Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Army to Defeat Hornworms

I keep having a nightmare that I go out to the garden and all the tomatoes and peppers are leafless!  The reason is the hornworms.  If you saw my earlier post, hornworms have invaded my garden and I'm a bit squemish about controlling them.

Now I inspect the tomatoes and peppers everyday, looking for missing leaves and big fat hornworms.  The other day I saw a smaller hornworm surrounded by the troops:

Those are eggs of parasitic wasps, the braconid wasp to be specific.  It lays its eggs inside the hornworm and as they hatch, they eat their way out, killing the hornworm. This makes death by soapy water seem much more humane!  I left the hornworm to its fate and it has been in the exact same spot everyday and hasn't eaten a single leaf.  I think its end is looming close.  The best part is that once all those baby braconid wasps hatch I'll have an army to help defeat the hornworms.  Hopefully the nightmares will subside too!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard

I'm a day behind this week!  The main thing happening in my kitchen this week was making the first batch of pickles:

I learned how to water bath can last year, so I had to refresh myself on what to do since it has been awhile.  The dill pickles I make are very simple- they are the Ball dill pickle mix.  I have a recipe book called So Easy to Preserve that has many canning recipes including several for pickles.  However, last year when I was preparing for my first batch of pickles and was standing in the store checkout line with jars, the woman behind me started talking about making pickles.  She said she's tried countless recipes including grandma's recipe and by far the best and crispiest are the Ball dill pickle mix.  Since I knew nothing about canning, I thought I would give it a try.

Last year the cucumbers had a prolific year and I had far more pickles than I could ever eat, so I gave out pickles to lots of friends and family.  Everyone loved the pickles and are already asking about them this year, so now I feel that I need to stick to the same recipe.  I did make a batch of sweet gherkins last year from the So Easy to Preserve book and they are my favorites.  However, they require five days of soaking and changing the liquid and I didn't have the motivation for that, but hopefully sometime this summer I will make them.  Unfortunately the cucumbers do not seem to be thriving this year.  I've started some more seeds, but it's going to be awhile before they mature. 

That's what has been cooking in my kitchen.  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Harvest Monday 6/25/12

It's beginning to look a lot like summer everywhere you go (in my garden)!

I have plenty of new harvests to report this week.  And because I can not contain my excitement any longer, I have to report my most anticipated veggie of the year: the tomato.  My first tomato was a yellow pear at a whopping 0.2 oz, but oh so tasty!

Also this week I harvested my first eggplant (5.2 oz).  I'm growing an heirloom variety called Little Spooky.  They are smaller, white eggplants and legend says they are suppose to scare away evil spirits from your garden at night.  Do squirrels count as evil spirits?

The peppers are slowly but surely growing with 1 oz of hot banana peppers and 5 oz of bell peppers.  The bell peppers are a rainbow mix, so it's exciting to see what colors I have.

The cucumbers continue producing with 5.3 lbs this week, although the plants are starting to not look so good- yellowing and browning leaves.  I just started some seeds, so hopefully the current plants can hang on until some new ones can replace them. 

I also stumbled upon a little (0.4 oz) red onion hiding in a bed, but no picture.

As for squash, I was happy to harvest a 5.5 lbs hubbard squash.  These squash plants were my trap crop for the vine borers, so I was not expecting to get any.

I also harvested 1.7 lbs tromboncino squash:

And how could I forget my first green bean harvest (3.2 oz):

Not included in the weights, but a first ever harvest for me is chamomile:

Weekly total:  14.98 lbs
Yearly total: 85.44 lbs worth $166.20

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard

The week began with what seems to have become a regular: chard and potatoes.  The version this week was a crustless chard and cheese quiche from Vegetarian Times.  I liked how the potatoes made a crust on the bottom of the quiche and the combination with the feta cheese was delicious. 

The weekend was perfect grilling weather.  I used the cucumbers to make a side salad: Tangy Cucumber and Avocado Salad.  It was a nice, chilled salad with perhaps a bit too much tang and not enough avocado.

On the cucumber theme, we had lunches of egg salad and cucumber sandwiches.  I have yet to get tired of fresh cucumbers, but when I do then the pickling will begin.

We also grilled some peaches from our peach picking afternoon.

Speaking of peaches, I couldn't resist making (and eating) a peach pie:

I also made some mini peach pies to freeze for the when a pie craving hits.  I got the idea from Our Best Bites, they're adorable and it lets you have some delicious pie in a controled portion. 

I also stuffed myself with plenty of fresh peaches, these ones topped some yogurt:

That's what has been cooking in my kitchen.  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Harvest Monday 6/18/12

The peppers are slowly starting with 1.1 oz of banana peppers (pic 1) and one little bell pepper that I should have waited on, but was too impatient at 0.7 oz (pic 4).  In the picture of the bell pepper you can see it is sitting on a tiny bit of lettuce (0.3 oz) that was hiding in the shade and promptly went on a sandwich.  The constant chard produced 8.5 oz this week (pic 3).  I stumbled upon 7.6 oz of red onions cleaning up the bed they were in, a nice surprise.  Such a surprise that I didn't take a picture of them.

The stars this week are the cucumbers (6.2 lbs).  Both the Lemon and the Persian cucumbers are producing well (pic 2 and 5).  I've been eating them fresh, but soon the pickling will begin.  Also pictured this week are some herbs: basil and parsley.  I haven't been keeping the weights on herbs this year. 

We went peach picking this week at a local orchard.  We got 14 lbs of peaches for $7!

Weekly total:  7.3 lbs
Yearly total: 74.86 lbs worth $149.31

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Revisiting June Garden Goals

We're halfway through June, so perhaps I should post my June garden goals...
  • Plant seeds outside: carrots and bush beans and I might plant a second round of corn.  I didn't have very good germination rates with my corn and now the potato bed is available.
  • Plant seeds inside:  It's already time to start some fall crops indoors!  I'm not sure how these cool weather crops are going to do in a toasty potting shed.  I guess I will find out.  This month I need to start onion, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and head lettuce.
  • Weeding: A never ending story!
  • Pest patrol:  Try to keep the squash bugs, vine borers, and Japanese beetles under control along with any other pests I run encounter.
  • Mulch the rest of the beds. 
  • Bench in the woods: What should be simple: buy bench and put in the woods, I've made complicated.  I've decided I want a cozy outdoor daybed with a mosquito net canopy.  Unfortunately outdoor daybeds are expensive, so there's going to be some diy involved in this project.
  • Start installing a watering system: As summer arrives and watering becomes more and more important, I really want a drip irrigation system. 
  • Start on the pea gravel garden paths:  This goes with the watering system.  To install the watering system I will have to dig up the garden paths, so when I fill them in I want weed-free gravel paths.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday's Kitchen Cupboard

We've been eating plenty of goodies from the garden this past week.  I made mashed turnips to go with lentil loaves (1).   A roasted swiss chard and potato cake that tastes better than it looks in the photo.   I followed the recipe, except the only cheese I had on hand was cheddar. With the potato harvest I couldn't resist making fries (3).  For lunch, I've been eating lots of cucumber sandwiches (4).  I love crispy fresh cucumbers with cream cheese and a few mint leaves.   The first pepper harvest was chopped with some onions (5) and made into quesadillas (6).  I also made a delicious blackberry cobbler, but neglected to take a picture while devouring it!

That's what has been cooking in my kitchen.  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summertime on the Front Porch

There's nothing better than spending a lazy summer afternoon on the front porch with an ice cold glass of tea reading or dreaming.

I'm not the only one that likes the front porch, the birdhouse was home to baby bluebirds this spring.

Domino also enjoys hanging out on the porch.

Surrounding the porch are plenty of flowers, butterflies, hummingbirds, and birds.

Perhaps I should do something productive this afternoon or maybe I'll spend a little bit longer on the front porch!

Continue on a tour of fabulous gardens at:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Harvest Monday 6/11/12

The garden harvests have been picking up the pace the past couple of weeks.  This is when I find it hard to remember to weigh and take pictures of everything.  I'm really trying to stay on top of the weighing because I want to know how much my garden produces.. hopefully that curiosity will keep me motivated!

The biggest harvest this week was the potatoes.  I decided to dig up the bed and ended up with 10.2 lbs, which isn't  too shabby for 24 sq ft and with the wilting plants.  The red potatoes did the best, followed by yukon gold and white kennebec produced the fewest.

I also pulled the rest of the onions (1.9 lbs), but only took a picture of a few of them:

The spring planted turnips have not liked the warm weather, so I decided to go ahead and pull them (1.5 lbs):

The old standby, chard, is still producing with no signs of bolting.  I harvested 8oz of it this week:

My spring planted carrots were looking big and bushy, so I thought I would pull one to see how big they are.. the answer 0.7 oz.  Guess I need to be more patient with the carrots.

I also had 0.5 oz of strawberries, but they didn't last long enough to have their picture taken.  The strawberries are not producing very much and the berries are really small.  Oh and I busted a squirrel inside my strawberry cage!  He's chewed a hole through the netting!

I harvested 2 lbs of cucumbers this week, but was a slacker at taking pictures of them.  I have two varieties this year: Persian and Lemon.

A new harvest this week is peppers.  I picked two banana peppers (1.2 oz) and was impatient and picked three little bell peppers (2.6 oz).

Lastly are blackberries, which are not from my garden.  Blackberries grow all over the place around here, especially on roadsides.  You just have to brave the thorns and the chiggers, but they are definitely worth it!

Weekly total:  16.9 lbs
Yearly total: 50.63 lbs worth $138.20

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week, to see what others are harvesting check out Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Archenemy #1: Squash Vine Borer

There are few things I truly hate, but vine borers make it to the top of my list.  If you have never met a vine borer as a gardener, count yourself lucky.  They are a species of moth that lay their eggs on the stem of squash plants.  The caterpillars then eat into the stem of the squash and cut off the transport and nutrients and water from the roots to the leaves.  The squash start to wilt and the entire plant dies.  Plus, in the south we have a long enough season to get two rounds of vine borers.

This year I had a battle plan for the vine borers.

Step 1:  Plant resistant squash varieties.  C. moschata varieties are suppose to be more resistant to the borers.  I planted tromboncino squash which can be picked young and can be used as a summer squash.  I also planted Sweet Mama Hybrid squash which is a acorn squash that is *suppose* to be resistant.

Step 2: Plant a trap crop.  Hubbard squash are suppose to be one of their favorite varieties, so my plan was to plant them as a trap crop and kill the evil borers!

My battle plan is not going as expected!  My sweet mama squash started wilting (remember that this one is suppose to be resistant).  Checking out the stem, this is a red flag that there's a vine borer inside:

Sometimes you can cut out the vine borer and bury the damaged part of the stem and the plant will survive.  I tried this and here you can see my archenemy:

Don't be fooled by its small and harmless appearance- these guys are evil! 

I buried the stem and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately the plant wilted and died.  I pulled it up and found that there was a second vine borer!


7 of the 9 Mama Hybrid Squash have died
1 of 3 Hubbard Squash have died
0 of 6 Tromboncino Squash have died

The trap crop is doing better than one supposedly resistant variety, but so far tromboncino is the survivor.  All three hubbard squash have been attacked, two have survived so far.  I cut one borer out of the one that died.  As the plant continued to die, I pulled it and opened it up.  There were four more vine borers!  I've never seen that many before and this was at the end of May!

And the battle goes on...

 Any suggestions on how to win the battle or even how to survive the battle with a few squash plants alive?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday Kitchen Cupboard... Tromboncino Squash

This week's post isn't really a recipe- it is a taste test.  This is my first season growing tromboncino squash in an attempt to outsmart the vine borers.  Tromboncino squash can be picked young and used as a summer squash or you can let it grow big and use as a winter squash. 

It has a long skinny neck and a bulb shaped base.  Only the bulb end has seeds.

Here's what it looks like on the inside:

I sauteed it in some butter:

The texture is a bit thicker and meatier than zucchini, so it took a bit longer to get tender.  I then just sprinkled it with salt and pepper.

The taste test: it tastes like zucchini to me!  I've read that it is suppose to have a nuttier taste, but I didn't notice.  J also approved of the tromboncino squash and was in agreement that it tasted like zucchini.  I'm excited to finally have a summer squash despite the vine borers!

That's what has been cooking in my kitchen.  If you want to peak into other kitchens and see what others are cooking, head over to Thursday’s Kitchen Cupboard at the Gardener of Eden.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Early June Veggie Garden Tour

My vegetable garden is green and growing in June:

The beans are trying to touch the sun:

The peanuts have germinated and are settling in for a long growing season:

The corn with their stylish cutworm collars are hanging out with sweet potatoes this year:

The regular potatoes on the other hand are dwindling away from a fungal wilt:

The tomato bed is quickly filling in and growing up:

The cucumbers have begun their mission to take over the world:

The melons are being indecisive about growing up or out and decided to do both:

A row of carrots that were a bit stubborn about germinating this spring:

A flourishing bed of kidney beans:

The bolting bed: lettuces, celery, and cilantro declaring that it is just too hot:

Then there are the garden details: 1. baby acorn squash, 2. banana peppers, 3. young hubbard squash, 4. immature strawberries, 5. the first little green tomato, 6. a baby bell pepper, 7. first eggplant flower, 8. Persian cucumber

Continue on a tour of fabulous gardens at: