Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July's Garden (2018)

July's garden has been a battleground.  Everybody and everything who has not contributed to the work has wanted my bounty.  Between critters, viruses, bugs and little rain, it has been rough, a typical July for middle Tennessee.

The cucumber, bean, tomato, pepper, carrot arch is looking odd - a bit lopsided.  The beans, tomatoes, peppers, and carrots are doing just fine.  It is the cucumbers that decided to quit.

The cucumbers did not like the rain at the beginning of the month and caught a virus.  The plants on the right side of the picture died first from (I think) downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis) and it slowly spread to the left side.  Pale yellow spots appeared on the upper surface of the leaves, which later turned brown.  It was caused by wet or very humid conditions.  At first, I treated them with fungicides but it only slowed their demise.  There are two plants remaining which produce about two cucumbers every day.  It won't be long before they too are gone.  

Throwing money at the problem was my next solution so I purchased additional seeds.  Natsu Fushinari and Tendergreen Burpless Cucumbers are two varieties which are supposed to be hardier.  They are planted with the herbs and hopefully, will do better.  How our weather can be dry yet humid is hard to understand.

Behind the cucumber/bean arch is three rows which have blended together.  It will get worse before it gets better. The paths are still underneath if you know where to step. The sweet potato vines are on the far right, and then two rows of bush beans with tomatoes to the far left.  The arch is covered in Calico pole Lima beans.

Behind the Lima bean arch is the melon, bean, potato patch.  The potatoes are in the front row, the green beans are in the second row and the melons are in the back area.  Everything is running together.  It doesn't matter because the potatoes grow underground, the beans grow up and the melon vines twine between.  It does require careful stepping when harvesting.

The melons are producing abundantly. Since I always like to experiment, I chose some of the mixed seeds which were saved from the year I planted 26 different varieties of melons.  I love surprises.

The red plant is an amaranth volunteer.

Each melon is precariously balanced on top of an empty DVD case.  It keeps them above the ground which stops rotting.

Moon and Stars watermelons are easy to identify because both the leaves and the melon have small yellow spots.

The tomato plants are getting tall.  If you are wondering what happened to the tomatoes, go ask the THIEVING, SNEAKY, RACOON WHO ATE OR SMASHED THEM AS HE PULLED THEM OFF THE VINE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT!!!!!

I will move on to something happier.  The left side of the garden was the last area to be planted.  The far right is the watermelon/strawberry patch.  Next toward the left is the okra/herb bed and the last two are the winter hoop houses.  As spots become empty, more seeds are planted.  The white bucket is full of water and is used to keep seedlings damp. 

This is the strawberry patch where ONE watermelon seed fell and sprouted without any assistance from me.  It has spread all over the area.  This is only one plant!  The strawberries are dormant now and do not seem to mind being over-run with vines.

These three melons are growing from the same plant. They aren't ripe yet and I am watching closely.  Knowing when to pick them is not something I have ever learned.

To the left of the watermelon/strawberry patch is the row of herbs.  The okra is loving the heat and the various herbs are doing well enough.  

The two hoop house rows have some varieties that are doing great, others are struggling. Using the covers in the summer has worked great at keeping the cabbage looper butterflies away; however, it has not helped against any other bugs.  They seem to materialize out of thin air under the hoop houses.  The covers don't cool it down underneath but instead hold the heat inside.  

It appears they need more water in the heat than the other summer vegetables.  I don't know if it is because I was late getting them out so they aren't well established or if they just need more water. They also wilt during the heat of the day if they get the least bit dry.  The empty areas will be planted with winter vegetables when I get closer to fall.  It is too early to start the winter seeds.

The Michilli cabbage has been allowed to grow so I could see how it looked without me constantly harvesting the outer leaves.  It has struggled in the heat and dry conditions.  It began turning yellow so I gave it some fertilizer - it didn't help - it was time to go.

The first picture below shows the easy to cut root; however, when I removed the ravaged leaves, not much of the plant was left.  The center picture is how it would look if purchased in the grocery store, that is assuming you could find it in the store.  The last picture on the right is the pile of leaves which were not edible due to spoilage.  I removed half of the plant.  It was struggling to keep all of the leaves alive, even the damaged ones.  This was a waste of its energy (but educational) because I need it for food, not for looks.  For me, it is better to harvest the outer leaves as it grows to avoid tossing so much of the plant later.

The last row will be the second winter hoop house. The bare area has been planted with sugar beets and the next area with saved seeds from the bag of "assorted unknowns."  More surprises ahead.

My garden has been much smaller and planted way later than any previous year.  It's quickly catching up and is producing more than enough for us to use.  The cucumbers have failed me but hopefully, I can still get enough to make pickles before the weather turns cold.  The delicious, fresh food it produces is worth all the hard work.

UPDATE:  I called Mom yesterday to let her know about this post.  She replied, "I didn't see Scooter.  Where is he?"

Well, since we have some wicked raccoons ravaging our garden, ripping ripe tomatoes from the vine, slurping syrup from the hummingbird feeder and stealing bread from the birdfeeder, Scooter has chosen to remain hidden.  That is fine with us.

Racoons are often carriers of "racoon disease" (baylisascariasis) which dogs and other small animals can easily catch if they come in contact with their feces.  The larvae is known to migrate to the brain, where it affects the nervous system in dogs.  It can be treated, but it is a horrible illness.  We have chosen to be overly cautious until we can get rid of the little monsters.

"Are they gone yet?"

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Peachy-Keen Peaches

During the month of July, we love to travel and visit orchards for freshly picked produce.  This is our favorite peach orchard.  

We love it because of the delicious peaches and friendly, personal service.

As soon as you open your car door, the welcoming committee rushes out to welcome you and direct you inside.

If you scratch them behind their ears, they will be your best friend forever, or until...

... the owner catches them inside the store.

My new forever friend.
They pick the tree-ripened peaches early in the morning and put them straight into white plastic baskets. This way they are only handled once which lowers any risk of bruising. You pay for the basket, then they refund your money when you return it at the end of the season.

They are stacked on shelves and labeled according to variety. The owner has free samples so you can choose your favorite.  I had no idea about the extensive difference in flavors.

It's an enormous orchard with long rows.  Some people pick their own - not me - I would get lost.

I did notice something unusual this year.  Normally there are people picking peaches and golf carts rushing around with overflowing baskets. The orchard was deserted and the trees were EMPTY!  The peaches were on the ground, rotting, not on the trees.

If a peach touches the ground, it is not allowed to be sold. 

This spring we had a late freeze which killed the blossoms on the early varieties. Next, the weather would not stop raining so dampness caused the late-blooming peaches to develop brown rot (Monolinia fructicola), a fungal disease.  Ninty percent of the crop failed.  The owners were devastated. 

Some of the later varieties were less affected and will be ripening soon. These trees were still covered in unripe peaches.  All of the trees in the orchard should look like this.

We were only allowed to buy a few baskets since they were wanted by many people. It was a disappointment. I had planned on filling up my freezer and eating them all winter. Grocery store peaches are picked green for transport and are not able to develop a delicious sweet flavor. The worst peach I have bought from this orchard tasted better than the finest peach I have ever gotten from any grocery store anywhere.  

My name is on the waiting list and I hope to be able to get more.  Some things are worth the drive.

UPDATE:  I got the White China Pearl peaches that I love!  Nagging worked!