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Jun 5, 2010

An Unexpected Harvest & Reviews!

Not sure why it was unexpected, other than it was 90 degrees at 8:30 am and I had only planned on watering the garden and then hiding out the rest of the day! Alas, the heat and humidity over the past week had other plans in store for me! Since my tomato issues had me preoccupied the whole week, other things were left on auto pilot and went unnoticed until today! Here they are, along with my personal observations since they are mostly all new varieties to me this year:

Today's Harvest

1.0 lbs carrots (Purple Haze, Cosmic Purple, St. Valery), 1.0 lbs Dragon Langerie Beans, 11 oz Heirloom Yellow Wax Beans, 4.5 lbs Peas

'Purple Haze' Carrots - hard as a rock, horrible tasting, my dog who loves carrots wouldn't eat them, will not grow again!

'Cosmic Purple' (don't have a close-up) are purple splashed with orange - while moderately interesting, had a tough core and not enough good about them to make me grow them again

'St. Valery' grew very well here, crunchy yet tender, carrot-ey, passed the Finnegan taste test so it must be good! This was free seed I got last year from Baker Creek, otherwise I wouldn't have grown it - will order more next year. I grew it last year, but didn't get a decent germination or harvest, Granny's seed mats made the difference this year!

I do understand that these may perform differently in other areas/zones, but for me, they are the hits and misses!

Dragon Langerie (Dragon's Tongue)

I know a lot of us jumped on this bandwagon this year, and how could I refuse the delightful photos in the seed catalogs? They must be hugely popular this year since mine were backordered for a long time. Other than their beauty on the vine, these fell short of expectations in my garden. They are beautiful however! Tip for picking, they lose color and get huge VERY quickly! The color is most intense while small, also more tender and tasty then. They do of course, lose color after cooking and in my opinion there are other beans that taste far superior. My summation: grow these if you want to have beautiful things in your garden during a outdoor dinner party as people walk around and ooh & ahhh over things, but in the kitchen they fell short for me.

Dragon's Tongue after blanching

Now on to what I consider the superstar bean of the century! Why have I never grown these before????

Heirloom Golden Wax Bean

I can't say enough about these - slender, pretty, great bean flavor, tender, the easiest bean to snap the ends off I have ever encountered. Bush bean that produces like a pole bean. I will be picking these daily from just 1/2 of a raised bed's worth. After blanching, no color loss, still snappy, I will definitely use these to mix with my green pole beans when they come in for beautiful bags of frozen beans in the winter, and they will make for great Dilly Beans once I am ready to start canning. For those that want to know, I got this seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and I will be ordering more pronto. On the website, their picture looks like the beans are a little too mature for me, harvested skinny like mine they are extremely tasty and pretty! Tip for harvesting, don't wear polarized sunglasses, that's how I got some that were still light green, LOL!
(they still taste just as good this way)

Heirloom Golden Wax Bean - still gorgeous after blanching!

I could not have done all 5 lbs of peas today without my child laborers!

Marley underfoot while we are working, she had little green peas all over her by the time the kids were done shelling, I'm just glad they didn't spill the whole bowl on her, she might have actually woken up!

For those of you who wanted to see the Food Saver in action, here it is!

I put the entire harvest into the freezer today since the chances for me cooking a decent meal this weekend are non-existent! It is in the upper 90's so we will probably go to the beach tomorrow evening once it cools off and eat sandwiches.

What about tonight? The USO is putting on free concerts for a Military Appreciation Festival on the beach all weekend and tonight I will be toes-in-the-sand watching Hall & Oates! I am showing my age now, but I am excited to see them, and although they are old now guess what? So am I, LOL! And yes, the kids are coming with me! Should be a fun evening, even if a hot one!

kinderGARDENS Week 8 Update

Inadvertent Farmer

Here we are at Week 8 and things are really starting to grow now!  Just a couple of the bean plants have latched on to their supports to create the "green roof" but I am noticing the ornamental gourds are starting to send out their first tendrils and so should be attaching themselves in the next week.

The heat is now in the mid 90's daily so I am getting nervous about those plants up so high in a planter box... it seems every year I forget how hot and humid it really does get!  Since the kids picked some heat loving beans and squash type veggie vines, I am hoping we will be okay, otherwise our "green roof" will be a brown roof!

The kids' Peanut Box is starting to grow well now, if not a little spotty, but hey - that's what you get when the kids do the planting!

Check out The Inadvertent Farmer's Week 8 Link Up to see other participant's progress!

Happy kinderGardening!

Jun 4, 2010

Annie's Granny to the Rescue!

She's done it again!  Annie's Granny read my tomato emergency post yesterday and took time out of her day to track down and link one of her pictures of pot-bound tomatoes and mentioned that hers looked like mine when that happened - she now cuts the bottoms completely out of her containers.  I was very excited when I read her comment because the one symptom of disease that my tomatoes lacked was any type of rotten looking interior tissue on the stems.  Could this be it?

Pot Surgery

Outside this morning, I felt my hand around inside the pot, it was fine at the top but the bottom 1/2 of the container felt like a solid mass.  After staring at the darn thing for awhile, I rummaged around in hubby's shed until I found the Dremel Tool.  After attempting to cut  away the bottom with this for about 15 minutes, I realized this wasn't going to work, the cut-off wheels kept zinging off and melting plastic was building up and slowing it down, ugh!  I ended up doing it the old fashioned way, with a utility knife!  I made sure all the soil had been loosened under the pots (ground) and broke up some of the root ball before setting them back down, bottomless, to do their thing.  

I now have 4 done, 6 to go!  These big square terra cotta colored plastic ones were pretty thin, but I don't know what to do about the paint buckets, there is no way I am using that Dremel tool on them, I may try actually transplant them into the ground or a bed somewhere since they are about 4 weeks younger than the big ones, and might take it better.

I certainly have my work cut out for me today - the heat index is in the mid 90's out there and humidity has me soaked, eyes burning with sweat doing this and I hope it pays off!  It looks like there was a bit of a drainage issue too, even with all the holes I had originally drilled, so if not now, the plants would have soon succumbed to being confined like that.  Only time will tell if I also have a disease, but for now I can rest easy knowing I did all I could...


If I lived closer, I would serve you breakfast in your garden, and give you a day's hard labor while you sipped a mint julep and laughed at me...!

Jun 3, 2010

Breaking out the big guns...

While not on the same scale as BP's harm to the environment, I am still feeling pretty guilty about it.  This is the first year I have had a problem with my heirlooms, but when it rains, it pours! For the past 2 weeks, I have been watching my tomatoes grow like crazy, yet having some yellowing and dead branches and I just knew it was bigger than a heatwave or water issue.  After consulting so many ID guides my head is spinning, I have it narrowed down at least.  At first I had some wilt, but leaves were still bright green so I just cut the affected areas off.  Then I started having complete yellowing and browning with that classic dreaded "from the bottom up" symptom.  I have it narrowed down to Fusarium Wilt (really bad) or Bacterial Wilt (bad, but can be helped a bit).  None of the affected/dead tissue is showing those classic signs of necrotic vascular tissue when cut though.  I actually went to the store 2 weeks ago to buy this, but then backed out after reading the labels on everything.  Maybe it was emotional overload, guilt, I don't know, but I did try at first to do other things.  I have done the Baking Soda spray, the milk spray, etc. to no avail.  So yesterday I plunked down 7.99 for a bottle of copper spray "for organic gardening", ha!  So this is how my morning went, in 90 degree humid temps, I might add!
Get spray in holster (no, I don't really have a holster, yet...)

If you are weak, you might want to look away now - 

Cut off all affected tissue, this came from 4 different Heirlooms, a Brandywine, a True Black Brandywine, Yellow Pear, and Paul Robeson

I am completely humiliated at this point, since I am somewhat of an Heirloom Guru, LOL!  Good thing the neighbors don't know anything about anything :)

Bet you can guess what's happening next!

I have a few that only have a little damage, I sprayed them and left them where they were, just spaced further apart.  I have 3 Heirlooms that look completely unaffected, and are looking absolutely spectacular  so they got moved, QUICKLY!  Even though I would love to have spared them from the copper treatment, I used it as a preventative because I cannot lose any more heirlooms!  

One of the survivors is a Vorlon, and guess what the others are that look so good?  Those Unidentified Polish Heirlooms that were passed to me in a baggie from an elderly Master Gardener woman!  Handed down for generations, she hasn't known the exact name since her mother grew them, she just kept growing them to save the seed.  She lives where she cannot have a garden now and out of all the students in our class, she entrusted me with those 6 seeds, so you know how nervous I am about getting at least a few tomatoes for saving the seed!  Plus, I really want to be able to show up bearing a gift of those tomatoes for her!

Now, you may need a backpack to make the hike there, but they are far, far away from the others!  They make one of the ugly sheds a little easier on the eyes, too!  Haven't yet figured out how to haul the water there, LOL, maybe the old fashioned buckets on a yoke around my neck?  The neighbors probably wouldn't even be fazed at this point!

I'll know soon enough what it is:  if it's bacterial, the copper will take care of it, if it's Fusarium Wilt, the death and destruction will continue.  I will be mad if it's Fusarium Wilt since I used bought potting soil for all the containers, but at least there is a better chance of it not infecting the raised beds, since Tomato Alley was not near the beds.  I think I will be venturing more into the world of hybrids this weekend and actually buying some tomato plants, ack!  I find that over the years since I started canning and growing my own seedlings, I am too emotionally invested to lose my whole crop, so there is definitely a plus to growing some disease resistant varieties.  (can't believe I'm saying that!)

And the choir says, "AMEN, she finally gets it!"

Jun 2, 2010

mixing things up...

bear with me for a few days, I will be trying out some new headers and stuff along with figuring out the new post editor!  If it looks like I have gone mad, that's because I probably got called away on a random kid emergency mid-change, LOL!

My forgotten perennials...

Usually just the vegetables get all the glory around here, but the unsung heroes of my perennial garden deserve some praise too! Before I even dug the first vegetable bed, I started my perennial gardens. I selected my particular perennials for their ability to attract, feed and shelter beneficial insects, encourage pollination, and survive with zero interference from me. Of course, the first 3 years have been consumed with correct spacing, filling in gaps, and moving plants around to get it right, but for the most part, I have succeeded. All any of my perennials need is a cutting back the dead growth for spring. I let them self seed and spread and I finally after 5 years can just go out to my own yard and dig when I feel the need for more plants! So, this post is for my perennials, they work hard to keep the beneficials where I need them, and create the wildlife watching I am so fond of every morning as I walk around my little "estate in the 'hood"!


Clematis, Gaura, Iris, Ornamental Grasses

Same plants - this particular area is a favorite of my doves, bees, butterflies and a few skinks


From atop the kids' fort - yarrow, ornamental grass, creeping juniper, mazus, salvia, catmint

More Clematis

Hummingbird Garden - lots of salvia, catmint, ornamental grasses, clematis. I am so lucky to be able to have so many salvias overwinter here, it is definitely a top choice for the hummingbirds, I usually have 6 or 7 every morning and have never had a hummingbird feeder!

My new hammock area. This is where we took out a hurricane damaged sand cherry tree and in true lazy girl fashion, decided to cover the stump area with slate, a dry "faux" riverbed and a hammock rather than try and dig through roots to fill in the empty garden space with plants. It is hot as Hades to lay there right now, but there is Hops scrambling up that support that will train across to provide some shade. They grow about 30 feet in a season, so hopefully by the heat of August I will have a shady spot there!

I know some people think that a garden just isn't a garden without annual flowers, but I honestly just don't have the time and don't understand all the work that goes into them for such a short lived existence. I personally am very happy with only perennials, and am content to have just vegetables as annuals!

Pathway from the main firepit area to the vegetable garden. On the left is the hammock area again, the right is a mixture of yarrow, salvia, mazus, ornamental grass, Russian sage, creeping juniper and catmint, all favorites of the bees and ladybugs, keeping them near the veggies where I want them, I have noticed the ladybugs seem to go to this area in the fall, so I am thinking they may overwinter there or in the timber cracks of the beds back wall, bonus!

One of my front yard beds in desperate need of some attention... the front is always forgotten!

Ladybird update: her 2 eggs hatched yesterday! I had to shoo her out to water and she flew 2 feet away and puffed her feathers at me until I was done, then it was back on the nest!

I have major tomato drama going on here today, and I am dealing with that in 95 degree humidity, so I am sure I will be able to write about that soon, just not right now, as I am not a happy camper about the tomato nonsense that is unfolding here and the 3rd shower and gallon of DEET that I already need again....

Jun 1, 2010

This is actually exciting here...

I know this will bore some of you to tears, but hey, we don't really have any fresh water nearby, and last time I checked there aren't any saltwater mallards!

May 30, 2010

Fun at the Strawberry Festival!

Remember your first Funnel Cake?

This weekend I decided to stop the busy nonsense that has been consuming me and head to our local Strawberry Festival. If you were looking for strawberries, you'd have been disappointed since most all passed their prime about 2 weeks ago, and the next crop isn't due in for another couple of weeks I think, but all in all, a fun weekend! I always get my berries done way ahead of the crowd for the best selection and because the 4-H displays and Fair Food need my complete attention!

So the day went like this:

Immediately after reaching our destination, shove 2 Corn Dogs at children's faces so they would stop complaining about having to walk so far from the car...

Then, wonder why my military-brat kids haven't had their fill of this stuff...

OK, yes, I admit the Coast Guard is pretty awesome!

They are boys, however!
Yippee, that's over! Nothing better than going to the fair and being reminded that hubby will probably be in Afghanistan or Iraq this time next year... can we move on now...please?

On to where I usually make a beeline for... 4-H!

My absolute favorite, but I guess that's because I grew up on a sheep farm!

Some of the lambs were stunning, the 4-Her's did a great job showing them. It only took about 5 minutes for the kids to warm up to the 4-H Barn and forget about the "rides", ugh! At one point Loch said "I don't want to go in there, it smells"! I had to inform him pretty quickly that he had the wrong mom if he was looking for sympathy. I love the smell of sheep, hay, straw, and yes, manure! All mixed together it takes me back to being 12 years old and I love it! When we drive back home on vacations I can tell when the smells start to remind me of home, and it happens somewhere in Southern Wisconsin, and by the time we are in Minnesota I've got all the windows down, hubby probably thinks I'm nuts!

Fully immersed now, waiting for the Lamb Obstacle Course!

Finn's favorites are always cows... back home he usually sees dairy, but I was able to point out some differences between the Jersey girl he saw there and the steer, he was pretty interested! When I pointed to one and asked what we got from that one, he replied "BEEF"! Yay, I love it when it "clicks" in their little heads!

What can I say? We just stood there listening to it snore...

No problems smelling the barn anymore!

Having a blast!

Checkin' out the chickens

This girl's exhibit had all the ooohs and ahhhhs of course, who can resist baby ducks? Not Finnegan either!

After that, I blew through the "rides" pretty quickly, I'll spare you the horrific carny details, but let you know that $23.oo got them 2 rides - yep, that's it! One Bumper Cars and one little airplane flying thing. What a racket.

Onto more interesting things, more food! One thing that is really nice living in the Coastal Virginia/North Carolina area is the selection we have of "fair food". The crabcakes, NC pulled pork, and Sweet Potato Fries are plentiful, actually cheaper than traditional fair food, and taste just like they should, probably because there were locals manning those tents! I debated whether showing the pics would make hubby feel terrible for missing it or make him smile remembering what it tastes like, but here goes:

You haven't lived until you have eaten NC pulled pork BBQ! Yes, I said that I would probably never have the appetite again after smoking and pulling our own 7 lbs a few weeks ago, but I obviously LIED!

The smell is DIVINE!

NC BBQ, Fries & Cole Slaw... for $5 !! Can you believe it? A stupid corn dog is 4.50!

My stomach was killing me from eating too much by this time, so I figured it would be a great time to find a Funnel Cake, LOL! Loch whined "I don't know what a funnel cake is, it sounds gross, I wanna sno cone....." Well, whaddaya mean you've never had a funnel cake? Sounds like I have seriously failed my children, doesn't it? We marched over to the nearest cloud of powdered sugar where I pointed and said "THAT is a funnel cake! Want one?"

One more experience I can check off the list!

kinderGardens Week 7 Update!


Not much action this week, just slow and steady growth! The plants are doing well on the "green roof" project, although are just now sending out tendrils to cling to their trellisses. The big plants you see in the planter box are Amaranthus, or if you remember, plants that will "spill blood over the side", LOL, boys....

The peanuts the kids sowed have very spotty germination, although I think I may have pulled a few early on...ooops, they kind of look like a weed at this stage, and since we planted them into compost, I assumed it was a weed sprouting! I'll probably have them stick a few more in there to see if they germinate, I have no idea how old the seed is since it was from a seed swap party, but I have plenty so there's nothing to lose!

Finnegan was very observant in that he beat me to finding the first shelling peas ready for picking! He eats most of them out in the pea patch, but I made him save some to bring to his class and share, apparently they were a hit even with some non-veggie eating kids. The teacher told me he did a great job standing in front of the class, telling them it was "garden candy" and showing them how to "unzipper" them.

Speaking of observant kids, while I was hanging laundry out on the line, Loch pointed out an area of spilled sand near the sandbox - some folks see the Virgin Mary in a cornflake, we see dogs in sand! It's always all about the dogs around here!

The kids pointed out that they never got to plant sunflowers this year, so (after I had washed and put away all the seed flats, grrrr) I happily let them plant a bunch. Not sure what we will do with them this year, I am thinking just to cover up an eyesore of a metal shed that we have in the yard. Of course, they asked for another "hooch" but honestly I am too tired to even think about that thing this year, and don't want to mow around it!

For those that missed the "hooch" from years past, here it is again:
It was called "the hooch" because it started out covered in desert camo netting while the sunflowers grew. I think they only want it back because daddy is on deployment again, and that was the case when I made this one originally. They wanted a "fort" but I lack their daddy's building prowess, but I can grow things that might look sorta-kinda like a fort!

Check out the contest and other participant's progress at The Inadvertent Farmer!

Happy kinderGardening!