to Facebook. Unfortunately, Facebook is more about tagging friends and less about image quality, so I always feel disappointed because many of the rewards of gardening can be found closer to the microscopic level. Take sunflowers for example. They tower like giants but running along the stems or the veins of the giant leaves can be found tiny ants, metallic yellow and green flies, and other insects. The leaves themselves form intricate polygons that resemble those formed by frozen permafrost in the arctic. How can you tag that? Or even explain it in fewer than 400 characters or whatever it is that Facebook allows.... And why exactly does Facebook want us to be so succinct? Sure it is not to improve our semantics and critical thinking.

Not that gardening is measured only by the millimeter. Each day I have been watching the peas grow taller, the cucumber family (Bushy Cucumbers, Charentais and Zucchinis) spread across the mulched bed. In a couple of weeks the brown bed will be covered by a thick, prickly green canopy of leaves. The Zukes look to be putting on quite a show. This is the first time I have grown this heirloom variety and it has 8 inch flowers and 14 inch leaves (above) that scream look at me, look at me, look at me now! [It's fun to have fun but you have to know how]. Zucchini don't strike me as very subtle... you pick them when they are small and if you wait a couple of days too long, you end up with something you'd rather play cricket with than eat. But small is good, and I am really looking forward to frying these in chick pea batter with ranch dressing or something equally decadent. Much better than fries, any day of the week.

Both my Blue Capucijner peas and my Blue Lake beans should be towering high right now, but the woodchuck has had other plans. He sneaks under the fence and pulls them down from the trellis, wantonly stripping the vines of all their shoot and leaves. After a week of shock, they are starting to rebound but it will set me back three weeks and make the peas for Josie's birthday a meager harvest.

But they are blue (or purple)! Perhaps it does not take so many when you are purple. It will be interesting to see. If they are any good at all, I am saving the seeds for these. I love the idea of being able to find the peas immediately... no searching through a tangled mess of green.

Tomatoes are best known for the flavor and not their appearance, of course. The measure of any gardener is usually not how large, but how early you have them. All across the internet we see the virtues of cold frames, or walls of water, or greenhouses, or stone walls facing south proclaimed to bring forth the sacred fruit while the ordinary languish in the cold damp May nights in the 40s. I admire the innovation inspired by the tomato. No other vegetable has inspired so many to think outside the box, or return again to the soil after failure. When cabbage worms ate my broccoli, "no matter" I thought. I can buy that at the farmers market. But not the tomato! When the tobacco hornworm caterpillar came I promised my children great rewards for each one they found. I planted marigolds to repel them, dahlias to trick the moths into laying their eggs in the wrong location. Mulched to reduce risk of blight. So here they are, my Stupice, in high resolution!

Friday, June 17, 2011

No clue what this is....

It is the thinnest creature I can recall seeing. Use the chicken wire for comparison. Anyone know what this is? It was right next to the peas and beans. Very odd.

Everybody must get stones....

The latest chapter in the Newington Public School landscaping project is the installation of a river run stone swale to capture runoff from the Fire Department parking lot that was washing bark mulch down the hill. We also put in a line of boulders from the Newington Town Forest above the trees to prevent future plow or snow dumping damage from a bucket loader during the plowing of the Fire Department.

The work never completely ends though. We still need to install tree gators on the western red cedars to ensure they get enough water during the summer that will need to be filled this summer. The sprinkler system for the lawn should also be set up again. In addition, one of the red swamp maples will have to be replaced in a different location. It was located in a swale and the water was simply too much for it to survive the first spring.

We have come a long way since March 2010 when all of the trees that were planted when the school was built blew over. We hope you like what has been done so far.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Spring Garden Tour By Elsa!

Spring is nearly over and the warm hot weather this week may be with us for keeps. That's great news for the cucumbers, tomatoes and melons but not so much for the CAPUCIJNERS BLUE POD HEIRLOOM PEAS -aka POIS A CROSSE VIOLETTE (scroll down). Today, as I promised over the weekend, the peas have surpassed Elsa in height. They should grow over the top of the trellis which is only 5 feet, to be 6-8 ft high. It's a dutch variety that should have blue or purple flowers and pods, depending on your point of view.

The Cucumbers ("Bushy") also appeared today for the first time. You can see some tiny cukes forming behind the flower. This variety is good for both slicing and pickling. I would love to start pickling this year but I have a feeling my heart won't be in it once strawberries are in season and I will be canning jar after jar of jam. Elsa and her sister blew through about 25 pints of it since last fall. Go figure.

Garlic is doing very well but I just read a scary story via Seacoast Eat Local that garlic bloat nematode has been shipped to Exeter NH which is only 3 towns over from Newington.... It sounds like a dreadful pest that will destroy tomatoes, alliums and other plants, overwintering for up to four years.

Speaking of strawberry jam though, things are looking really good for the strawberries I got from Agway last year and planted in one of my raised beds. I normally shy away from anything that is not a local heirloom but I have been impressed that Agway sells many of the same varieties that respected organic growers sell. I don't know what their policy on GMO is and should ask the next time I go there. It will be exciting to have our own strawberries for Josie's birthday in a couple of weeks however. That will be a first for me.
Above you can see the fenced in bed where I put all of the woodchuck's favorites.... Detroit red beets (nearest), parsley, Spinach, and Bietola a costa fine chard (back). The supplier of the chard is Adaptive Seeds. I also got Ildkongen Marigolds from them, which can be seen in the front. They are a great company, shipped exactly what I ordered in one or two days... answered questions almost immediately. Not all seed suppliers do that. They are also one of the organic farms brought suit against Monsanto over its use of GMOs.

Elsa is not a fan of GMOs, I am sure. It will be interesting to see where she goes with her beliefs. Here she is in any case, standing in front of the Stupice and Peche Jaune tomatoes. The Stupice started flowering last week but I have not checked to see if any flowers have set.

It is hard to believe that I have a six year old that knows more about the cretaceous than I do.

The last photo below, was taken along Mountain Dream, the fanciful phrase the kids use to describe my neighbors driveway after I planted wildflowers there a few years ago. The idea was to move away from the green wasteland of lawn and actually support wildlife and conserve water. It has been a great success. Here, you can see the wildflowers are playing host to a horde of caterpillars that will then be consumed by the bluebirds or bats. As long as they don't eat tomatoes or melons, I am fine with that.

Enjoy your spring! It will be over too soon.