Monday, June 27, 2016

Harvest Monday 6/27/16

It has been a hot and dry week here.  Tomorrow we finally have some rain in the forecast.  I'm sure all the plants will greatly appreciate some rainfall.  I would save the best harvest for last, but I'm not good at waiting, so here's the big story of the week: my first blueberry harvest ever!

We planted three blueberry bushes in the fall, so this will probably be the one and only harvest this year.  We planted Climax, Tifblue and Premier blueberries and so far it seems that Climax is producing the biggest berries.  Tifblue had a lot of shriveled berries (I should have watered them before we went on vacation and completely forgot!).  My plan is to add a few blueberry bushes every fall until we have what I plan on calling Blueberry Lane on the edge of our property.  Surprisingly it didn't seem that the birds had discovered the berries, at least this year!

Also this week I harvested the first of the bell peppers.  These are Marconi (green) and Antohi Romanian sweet peppers (yellow).  Both would ripen to red if I would be more patient.

The summer squash are currently doing well.  I'm still waiting for the year when I get to drowned in zucchini.  I hear this happens to people, but the vine borers and stink bugs make it hard to do around here.  I am enjoying my zucchini while it is alive and producing.  I already lost one plant- it was early in the morning and the planted was wilted even though it had just been watered.  I ripped it up and searched for signs of vine borers and found nothing, so I'm not sure what caused the wilting.

Also this week I harvested amaranth greens for my daily eggs with greens.  It seems the aphid infestation has improved after I took off the row cover.  I ended up taking the row cover down after I had cabbage moths inside it on the broccoli.  I resorted to using Bt on the broccoli instead.

My onion harvest continues with more Red Creole onions.  They are not the biggest onions, but they have done quiet well for spring planted onions.

I've moved on to harvesting summer lettuce varieties: Nevada and Jericho.  I have had a horrible germination rate with my summer lettuce, so I'm going to get some started inside in hopes that it is the high temperatures and not my seeds that are preventing germination.

I've also been harvesting broccoli, which was added to a salad with the above lettuce.

Another green from the garden this week was Swiss chard, which was used to make these potato and chard cakes.

I still have plenty of beets in the fridge, so I've been looking for some exciting new beet recipes.  I made this beet, goat cheese and walnut tart (well I don't have a tart pan, so it looks more like a quiche).  It was very pretty and I thought it was delicious.  However, even though J is a fan of beets, he didn't share the love of this tart.

The last harvest this week I did not grow, but I'm happy to pick and eat: blackberries.  The wild blackberries are producing tons of berries this year.  These are probably why the birds didn't bother with my little blueberry bushes.  Luckily we can just walk around our property and the neighborhood and get plenty of berries.

I used the blackberries to make a pie, which was eaten with some homemade peach ice cream:

This is definitely an indication that it is summer around here!

Weekly harvests:

Carrots 8.7 oz
Lettuce 8.9 oz
Chard 10.2 oz
Broccoli 4.4 oz
Onion 3.7 lbs
Amaranth  14.3 oz
Summer squash  2.8 lbs
Peppers 7 oz
Okra         0.8 oz
Corn 1.2 lbs

Yearly harvest: 132.7 lbs

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week.  To see what others are harvesting, check out Harvest Monday on Our Happy Acres.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Toads in the Garden

Beneficial bugs aren't the only good guys for my garden.  I have had the pleasure of encountering the humble toad quite often.

It may just be me, but I think they are adorable in their own way.  Look at those big, beautiful eyes!

Toads are wonderful helpers in the garden.  According to Mother Earth News, toads can eat 100 insects per night and love to dine on cutworms, which are one of my many arch enemies in the garden.  They need a moist place to live, so it is a good idea to place some saucers in the garden with water and rocks along with some type of cover: a log or broken flower pots will do or you can get fancy and make a toad abode.

Here's my little garden toad all cozy in the dirt, resting after a busy night of defending my garden from all kinds of pests.

Sleep well little guy.  Your hard work is much appreciated!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Harvest Monday 6/20/16

We arrived home from our trip to Upstate New York last night and of course I had to run out to the garden with a flashlight to check it out.  I'm happy to report that the watering timer functioned correctly, so no garden tragedies.  It is always fun to see how much the garden grows when you go away.  The squash and tomatoes seemed to double or triple in size.  I did have a few transplanted seedlings that did not make it and the germination of the peanuts I planted right before we left was dismal.  I haven't had much time to be in the garden yet, but this is what I harvested this morning:

This was my first squash and zucchini harvest.  Luckily they have just begun, so I didn't arrive home to find humongous ones.  The broccoli was also a first for me this spring.  Broccoli is one of my absolute favorite vegetables.  These two heads were quickly steamed and eaten.  Hopefully there will be plenty more broccoli harvests to come.  However, I found two cabbage moths flying around inside the row cover!  I'm going to spray some Bt to hopefully prevent any caterpillars from eating my broccoli.

The kale I harvested was sauteed with the yellow squash and eaten with some eggs for breakfast.  The onions on the left are the last of the fall planted White Castle onions and the ones of the right are the spring planted Red Creole onions.

The summer harvests should be picking up the pace very soon.  There are some green tomatoes and some of the ears of corn look very close to ripe along with some peppers that are currently green.  I will be spending the next week catching up on weeding, harvesting, planting and dealing with bugs.

Since I don't have many garden pictures to share this week, this is where we were camping:  Fair Haven Beach State Park along Lake Ontario.

The place was beautiful and the weather was perfect.  Two nights were downright chilly, which was a nice escape from the upper 90's back home.

Weekly Harvests:

Kale 5.5 oz
Broccoli 13.5 oz
Summer squash 14.6 oz
White Castle onion 1 lb 14. 9 oz
Red Creole onion 12.3 oz

Yearly Total: 121.7

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week.  To see what others are harvesting, check out Harvest Monday on Our Happy Acres.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Harvest Monday 6/13/16

We are on the road today in Upstate New York heading to Lake Ontario for some camping.  I left my garden behind on Friday, so this is what I harvested before leaving.  The weather up here is nice and cool, but back home it is in the upper 90's with no chance of rain.  I'm nervous leaving my garden's survival in the hands of a battery operated timer that failed last year!   Here's hoping I return to a living garden.

Here's what I harvested this week in the garden: Chinese cabbage and a small head of Golden Acre cabbage.

They got used to make this Asian coleslaw that was very delicious.

I also harvested a few more White Castle onions weighing 1.5 lbs:

With the hot weather, I thought I should go ahead and harvest most of the root crops: carrots, beets and turnips. This is the last of the turnips.  Those yellowmargined leaf beetles definitely reduced turnip production this year.

I also harvested the last of the peas and completely forgot to weigh them or take a picture. They make great road trip snacks!

Weekly Harvests:

Carrots 1.9 lbs

Turnips 9.9 oz

Chard 1.3 lbs

Cabbage 1.3 lbs

Beets 2.0 lbs

Onions 1.5 lbs

Chinese cabbage 1.2 lbs

Yearly Total: 116.9 lbs

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week.  To see what others are harvesting, check out Harvest Monday on Our Happy Acres.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Beneficial Bug Flower Bed

I have problems with pests in my garden.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one that is in a constant, ongoing battle with bugs.  I’ve tried all kinds of techniques- row covers, natural sprays, handpicking.  My latest tactic is to lure in the good guys, the beneficial bugs that can help me fight the battle.  Last year we built a raised bed with rocks from our property, filled it with dirt and then planted a beneficial bug seed mix from American Meadows.  It is advertised to attract “lacewings, lady bugs, hover flies and parasitic wasps, which help to destroy harmful pests such as aphids, thrips and mites.”

This is what it looked like last May:

Then we had a drought.  I watered regularly until we went out of town for two weeks.  I assumed that the flowers were not going to make it.  A few things grew, but it looked sad.

Fast forward to April of this year:

The flower bed came to life with Baby Blue Eyes:

Siberian Wallflower

and poppies.

The show continued in May with more and more blooms:

including cilantro with a dragonfly

Lance-leaf Coreopsis

and Globe Gila

Now in June there is an explosion of Black-eyed Susans:

I found this butterfly enjoying the blooms:

She was so distracted by the nectar that I got a nice close-up:

Among the sea of Black-eyed Susans I found some Yarrow:

and one Purple Coneflower shaded by the Black-eyed Susans:

It is fun to watch what appears in the flower bed.  I can not say whether these flowers have brought in an army of beneficial bugs yet.  Although I did spot this hoverfly on one of the blooms:

Maybe, just maybe I will get some help with the war against pests that goes on in my garden, but if not the flowers are still beautiful and make me happy.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Harvest Monday 6/6/2016

Excuse me while I gloat for a moment.  I harvested my biggest onion ever this week at 11.1 ounces!  This may not sound like a feat, but feel free to read about my onion growing difficulties here.

In total I harvested 1.5 lbs of White Castle onions this week.  Ok, gloating over.

Moving on to other harvests this week, if you can move past that giant onion!  Peas were the most abundant veggie from the garden this week at almost 3 lbs.  These were mostly Green Arrow shelling peas.

We love to eat these straight from the pods, but I did shell and cook some to go with pasta and Alfredo sauce.  Fresh peas are so delicious.  I was hoping to have enough peas to freeze this year, but it seems that we may eat them all before I have a chance.

Another big harvest this week was beets at 2.2 lbs:

I boiled some of them and we ate them plain with salt and pepper.  I also used the cooked beets to make a lovely salad with lettuce from the garden along with goat cheese, walnuts and a balsamic honey dressing.  It was so delicious and fancy.  I felt like I was eating at one of those trendy farm to table restaurants, except it was my own back porch and lacked the expensive price tag.

I also roasted some beets along with carrots and turnips from the garden.

Weekly Harvests:
Carrots 2 oz
Turnips 6.1 oz
Lettuce 8.2 oz
Beets 2.2 lbs
Peas 2.9 lbs
Onions 1.5 lbs
Yearly Total: 106.5 lbs, already over 100 lbs!

That's all the harvests coming from my garden this week.  To see what others are harvesting, check out Harvest Monday on Our Happy Acres.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Growing Onions in Warm Climates

I cook with onions almost daily, so I would like to have an abundance of them in my garden.  However, I have not been very successful growing onions.  I live in South Carolina (zone 7) and here it is recommended to plant onions in the fall and harvest in the spring.  When reading about onions, not all onions are the same.  There are long day, short day and neutral day (intermediate) onions.  Long day onions are best for northern climates (zone 6 and colder).  This is because the summer days are significantly longer than winter days in the north.  In the South, the day length between summer and winter doesn’t differ as much, so short day onions are best.  Day neutral onions should form bulbs in any zone. 

To understand all of this is helps to recap the biology of onions.  Onions are bulbs, which are modified fleshy leaves.  The layers of leaves that form the bulb grow based on nutrients and water.  They grow from the inside, pushing older layers outward.  The layers are consumed for calories during flowering and during drought, so the size of an onion and the number of layers can vary.  The outer layers keep dying as new layers grow internally and the bulb expands. 

Long day onions receive their cue to start bulbing when day length reaches 14 to 16 hours.  It doesn’t matter when onions are planted.  What matters is the amount of dark and light that an onion is exposed to determine when and if it will bulb, flower and set seed.  Short day onions need 10 to 13 hours.  If short day onions are grown at northern latitudes, then when the days reach 10 or more hours the onion will start forming a bulb.  The problem with this is that it will be early spring and the onion will be tiny.  The reason for planting onions in the fall in warmer climates is to get some vegetative growth before the day length trigger.  This will result in larger bulbs in the spring.  Based on all this information, short day onions are the best for my zone 7 garden.

Armed with all this information about onions, I set out to pick a short day onion that stores well.  My decision was the Red Creole onion.  Sow True Seeds describes it is as “a very large red onion perfect for the South.”  This had to be my onion, so I ordered seeds and planted them last fall.  Then I waited and waited.

Instead of onions I got flowers:

Some of the flowers are even producing little onion bulblets.

Pretty, but not what I was aiming for.

Getting the right day length isn’t a guarantee that I get to harvest onions.  Onions are biennials, meaning it should take two years to flower.  However, that is not always the case.  Onions can flower prematurely, called bolting.  This can happen when there is a cold snap and the onions go dormant.  As the temperatures increase, the onion starts growing again, but now it thinks it has been through two winters and will start taking resources from its bulb and produce a flower stalk and flower, which means the onion bulb does not grow anymore and can shrink.  Basically the onion plant thinks that its life is almost over and prepares to reproduce before dying.  I refer to our springs here as bipolar.  One day it is summer, the next day is winter.  I can understand how the onions could get confused.  The lesson I learned this year is that not only do I need short day onions, but I also need bolt resistant onions. 

It turns out that among the Red Creole seeds I planted last fall were a few White Castle onions as well and here they are bulbing nicely:

I think I may have found my onion variety! 

Of course, like any good gardener, I don't give up and here are spring planted Red Creole onions:

 Maybe if they didn't like fall planting they will do better in the spring.  I'm guessing I won't get very big onions, but that's alright.  Some small onions are better than no onions!