Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Fall Plantings

I've never tried late summer plantings for a fall harvest, but we're trying this year.  The first fall frost is difficult to gauge in Minnesota, so we're trying right around August 1st this year and will see how it goes.

What's gone in the ground:
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Romaine (green and red)
  • Arugula
  • Carrots
  • Kohlrabi
  • Beets
  • Peas
  • Beans
Most of these like to germinate and/or grow in cool(er) soil, and our 90 heat right now does not seem overly promising.  However, the upcoming forecast shows highs in the mid-80s so hopefully with adequate watering we can get these plants to come.  Now, that doesn't mean they'll survive the bunnies.

We will send the remaining seeds to the greenhouse to see what we can get to grow this fall and winter.

Stay cool...

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Today's Harvest


Pepper Row
As promised - pictures!  Here is what the garden looks like today.  The tomatoes are flourishing.  We've had some cherry tomatoes and 3 of the Zebra's ready to harvest.  I anticipate some Romas will be ripe soon.

The Peppers are also doing well.  We don't have any that are ripe yet, but most of the plants have multiple peppers on them and they seem to enjoy the heat and humidity! 

The squash are also doing well, but we don't have any fruit yet.  The blossoms have started to drop off, which I'm not sure if it's blossom drop or just normal fruiting.  Hopefully we'll get some yummy squash this year.  The cucumbers also got in late, but have taken to the trellis quite well and have grown 6" in the last few days.  The leaves are still small on the cukes, but there are tons of blossoms.


The tomato plants on the patio are also doing well, here is a pic along with one of the pepper plants that has a pretty red pepper on it.  As you can see, the potted tomatoes look pretty tough but the tomatoes are sure delicious!

And finally, today's harvest!  All of the onions are up and you can see them below.  There seems to be different results across the different types of onions.  The yellows seem to have gotten the biggest with the whites up next.  The red onions didn't seem to do much (will need to research this over the winter!).  Also, the shallots did great and I'm very excited to have these in my pantry.  This is the second major haul of cherry tomatoes I've made.  The oval-shaped ones on the left are from the potted plant and the perfectly round ones are from my Matt's Wild Cherry plant in the garden.  The former are very sweet, almost like candy, while the latter have a much stronger tomato flavor.  The larger tomatoes are all from the patio except the one on the far right which if you look closely, you can see the zebra stripes!  For the potatoes, we had an issue with creeping charlie and it seem to strangle a few of the potato plants.  I pulled these up and dug up a handful of potatoes.  There are still about 6 or so plants left in the ground.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Rain today!

We had a nice, deep soaking of rain overnight and this morning (1.6" according to the weather channel!) and temperatures only got up to 82, which is a nice change of pace.  We, like most of the country, have been in need of some rain for awhile now.  There is a 50% chance of rain overnight and a 40% chance of rain Wednesday and Thursday, but I'm hoping to get back in the garden before too long. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012


This growing season has been a combination of goods and bads.  With this heat we've been having all summer, I feel like we've been playing catch up as we try to avoid the sun and humidity!  I feel like I'm getting close to caught up though, and have some "food for thought" pun intended on the garden thus far:

The tomato experiment with starting the 4 different kinds in the greenhouse this January seems to have been a huge success!  I have a ton of tomatoes from all of the plants that began riping late June (a solid month if not 45 days earlier that traditional transplants).  The negatives:  the plants themselves look pretty rough - like late season tomato plants already, and managing the moisture levels in the pots is difficult so we've had some blossom end rot, mostly on the first batch.  We will definitely do a few of these again next year, and likely add more dirt to the pot so they are as full as possible.  Also, the cages don't do much since the pots are round (not enough depth to get them to stand upright), so next year I think I'll try staking them.

Plant Review:
  •  Brandywine - delicious!  Best flavor I have ever had in a tomato.  I made a Caprese salad for some friends yesterday and got great compliments.  The fruit size is large and fills up your hand.  We will definitely plant more of these for next year.  Cons - the fruit are very globular and have started to split in this heat.  Again - a watering issue.  I likely need to be more vigilant about watering every day at the same time of day.
  • Red Grape Hybrid - very nice!  Good flavor and tons of production.  Again, the plant looks really rough but it keeps spewing out tomatoes.  Perfect little bite size snacks, and they ripened really early.
  • Debarao - overall, these are fine.  My next highest producer I'd say after the grape.  Flavor profile is okay, size is like a Roma but more round, less long.  I'll probably try and different type next year.
  • Moskvich - lowest producer so far.  These seem similar to the Brandywine but smaller.  I should have a few more to try in a few days so I'll be able to comment more on flavor then.
For the tomatoes in the garden - I've tried using stakes this year instead of cages.  My experience with cages seems to be that the plants end up knocking them over anyways, so we'll see how the stakes work.  I found green Velcro at Home Depot in the garden center to attach the vines which is great because you can adjust as the plants grow!  So far so good, even with the rain we've had.  I'll keep you posted as the season progresses.  We haven't had any ripe tomatoes yet, but there are plenty of green ones on the vines.  A few seem to have been snacked on by the rabbits (yes, they still like to eat away at the garden). 

Plant Review:
  • Matt's Wild Cherry - I'm going to do a review on this before the plant gets into full swing.  When they describe it as "Wild Cherry" they mean it!  This plant was taking over my garden.  I swear it now has 12 different stems full of grape-like bunches of cherry tomatoes.  The tomatoes are cute and round, again small (marble-sized maybe?), but I'm afraid of what this plant is going to do! 
The next step with the tomatoes in the ground is to prune.  I've never pruned my tomatoes, but I'll take before and after pictures and let you know if it seems to affect the plant/harvest.  By the way...the Zebra tomatoes are pretty cute with their stripes!

The peppers are in full swing and all doing well.  I have quite a few peppers on the vines, but none have fully ripened yet.  While weeding I knocked one off the vine and tried it - one of the Aji's - and oh my goodness was it hot!  I had to go inside for something to drink.  I heard that this heat is going to make the peppers even hotter...maybe our only use for them will be Brad's pepper flakes :)

It was an interesting year for lettuces, I think.  My second plantings seem to bolt almost immediately - I didn't get anything off the plants - it was just way too hot.  There were mixed reviews on the others.  They've all been cleared from the garden bed, but I plan to put in a few more for a fall harvest in the next week or so.

Plant Review:
  • Spinach - This was an okay planting.  The flavor was good, but it seemed to be a favorite of the ants (or some insect).  With my fall planting I think I'll try a water-vinegar mixture to protect the leaves until it cools down a bit.  A few years ago I had tried a baby spinach variety that had smaller leaves (of course I don't know which kind it was), but I think I'll try and find something similar for next year.  The smaller leaves just have a sweeter flavor.
  • Arugula - This arugula was quite good, but with the heat bolted really early.  Lesson learned:  when Arugula starts to bolt, PULL IT.  It's too spicy to enjoy in a salad and if you leave it be, it becomes quite the weed.
  • Red & Green Romaines - Loved these.  They grew well and had great flavor, I really liked them in salad mixes.  We will do these again next year.
  • Butterhead lettuces - these also seemed to have been a favorite of the bunnies.  They got munched on repeatedly and never really had a chance.  Not sure what to do about these for next year, but I'd like to try them again.
  • Grand Rapids - did not have much success with these, though I don't think it was necessarily because they got eaten.  Probably won't do these again.
Again, we've had mixed reviews with the other plants this year:

Plant Reviews:
  • Radishes - I really enjoy the french radishes (and I'm not even really a radish fan!).  The key to these is to pick them while they are the right size.  Too big and they become hollow and more bitter.  I love the fact that they come up so quickly though!  Next year, I'll probably plant 4-5 at a time instead of rows so I can have a few ready to snack on each week.
  • Beets - a true favorite of the bunnies.  I have planted beets for 3 years and never gotten to taste a single one.  Next year, I think they will be grown in a container...
  • Carrots - first planting seems to be doing well, second planting never came.  The first planting took a long time to come up.  I'm going to try another planting here shortly.  I do have little carrot tops poking up though so maybe I'll at least get some baby carrots!
  • Kohlrabi - another favorite of the rabbits.  All I have is little stubs.  Another candidate for the containers next year.
  • Peas - oh the poor peas.  They got eaten off at least twice as they were starting to grow, not to mention the Mulberry trees have really flourished this year and covered the peas in shade (along with my tomatoes - they have now been trimmed).  They also didn't take too well to my lovely trellis.  I may try a late season planting using netting instead.
  • Strawberries - these seem to be doing well!  All of the plants flowered this year and I even got a few fruit (so did the birds).  My ever-bearing varieties have new blossoms on them too.  I have high hopes for these next year.
  • Asparagus - the Asparagus in the ground are flourishing.  I have high hopes for a good crop next year!  I still need to put my new seedlings in the ground, but hopefully this week.
  • Onions - They've just started to fall, which always catches me by surprise but I think the timing is about right.  Some of the bulbs came up while weeding and I seem to have a variety of sizes across the different kinds we planted, but we seem to have bigger onions than last year's harvest so that's a good sign.  In a few days, I'll pull them all up and have a better idea.  This winter I think we'll do some research on how to get the onions to grow larger.  The onions will need to dry/cure before we can use them, but last year's crop were good all through the winter!
  • Scallions - seem to be doing okay, but aren't quite to that typical scallion size.
  • Cucumbers - these went in the ground late, but I have a nice little four foot row.  The trellis is in place now so I hope they'll take off now that I've cut the branches down overhead.
  • Squash/Zucchini - these seemed to have come up well and are flowering nicely.  I thought maybe they would climb a trellis or something, but I don't think so.
  • Beans - another victim of the bunnies.  Oh well.
Next post will have pictures, I promise, plus an update on plantings for the fall harvest / overwintering.