Saturday, May 30, 2009

Juicier and Juicier

Whenever i need cheering up, I go out and visit the wee tomatoes.

The Early Girl plant is looking great. Mid-week, the fruit had already doubled in size. Here are the tomatoes last week, on May 24:
And here they were in the middle of this past week, just a few days later!
With some baby tomatoes starting over here

Today, though, May 30, they were even bigger:
(in that photo you can see the babies over on the right).

The Big Boy or Better Boy (can never remember which) has a nice sized tomato growing by now, as well. This photo was taken today.
In Mr. Stripey news, he's definitely grown. Compare the photos of him previously with the ones from today.

MAY 24 photos:

MAY 30 photos (today)
The plant has grown so much that the branches are now at the top of the cage.

But, Mr. Stripey has some problems, as usual. The bottom branches are withering, and some of the leaves are yellow:
What you are looking at seems like a yellow leaf and nothing, and it is. But it used to be a branch with more leaves, etc. It went out down my hand and down my wrist. It withered and so did the parts resting on my fingers. I don't know exactly what is wrong. On the one hand, this plant is kind of in a low spot. Mister Siren thinks maybe we should add more dirt. I'm wondering if that would just create more mud.

On the other hand, there is a lot of new life on this plant. It's obviously growing rapidly, per the above photos. And these:
The fuzzy thing in the photo is what I used to think would turn into flowers. Instead it just turns into leaves and more leaves.

For the meantime, my verdict is that this plant is not dying, but it's definitely not bearing fruit. We are going to research whether or not we can fertilize it to help it flower. How much bigger does it really need to get? If you know or can offer any advice, please do, in the comments section.

The Newspaper is Indeed Biodegradable

This is a post about weeds, and weeding. There is (or WAS!) a very nefarious weed patch in the garden that I had neglected in favor of weeding near the veggie plants. Here is a quite embarassing photo of it. As i have stated before, after killing all of the old weeds with Round-up, the new weeds that have very prevalently emerged are nefarious grasslike weed.

These are SUCH a pain in the neck to dig up b/c you have to dig up each individual blade, and they all have a root! Today we tried to use a rake as a hoe and just turn up the dirt, then pull up the weeds easily. This did not work. However, Mister Siren was helpin in the garden today, so thankfully I left him to this section and I did other tasks.

There were many to attend to. For instance, the inspection and replacement of the newspaper mulch. When I originally layed it down, it immediately improved weed conditions in the garden. I did a 4-sheet thickness on the recommendation of most articles, but this has proved to be not enough, for the heavy rains of Virginia.

The garden, in general, is looking a little ragged. I have a huge tree located right above it that drops seed pods and leaves on it constantly. This makes it look messy. Then the rain beats down and throws up dirt and mud onto all of the plants, and turns the newspaper into mush, allowing the stronger weeds to break through the newspapers, as you see above. We spent a good 2.5 hours today cleaning and weeding, and laying down fresh newspaper where needed.

Behold the before and after photos:



Okay, so now if we could control the weeds around the perimeter, that would be great. For some reason, in places we have sprayed before, the plants seem to have developed some type of Round-up resistance. I think that is why, when we sprayed that grass-stuff, it did not die.

I love this garden!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rotated plantings, Peas and Lettuce

The four pea plants are finally showing their stuff.

Here's the first one:
Juuuuuuust disregard the weeds showing in the background. We try to get rid of those as often as possible.

Now that is the only pea plant that survived that two weeks of torrential downpour after the initial plantings. It is about a foot tall now and instead of a true trellis we just plopped a tomato cage down for it to climb up. It was planted on or about April 26, emerged from soil on May 3 and was recognizably going to live on May 8 (at least those were posting dates).

I did a second planting when it was clear none others were going to germinate/sprout:
I planted about 10 seeds on May 11, and three of them emerged. You can see here the newspaper mulch (just scroll around on the blog to see about the whole newspaper mulching effort).

So, now I have four pea plants - I really do not think that is going to be enough sugar snap peas!
I have found the greatest garden blog that I must share with readers. Maybelline's Garden - based in Bakersfield, CA. Now, she has some vibrant photos of her pea plants, which in the Bakersfield heat (Zone 9) she has already harvested and thrown into the compost heap.

Taking a note from a proficient gardener, I see it is a good idea to do rotated plantings. Obviously, I do not want to be stuck with bushels and bushels of peas and beans and zucchini and lettuce, etc. etc. all at once, and then have nothing. I will not be able to process or eat all of this, and it will rot, and then we will have nothing. As I layed in bed until 4 a.m. last night, hopped up on cold medicine that had my mind racing (note, don't take Advil Cold and Sinus if you need to sleep), i began devising a plan to donate my bushels of extras to the church or homeless shelter.

So I will plant more peas, and more peas. I will not let them keep me down! I may need to plant more beans, too. We will probably want a second crop. Mister Siren loves his beans. Here they are yesterday, a month after planting:

Anyway, I was thinking about this rotated planting issue back before I planted the lettuces. Especially last year when I had my druthers. But this year, i just plunged ahead. Well, we better be ready to eat some salad.

The mesclun/field greens are going to be ready pretty soon, all at once, and we will be eating daily salads, I think:
We have approximately six Bibb Lettuce plants growing, but these are at different rates, since I did that re-planting on May 11:
While we have 2 advanced arugula seedlings, the rest of the row is from the May 11 replanting, so hopefully that will give us some arugula salads later to mix in with the bibb lettuce, after we are tired of mesclun greens:

If you think the newspaper mulch looks messy, I know. It gets blown around by the wind and is a real pain in the neck. But is really helps with the weeds, let me tell you.

And the sorrel is basically coming up all at once, from the May 11 replanting:

So, anyway, I am devising a plan to rotate in some new crops so that we can have continuous salads, peas, beans, etc. The zucchini should be good producers throughout the season when they finally start bearing fruit. Maybelline's Garden had twelve plants, I definitely don't think we need that many! But I'll report back.

My First Tomato- on its way

This is why she's called Early Girl:
There are three beautiful green globes hanging from her branches. Soon those tomatoes are gonna make me the happiest momma on the block. I have wrought life! And nutrients! From the soil! She was transplated on or around April 26 (at least that's when I posted about it) and her first flower appeared on or around May 11.

We have more emerging, in the Big Boy/Better Boy hybrid:

The grape tomato plant has nothing much to show, yet, but its flower buds are beginning to form.

The Mr. Stripey plant is a different story. For awhile now I have been concerned about it. It said that its maturation period was 80-95 days. I really don't know what that means. To a novice like me, that could mean anything. For instance, I assumed that it could mean from the moment you planted the seed in the ground, to the time it bore fruit, should take 80-95 days. Compared to the 65 days for the Early Girls, it would make sense.

It really means, days to maturity from when you transplant the seedling. Or, for those who think that is too hard to predict, days to maturity from when the first flower appears. If that is true, we have a long time to wait until we get to bite into a Mr. Stripey tomato. Which is why I'm pretty happy I plunked that Early Girl plant into a container as a failsafe, and why I planted that Better Boy as well. Without one single flower on Mr. Stripey, we've over three months to wait at least - that's end of summer! I'll be selling them on the corner.

Anyway, Mr. Stripey hasn't flowered yet, but he has been growing. (I canNOT stop referring to the plant as a "he".)

This is the plant the first day I planted it, before a nice soaking. It did perk right up.

This photo is from May 10, exactly two weeks ago. It had grown considerably, and was minding its own business.

Here is the monster today, two weeks later. We finally decided to cage it, because if the fruit is as big as they say it can get (12-24 oz), I don't want it pulling the branches down and lying on the ground for every insect to devour. I had to use two cages, upside down because the plant is so large, to stuff this sucker in.

Now, the verdict is still definitely out on the quality of this fruit. Apparently it is a very beautiful and desirable to look upon crop. However, this beefsteak variety, as opposed to a smaller, tasty heirloom variety also called "Tigerella" can have a thick skin, be of mild to no flavor, all seeds, and also prone to disease, according to whom you ask.

See here for a lot of reviews, if you are wondering about Mr. Stripey. I can't wait to see what it will produce. It has been putting a lot of its energy into just growing big and strong and I hope will flower soon. Then we shall see!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Herb Report, good and bad

One of the herb plants is in dire straits.

It's the lavender plant. I planted lavender b/c i wanted to fill the garden with fragrance. I wanted it to grow and grow into a huge bush the way things in Georgia and Florida do. I dreamt of making sachets for my own drawers and suitcases. Forget figuring out gifts for the next few years of Mother's Days and birthdays and Christmases, etc. I'd press my own essential oil, blah blah blah. Am i getting ahead of myself?

Okay, so anyway. When I brought it home, it looked like this:

That's it in the top right position, happy and blue-ish green. It smelled wonderful and fragrant.
Here it is the day I transplanted it, in the left-hand position. Look how green and happy it is. I imagined this to be a corner of the garden from which, when the wind blew, a cloud of fragrance would envelop me as I weeded. Like, you know, in Tuscany.

Well, folks, take note of something else in the top of the above photograph. The shade.
I really, really think the lavender needs more sun. Nooooottttt a lot of photosynthesis occurring in the lavendar corner. In fact, it appears to have shrunken. The pleasant bluish-green tint has turned to a dull gray. Some leaves are withered and brown. It's a sad day but I really should have dug it up and planted it somewhere else two weeks ago. In additon, according to this article, dampness can have a negative affect on this plant. Maybe those two weeks of everyday rain right after I transplanted it were no help either. Hm.

In other news, the herbs right by the lavender are doing just fine. They must like the sun/shade conditions. This photo shows the amount of sun that side of the garden gets in the afternoon:
That is the end of the day's sun . . .

The rosemary and tarragon seem to like it:
(although the rosemary is getting a bit gray itself).

The basil transplants, well, the jury is still out on them. They were doing pretty badly, sunbleached, insect-eaten, and generally raggedy since I planted them:
But today i picked off all the ugly leaves and just trimmed them back, AGAIN. Hopefully without the plants putting their energy into those big honking leaves they showed up with, they can put their energy into sending out new fresh fragrant leaves. If they don't make it, so be it.

So this is what they look like now:

Now for the other good news.

Wow, we love dill. We put it in virtually every salad and it's required for deviled eggs. Great in scrambled eggs, too. :)


I clipped some for the kitchen this week and the remaining bunch is producing new shoots even faster. The three wee babies are coming up fast, too.

If you have good herb pictures or have seen herb garden photos elsewhere on the web or other blogs, please put the links in the comments section!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Insects and yellow leaves

I think i may have an insect problem. I mean, i see plenty of insects in the garden - tons and tons of worms (just come on over if you ever need some bait for your fishing pole!) and rolly-pollys, and ants, and other types of insects . . . but i'm talking about the type that eat your plants. Why do i think this?

Exhibit 1:

Something is just chewing and having a heyday with my bell pepper plants. It's also kind of getting into the Mr. Stripey tomato plant.

And, speaking of Mr. Stripey, his bottom leaves are starting to get yellow:

This is alarming to me b/c I would have thought that Mr. Stripey would be producing some flowers by now. I am worried he does not get enough sun? Or too much water? Is it root rot? Does ANYONE KNOW what the problem is that is making these leaves turn yellow? I want to fix it as soon as possible b/c I am really looking forward to these 1 lb striped yellow and red tomatoes. I mean, I salivate just thinking about them. Just brushing by this plant fills the air with fragrance. We have not one single blossom on this plant, however.

So, questions of the day:
1) What insects are eating my bell pepper plants?
2) how can i find out and how can i get rid of them/prevent them?
3) why is Mr. Stripey turning yellow, and how can I change/prevent that?

To leave a comment, click on the word "comment" at the bottom of this post.


Reflection in Zucchini

You can tell how much the zucchini has grown by looking at the growth of the leaves. Let's take a trip down memory lane together:

Remember back then when i first got the garden planted, a sophomoric novice, and went out in the evenings when i returned from work, so excited to see the results of all my labors . . . and was sooooo wrong about what was coming up? I would go out before i even thought about what should go on the table for dinner, before i did a chore, as soon as i took off my work suit and could put on some flannels and a blazer, and went out and got on my hands and knees in the dirt, nose about two inches from the ground, sniffing, loving it.

Mmmmmmm. Dirt. There is something about being so close to the earth, in your own backyard, after a long day at work, that washes away whatever happened there.

Enough of that. So - getting back to our trip down memory lane, when i first began, a bright-eyed bushy-tailed novice a couple of months ago, I thought those gross viney things were for sure the zucchini coming up. No, they were not. They are these awful root-like vines underneath the soil which produce A LOT of weeds. They are pervasive.

Then the zucchini appeared:
This represents three plants. I planted three seeds in each hole, the holes were 18 inches apart. They grew steadily and surely. There are two little leaves poking out of each plant.

Then, all of a sudden, a third, very recognizable squash-like leaf appeared.

When they got this big, I had to thin it to two plants per 18 inches.

Very quickly, a fourth leaf appeared, of the same squash-like variety.
The above photo is of a very dirty plant, which is how the plants look after it rains all day. (a frequent occurrence)

A fifth leaf appeared, then got bigger (see below photos:)

According to a gardening site, I can expect about 11 more leaves before I see flowering and actual squash:

Tending the Plants

Zucchinis usually grow at least 15 leaves before flowering. Often the first flowers are male and will not produce fruit. A female flower has a small swelling at its base, while a male flower does not. If desired, pick male flowers for eating.