Mid-Summer Garden Notes

29. July 2014 03:02

The corn was not ready by July 4th, but not too many days after that, we were eating garden fresh corn on the cob. On the other hand, the tomatoes got off to a really late start and it will be sometime in August before we get to harvest the first vine ripened tomatoes. The peas did a lot better this year. A patch of peas between the tomato plants managed to produce a respectable amount before the combination of powdery mildew and crowding by the neighbors brought it to an end. Snow peas and snap peas also produced more than we could use and enough to freeze for the future. The bush beans ('Maxibel') did well as in past years. The pole beans did better than last year in that they produced lots of beans.  But the quality did not seem as good as the bush beans and thus will not get planted again next year.  Meanwhile the wax beans were much like last year -- a mediocre crop as the plants seemed to break easily.

The pumpkins are again prolific. They average around six pumpkins each and show every intention of doing a lot more than that. Thus the additional growth is being removed. Likewise, some of the excess tomato vine is being trimmed this year. Last year the currant tomato would have taken over the entire bed if it had not been fighting a couple other varieties with the same goal. The goal of side-by-side comparison of tomato varieties is a failure since half the plants got off to such a late start. Plus several of the tomato plants are not doing well -- perhaps a fertilizer issue -- except that it effects on plant while the neighboring ones seem fine. So for next year, the tomatoes need a better indoor start and the pumpkins should not get planted until mid-June the earliest.

The new red carrot ("Samurai") from Park's was horrible. There were two somewhat unappealing pink carrots that were edible. For the most part it was all top growth and where there was something below ground, it was inedible.  In fact, a couple that developed were so tough that they could not be cut with the kitchen knife.

The initial crop of cantaloupes has been more baseball size than the expected softball size. Perhaps the enthusiastic growth of the pumpkins in the same bed resulted in a negative impact on the less vigorous melons.

The initial plantings of corn have come in without any worms, but the ants and aphids continue to climb the stalks. Later plantings failed to germinate well enough and survive the birds, so there will be a pause in the corn harvest before later plantings are ready. 

Some of the early crops - Spinach, peas and scallions were past their prime and pulled, along with the beans.  Additional seeds have been planted and we should manage a second crop before the weather gets too cool.

The blackberry harvest has been more than enough for eating fresh. There was enough for one batch of jam, a couple of pies and several other baked deserts so far. The raspberries probably need another year before they are doing that much. At present, just enough to taste. Meanwhile, there has been an assortment of fruit from the orchard. Several of the trees planted last year have produced a respectable crop despite the odd winter (lack thereof). Even a few of the trees planted this winter provided a handful of fruit. The only tree in the orchard this year that appears to have more than enough for a batch or two canned to be enjoyed over the fall and winter months is the nectaplum 'Spice Zee' which is loaded with fruit. It also lives up to its marketing description with respect to taste -- very sweet.

Ants and aphids continue to be significant garden pests. I suspect that a reduction in the ant population would make the aphids less of a nuisance. There have been a few signs of gophers, but not a lot of luck catching them. The wire under the veggie beds is working and the chicken wire baskets around the trees and berries have been pretty good at limiting the impact of gophers. There haven't been a lot of insect pests and there have been lots of honeybees -- quite a change from a couple years ago.

And of course I already have ideas for improvements next year.  It will take at least a couple more years of  learning experiences and resulting changes.

(See photos of the garden at http://gallery.vistagrande.com/album.aspx?aid=125.)

Return of the Cottontails

27. July 2014 22:16

The "deer and rabbit" fencing we have around our garden mostly works. The deer do manage to poke their noses through the openings to munch on anything growing within a few inches of the fence. Only a few grape leaves, citrus branches and the blackberry and raspberry plants are in any danger of being pruned by Bambi. The thorns on the berries and some of the citrus do not seem to hinder the deer when anything is within reach.

At the bottom part of the fence, the one inch spacing in the wires does not seem to prevent the cottontail rabbits from slipping through without much difficulty. There are at least three bunnies in the group that lives near the garden. One was a bit smaller than the others, perhaps a juvenile who liked exploring more than staying near the safety of the brush area where they normally live. The pumpkin leaves provide excellent camouflage for the tiny bunny. Another of his favorite spots seemed to be among the bush beans -- perhaps because they were a favorite for eating.

After multiple episodes of finding baby bunny in the garden and chasing him out, we hoped to put an end to it by installing a layer of chicken wire along the lower part of the fencing along the side next to the cottontail habitat.  It did not work. We had hoped that they would not go around to the side. For a few days, it looked like a success.  But all too soon, the cottontails were hopping around the garden again.

We will have to add the additional chicken wire to the other sides of the fence to keep the cottontails out. Fortunately, the damage they have done so far has been minimal -- mostly a few beans and peas. Meanwhile, when I trim anything from the garden or remove past prime plants, the results are dumped outside the fence and serve as a buffet for the deer and rabbits.

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