Monday, October 20, 2014

Harvest Monday 10/20/14

Life has been a bit too busy the last couple of months and there hasn't been too much going on in the garden.  August and September were the months of garden pests.  I had squash bugs, Mexican bean bugs, vine borers, pickle worms, cucumber beetles, hornworms, and so many more.  They ate and ate and I kind of surrendered and gave up on the garden.

However, this week was a big harvest week- I started digging up the sweet potatoes.  I have a 25 ft by 3 ft area of sweet potatoes, well of course they didn't stay within those dimensions.  I decided it wouldn't be a good idea to wait until the first frost is in the forecast and then have to dig and dig.  So I started digging..

I'd like to say I'm halfway done, but I may have a bit more than that to dig.  So far I have 64 lbs of sweet potatoes!  There are some big ones that are over a pound, some average sized ones, some long and crazy shaped ones, and plenty of small ones.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all these sweet potatoes, but I do love them.

Sweet potatoes are supposed to cure for a week at 85 degrees and 85% humidity.  My technique is to put them into a large plastic tuberware and sit them on a seedling heat mat. I started out with a vase of water inside the container, but it was very wet with all the condensation so I took it out.  After the curing they need to be stored in a cool, dry place for a month before finally eating.  This means I have plenty of time to search for sweet potato recipes!

I have been harvesting some other things from the garden:

The peppers have been doing well. The tomatoes are still producing even though they've slowed down quite a bit.  I've also been harvesting my fall planted beans despite those annoying Mexican bean beetle larva.  The fall planted peas have just started producing and I've started harvesting lettuce again.

Weekly harvests (lbs):

Lettuce 0.37
Peas  0.04
Peppers 3.21
Beans 0.54
Tomatoes 2.81
Sweet potatoes 63.9

Weekly total: 70.9 lbs
Yearly total: 794.33 lbs (can't believe I'm almost at 800 lbs for the year!)

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.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Harvest Monday 8/11/14

I've been a bit overwhelmed this week, which is why my Harvest Monday is on Tuesday.  I was out of town last week and then came back to a pile of veggies and a garden overrun with weeds, fungus and bugs.  Luckily this should be the last time I have to go out of town for awhile.  I think next year I need to have a travel moratorium for July and August!  Adding to the overwhelmed feeling is the fact that the semester starts next Monday and I'm teaching a new course plus I have an extra course.  I planned out the fall garden and of the nine rows I have, I'm only going to plant two and a half of them.  This should be more manageable for a busy semester plus I need to work on improving the soil in the rest of the garden this fall.

I may have reached the garden harvest peak last week at 80 lbs.  This week was a close second at 75.4 lbs.  I didn't do I very good job of taking pictures this week, but this represents most of what I harvested this week:

The biggest harvest continues to be melons at almost 25 lbs this week.  I've still been eating a melon per day, which I don't think I would ever get tired of!  I picked the first watermelon.  It was a small one and was alright, but definitely could have been riper.  Several of the melons started cracking from our never ending rain, but I can't complain because I've had a lot of melon this year.

The other big harvest this week has been tomatoes at 16 lbs.  I'm amazed at how much the tomatoes have produced because the plants look sad and pathetic with blight.  I have been picking the tomatoes early and letting them ripen inside because if I leave them to vine ripen they crack because of that never ending rain again.  I roasted a big batch of the tomatoes and made I big pot of curry that I then divided up into freezer bags for quick and tasty lunches.

I didn't take a picture, but I did harvest another Cushaw squash.  This one was a little over 12 lbs.  I cut it into cubes and roasted it in oil and salt.. delicious!  The bell peppers have been doing pretty well.  They are one of my favorite summer veggies.  I have been sauteing them in all kinds of dishes.

I learned this week that if you leave carrots in the ground too long, they start rotting!  I don't know if this is normal or if the excessive rain caused the problem.  I have been pulling carrots as I use them, but then I noticed black leaves and started pulling and many of them were rotting.  I harvested the ones that were not rotting, which was 5.7 lbs.

In a previous post I wrote about harvesting potatoes and about how my potatoes were not very big, so I was going to let them completely die back and harvest the rest.  Well, I harvested the rest of the potatoes and got 0.23 lbs.  Once again, I don't know if it's because of all the rain, but most of the potatoes rotted.

I continue to get a few cucumbers and summer squash and beans, but bugs and fungus have definitely hampered their growth.  I let the Mexican bean beetles get out of control and the larva have practically decimated the beans.  This is what the larvae look like and this is how many there are on a somewhat whole leaf:

And this is what the leaves look like after they've munched (you can also see an adult on the left):

I spent awhile this morning picking the adults and larvae off the beans, but it is looking hopeless.  I have new bean seedlings for fall that haven't been attacked yet, so I think I'm going to have to just patrol the new beans and give up on the old beans.

Weekly harvests (lbs):
Onion 0.76
Herbs 0.04
Potatoes 0.23
Summer squash   3.43
Peppers 5.43
Cucumber   3.22
Beans 0.45
Carrots 5.71
Tomatoes 16.12
Corn         0.79
Melons 24.76
Cabbage 2.41
Winter squash 12.09

Weekly total: 75.4 lbs
Yearly total: 376.55 lbs

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.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Harvest Monday 8/4/14

This week has been a wash out.  Thursday evening it started raining.  Of course I had watered the garden that morning because I looked at the weather earlier in the week and every day had about a 30% chance of rain,but we hadn't seen any in awhile.  That is typical for our summers.  There will be scattered storms that are very patchy.  Then it rained all Thursday night and Friday morning and we ended up getting six inches of rain!  Needless to say the garden was a muddy mess.

I was worried about my newly sprouted bean seeds.  I was so sure they had washed away.  Luckily they were fine, although they were standing in about an inch of water.  The biggest problem was the sunflowers and amaranth.  They had come toppling down, roots and all.  The good is that I guess the corn was too short to fall down!

I tried to right the fallen plants.  The amaranth aren't as top heavy as the sunflowers and they seem to stay standing.  The sunflowers just won't stay up.  I would need to stake them.  I am out of town (again!) and didn't have time or the stakes to deal with it.

Well that was the bad garden news for the week.  The good garden news is harvests are rolling in and I can't believe I beat last week's record of 66 lbs.  This week was 80 lbs!  It was a big week for melons and winter squash.

That giant squash is a 13 lb Green Striped Cushaw.  It is a Cucurbiat mixta and I am happy to report that the vine borers did not touch it.  Something did, however, bore a hole into the squash.  If you can see the hole in the picture, it is right above that small cucumber.  When I cut open the squash there was nothing inside, but obviously something was munching away at some point. It was surprisingly not impossible to cut open the squash.  I peeled it, cut it into big chunks, covered it with aluminum foil and then roasted it for about an hour.

We ate some out of the oven with butter, salt and pepper and it was delicious.  It is mild, a little nutty and sweet.  The rest I pureed.

You can use it in the place of pumpkin or other winter squash.  It is a bit more watery, so either strain it or reduce the liquid in the recipe.  I used a recipe for sweet potato patties and turned it into Cushaw patties (left out the water in the recipe) and it was delicious.  The rest of the puree I froze for now.  The next day I picked another 10 lb Cushaw that didn't make it into a photo.  There is a third one that I have yet to pick.

In other winter squash news, I picked the first spaghetti squash and a little pumpkin.

I really should stop growing pumpkins.  The vine borers just love them.  For the same space I got this one 2 1/2 lb pumpkin compared to over 30 lbs of the Cushaw squash.  The pumpkin also has one of those holes in it too.

I picked the biggest ears of corn so far this season.  Unfortunately one of them had been eaten quite a bit by earworns.  It seems this time in the garden is a peak for pests and fungus! The peppers are producing quite a bit while the tomatoes and cucumbers are struggling.  All that rain is not going to help the tomatoes with early blight.  I pruned all the dead leaves and added another row of wire to the Florida weave in an attempt to get them higher.

The other harvest that has been exceptional this week have been the melons.

I harvested almost 27 lbs of cantaloupe this week!  I binged as much as possible.

But that was too much for me to handle in a week!  The neighbors got some melons and the rest I cut into chunks and froze for future smoothies.

If you recall last week I was overwhelmed with all the banana peppers.  I also gave a bunch to the neighbors, but then I canned some marinated peppers.  I don't know how they taste, but I think they look pretty in the jars.

Finally I harvested a bouquet of flowers from the garden.  I'm not good at cutting flowers from the garden because I feel like I am stealing from the bees and butterflies and hummingbirds, but there were so many blooms that I thought they may not notice if I took a few.  They definitely brighten the kitchen table.

Weekly harvests (lbs):

Onion 0.67
Summer squash  1.19
Peppers 6.24
Cucumber   3.22
Beans 0.71
Tomatoes 10.53
Corn   1.29
Melons 26.69
Dried beans  0.09
Winter squash 29.74

Weekly total: 80.4 lbs
Yearly total: 301.13 lbs (surpassed the 300 lb mark this week!)

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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Harvest Monday 7/28/14

Someday I will stop changing my blog banner!  I can't seem to settle on a design.  At the moment this banner makes me happy, we'll see what next week brings.

Anyway, I thought last week as a big week with 42 lbs.  Well, this week broke the record set last week.  This week's harvest was 66 lbs!

Here's some of the harvests that are taking over my kitchen:

I finally harvested a cabbage head.  This is the biggest head while the rest of the cabbage are tiny.  I probably should just stick to cabbage as a fall crop instead of trying to plant it in the spring.

The biggest harvest this week was tomatoes at almost 28 lbs.  I've made two batches of tomato sauce and eaten plenty of tomato salads this week.  The runner-up crop of the week is cucumbers at almost 14 lbs.  I have made 26 jars of pickles this season!  The cucumber plants are starting to die and I think I'm ready for the cucumber and pickling marathon to end.  We have had plenty of cucumber salads too.

I did get one nice ear of corn that I promptly cooked and devoured.  My late planted corn may produce more than the early corn.  The stalks are still short, but the ears seem to be filling in more on some of the stalks. The summer squash has slowed down to just a few per week.

The peppers, however, have picked up production:

I'm not much of a hot pepper fan.  I usually plant one or two hot banana peppers for J and then plant lots of sweet bell peppers.  Well, it appears I have seven hot banana pepper plants this year!  So what happened?  I had these seeds that were labeled as Cubanella.  It was my first time growing them, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I knew they were supposed to be sweet peppers.  Well, they started growing and they looked like banana peppers and then I tasted them.. definitely not sweet!  I'm guessing I got sent the wrong pepper seeds.  Now I have no clue what to do with all these banana peppers.  J likes them on pizza, but that's a ton of pizza to keep up with the pepper production.  I've been giving them to the neighbors and I might pickle some.  Any thoughts on what to do with lots of banana peppers?

Also this week I picked the first of the winter squash, two butternuts.

I have been complaining recently that my harvest basket just couldn't keep up with the garden, so my mom sent me a much larger wire basket.  It can handle all the tomatoes and even the melons.  I have still been on a melon binge.  They are just so delicious and juicy that once I cut into them, I can't stop eating.

Weekly harvests (lbs):

Lettuce 0.04
Onion 0.41
Summer squash   3.19
Peppers 7.42
Cucumber  13.89
Beans 0.81
Carrots 0.83
Tomatoes  27.71
Corn         0.29
Melons 7.71
Cabbage 1.92
Winter squash 1.59

Weekly total: 66.1 lbs
Yearly total: 220.75 lbs (surpassed the 200 lb mark this week!)

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.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Harvest Monday 7/21/14

I had to leave town and my garden.. again.  This time it was five days away, but at least J was home to watch over the garden and do some harvesting.  I returned to a pile of tomatoes and cucumbers.

This year I had doubts over the success of my garden based on last year's experience, so I think I went a little overboard planting a few extras.  The garden is not disappointing this year.  It is actually getting a bit overwhelming.  I think part of that is being away and coming back to pounds of produce to do something with.

While unpacking and doing laundry I am making tomato sauce.  This is my first tomato sauce of the year and much anticipated.

Today it has rained and rained and rained some more.  I was trying to harvest this morning and it went from a drizzle to steady rain to a downpour with lightening.  At that point I finally decided to get my soggy self inside while my dog was waiting for me, out of the rain, on the porch.  He looked at me as though I'd lost my mind for being out in the rain.

This week has brought plenty of summer produce.  In addition to the tomatoes and cucumbers there has been a few green beans, corn, squash, peppers and carrots.

I am also still harvesting kale.  I expected it to be bolting by now, but it hasn't.  I guess that shade cloth makes a difference.

I also harvested another delicious cantaloupe.  It was over 4 lbs and I ate most of it all by myself in less than 24 hours!  But no worries, I picked another small one today.

Harvests this week:

Herbs 0.20 lbs
Kale  0.66 lbs
Summer squash 1.69 lbs
Peppers 0.87 lbs
Cucumber 14.64 lbs
Beans 0.06 lbs
Carrots 0.07 lbs
Tomatoes 17.37 lbs
Corn         0.89 lbs
Melons 6.44 lbs

Weekly total: 42.9 lbs (What!  I had to re-check my spreadsheet to make sure that was correct. It was and I'm shocked, I'm pretty sure that's a weekly record for me.)
Yearly total: 154.64 lbs

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.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Harvest Monday 7/14/14

Summer is in full swing here in South Carolina.  That means hot, humid days where venturing out of the house between 11 am and 4 pm results in instant sweat and don't even think about trying to wear glasses outside!  The great thing about summer is the garden is plentiful, productive and colorful:

I picked the first large tomatoes this week.  They are Cherokee Purples, which is one of my favorite tomatoes for fresh eating even if they don't win any beauty contests.  I went from wishing the tomatoes would hurry up to having a parade of tomatoes on the window sill!

For those delicious tomatoes I had to have the official salad of summer: tomatoes, cucumbers and onions with olive oil and a bit of red wine vinegar.  I, of course, had to eat this salad on the porch swing.  I would say with a big glass of sweet tea because it fits the image, but I'm not much of a sweet tea drinker.  I had water.

Also this week I pulled most of the beets.  I love the colors of beets and they are one of J's favorite veggies, so I will definitely be planting more in the fall.

There have been plenty of cucumbers this week as well, especially the lemon cucumbers.  That giant cucumber was hiding out under a leaf and went undetected for who knows how long:

With all the cucumbers I made another batch of pickles.  I now do my canning on the back porch on a camping stove.  At the new house we have a glass top stove and supposedly you shouldn't can on them.  I guess the weight of the pot with all the water and jars can actually crack the glass.  Plus and some of the stoves have heat sensors that prevent the water from getting hot enough for canning.  It's nice to keep the heat outside and the porch is shaded and screened in, so no battling mosquitoes or the sun.

Everything isn't growing perfectly in the garden.  There is the corn.  I don't know what my problem is with growing corn.  This is my third year of short corn with small ears.  Last year I blamed the weather and that was likely the cause because all the corn I saw growing in the area looked as short and sad as mine.  However, this year I can't use the weather as an excuse.  When I drive around, I check out people's corn.  It seems to have become an obsession of mine!  Other people's corn have grown tall with nice, dark green leaves.  Mine, however, are short and pale green with small ears.  The only other pathetic looking corn I've seen is my neighbor's corn.  My guess is that our soil doesn't have enough nitrogen.  I really need to get a soil test in the fall.

The good news is that the corn still tastes good even if it is small.

The sunflowers have begun to flower and it appears that I'm not the only one that enjoys their blooms.  They have been covered with bees of all sizes.

My summer squash this year has done better than ever before, despite the squash vine borers and squash bugs.  I am up to 25 lbs of summer squash this year!  I'm actually to the point of wondering what to do with all the squash, which never happens.

And finally, it wouldn't be summer with a juicy melon.  I have successfully grown melons in the past, but they never had a great taste.  However, the first melon of this year was delicious!  It was juicy and sweet.  I hope they all turn out like that this year.  So the corn may not be doing great, but I can live with delicious melons and lots of squash and tomatoes!

Harvests this week:

Lettuce 0.01 (thinned some of the Nevada lettuce and so far it isn't bitter)
Onion 0.98
Herbs 0.11
Kale         0.33
Chard 0.16
Summer squash   7.39
Beet         0.99
Broccoli 0.51
Peppers 0.04
Cucumber   10.79
Beans 0.78
Carrots 1.01
Tomatoes 9.23
Corn    2.21
Melons 2.74
Dried beans  0.14

Weekly total: 37.4 lbs
Yearly total: 111.75 lbs (over the 100 lb mark this week!)

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.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Vanishing Leaves and Murdering Dilemmas

During my morning walk through the garden, sipping my tea, I came upon a horrific site.  OK, so maybe only horrific to a gardener and perhaps only an overly sensitive gardener.  Anyway, one of my pepper plants was missing many leaves.  Entire leaves were gone.  Could it be a rabbit?  I've never seen one in the backyard and Domino has a special affinity for chasing bunnies.

Then  I noticed a tomato branch.  A tomato branch with no leaves!  No rabbit was going to eat tomato leaves five feet off the ground.

Searching the plants, I found the culprit.

A very large hornworm!!

Normally I consider myself a peaceful and non-violent person.  I don't eat animals and try to not harm animals.  Gardening, however, has turned me into a much more violent person.  I now roam around my garden with a kill jar filled with soapy water and happily dunk Japanese beetles, squash bugs, and lately Mexican bean beetle larva.  I can't squish bugs yet.. I still find that too gross. 

I put the hornworm in a jar and debated it's fate.  It was pretty in a Very Hungry Caterpillar kind of way.  I finally decided to take it to the front yard and put it out for the birds to hopefully eat.  A couple of hours later, it was gone.. perhaps crawling it's way back to my garden or digesting in the stomach of a very happy bird.  I'm hoping for the latter. 

The next day I found three more hornworms in the garden.  My moral dilemma has passed and I found a bigger jar to use for killing! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Harvest Monday 7/7/14

This week has been busy.  We went camping for the 4th of July holiday so I had to leave the garden once again.  This time it was for only three nights, so I didn't worry too much.

It seems that the garden is producing lots of yellows: peppers, yellow pear tomatoes, lemon cucumbers and squash.  I made a pasta salad with all veggies from the garden: broccoli, green beans, peppers and cucumbers with a lemon basil dressing.  It was delicious!

This is probably the end of the broccoli.  There may be a few little side shoots, but I planted some winter squash among the broccoli and soon it will overtake them.

I spent time this morning cutting out vine borers from the squash plants.  I got four of them out.  Some of the plants may not survive, but I want to make sure I prevent at least some individuals from starting another cycle.  My second round of squash should begin producing by the middle of July, so even if I lose most of the first plants I should continue to get squash.  The problem may be with the winter squash.  Since they take much longer, the vine borers may kill the vines before the squash is ready.  So far this year I've had 18 lbs of squash and zucchini, which is probably the most I've had in years.

I got the first paste tomatoes this week and more yellow pear tomatoes.  I think the yard long beans have overtaken my Kentucky wonder beans.  I guess I should have given each variety a separate bean tepee.

Harvests this week:
Herbs 0.11 lbs
Summer squash  5.79 lbs
Broccoli 0.72 lbs
Peppers 0.89 lbs
Cucumber   6.33 lbs
Beans 1.01 lbs
Tomatoes 0.64 lbs

Weekly total: 15.5 lbs
Yearly total: 70.7 lbs

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.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July Garden Tour

I realized that I never posted a picture of what the entire garden looks like this year.  So without further delay, here is the 2014 garden in early July:

Starting on the left, row 1 has corn, amaranth and sunflowers.  I don't know what my issue is with growing corn.  For three years now I get these short, pathetic corn.  This year they have started to flower and produce corn at only about four feet tall.  I really need to get my soil tested this fall.  I added horse manure compost, but I'm thinking that wasn't enough.  I'm hoping I still get some ears out of the corn.

Row 2 is tomatoes.  The Florida weave staking seems to be working so far.  It is probably time to add another row.  The main problem I have encountered is that the different types of tomatoes are at different heights.  The Yellow Pear tomato is definitely the largest and is beginning to flop over the wire, so it definitely needs another row of support added.

There are lots of green tomatoes, so it should be a much better harvest than last year.  These Supersauce tomatoes are huge!  I'm getting impatient waiting for them to ripen.

Row 3 is cucumbers and sweet potatoes.

Row 4 is melons, Swiss chard, beets, carrots and what is left of the onions.  There are several baby melons.  I'm hoping they will ripen in the next couple of weeks.

Row 5 is winter and summer squash.  There have been some squash bugs and vine borers.  It seems the vine borers hit the summer squash harder than the winter squash.  I have lost three summer squash plants, but I have new ones planted that should start producing by mid-July.  I'm growing Cushaw squash for the first time and it seems to be doing very well and not a single one has been hit by the vine borer.

I have had a new squash problem this year.  My patty pan squash have been splitting on the blossom end.  I've never had this happen before.  Anyone know why?  My guess is too much water, but it is odd that I haven't seen splitting in anything else.

Row 6 is newly planted summer squash, some remaining potatoes (to see if they get any bigger if I wait to harvest), eggplant, peppers and some herbs.  The Cubanelle peppers are loaded with fruit (forgot to take a picture of these).

Row 7 is beans, peanuts and some more melons.  Row 8 has broccoli planted under the row cover, followed by cabbage and then kale and lettuce under the shade cloth.  I should probably give up on the cabbage because they don't seem to be forming heads.  I have planted more winter squash between the cabbage, so when they start taking over I will have to finally give up.  I guess the spring was too hot this year.

I have Nevada lettuce planted under the shade cloth and so far it has germinated outside and seems to be doing fine.  I don't know how it tastes yet because it is still small.

The last row is flowers including zinnias and asters along with flax and chia to harvest the seeds.  I also planted the second round of winter squash in the last row.

I hope you enjoyed my garden tour.

This post is shared at Green Thumb Thursday at Grow a Good Life.