Monthly Archives: June 2015

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a bit of a pain. They are a thin vine and grow everywhere. I have way to many cucumber plants and they are just taking over the raised bed. The poor thyme is shaded and the Basel has grow out the side butt he squash are steadily trying to cover every inch of everything.

Fortunately, I love cucumbers. I have decided a better way to grow them next year that should stop them from being so damn invasive. All of this is a learning experience. I sound like a cliche idiot saying that but its irritating how true it is.

I looked at the plant and figured we’d have a few cucumberless days. When will I learn? It was the following day, while thinning out the lettuce that I spied a dark shape deep in the heart of the cucumber mass. I pulled back some leaves and saw not one but two well developed cucumbers. Sighing, I got my scissors and snipped them free, letting them drop to the bed where I picked them up and went, “eek.”

No wonder we’d had some of the newer pollinated flowers die back. The plants were to busy feeding these two enormous things.

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The small one on the end is the size I like to pluck them at.

But don’t worry, two days later I pulled out another one the size of the middle cucumbers. They are growing by an inch or two a day and I manage to miss them somehow.

Butternut Squash

Finally, I am in sync with my inner squash. I lost my first few butternut squash flowers. By the time I had a male flower develop my females were to old and their ovary areas to dried up. I was ready to weep. However, my plants rebounded and kept spitting out female flower after female flower.

I decided that they hated me.

The first male flower bloomed and I carefully pollinated every female flower that was open. Only one took but I am glad to say that its developing. Fast forward about three more days and more females are blooming but no male. No males looked interested in developing. I decided to do a heavy fertilizer and watering. Maybe it was just a need for more food.

I think it worked. I also suspected that the lack of sun was what was slowing down their development. It had been overcast the last few days and they just didn’t seem to like that. However, I came home from work on a Thursday and noticed that one male has the faintest bit of color at the tip of his closed, hard green petals. A blush of orange and I said to myself, “he will open in about two days and hopefully I can catch some of these females before they get to old.”

I went outside two hours later to water them and discovered that the male that I thought would take another two days to mature had doubled in size and turned completely orange. He’d bloom the following day. The plants amaze me all of the time with their ability to grow.

Now it seems that they have settled into a rhythm of male and female flowers blossoming at the same time. I’ve fertilized almost a dozen females over the last few days. A few of them have started to grow much to my joy. I’m dumping fertilizer and water on them and they seem to be responding with growth and vigor.

The ants are everywhere however. I finally gave in and got some ant bait. They are consuming all of the nectar and pollen to the point that half of the flowers are sucked clean of pollen.

Disease

In tomatoes the blush of color is a signal that tomato is turning ripe and will be ready to eat shortly. Many times the tomato is pulled at the sign of first blush. It is not going to get much sweeter staying on the vine. Coming off the vine will prevent cracking from sudden rain, being consumed by wildlife, and bacterial infections. It will also allow a plant to put attention to other fruit on its vine.

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The above tomato will turn yellow. The ripening phase takes around 3-4 days. The tomato will stay ripe on the vine for another few days and then it will start to rot. I picked this tomato the following day.

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This is a type called Lemon Boy. Note the green at the top. The top of the tomato is called the shoulders. This tomato will darken to a rich golden-orange when it is fully ripe.

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Once fully ripe toss them in the fridge or they start to spoil, fast.

The color tends to start at the bottom and creep up with the top the last part to change color.

088This is a Better Boy. It will turn red. It is also indeed, upside down.  It started off normal enough but the branch became so weighed down that it started to bow and this tomato has a short stem and flipped upside down. That has not bothered it one bit.

The first signs of blush are so faint that it is easy to mark it off as reflected light from a container or shadows and the sun playing with you. That is because you’ve (really me) have been waiting for these damn things to change color and now they finally are. The upside down tomato above looked mildly orange/yellow this morning on its bottom which is already lighter. I wondered if it was blushing but I said, “no way!” until later in the afternoon when it was most certainly orange.

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That yellow looking tomato is indeed turning yellow. It seems as if it could just be shadow but when compared to the pale green of the others it is obvious. Behind the stem to the right a second one can be seen.

 

Childhood Memories Lie

I think of bicycles as simple machines. I know that they can be complex for people who want to do complex things. I just want a simple bike. I want to get on it and peddle and get off of it and be done. However, my random purchase of a bike about five or six years ago is my undoing. I have spent the last five hours trying to get it into working order and my abject ignorance as to how bicycles work is my undoing. The desire to pick it up and throw it out of my window and into the trash is very, very tempting.

I don’t find challenges appealing. I’m not thinking about what a great experience this is. I’m feeling frustrated and angry and hateful. I had a bike as a kid. I got on it and peddled. That is all that I want to do. Instead I have this thing with shifters and gears and disc brakes and my mother trying to help.

The first problem was that I needed new tire tubes. The tires seem to be in good shape. They are springy and flexible. The tubes were no longer holding air. I didn’t expect them to after years and years but I had no idea how to change a tire on a bicycle. Because I am an idiot I figured it shouldn’t be very hard.

I went and got a bicycle tube that seemed the right size from what I could find out about the bike. I then got the tube and tire change assisted plastic things. I added in some oil. This bike has never seen oil so i figured it would greedily drink it up. I got a helmet that looks more like an infantry hat then the sleek ugly foam things and I came home with a determination to get the bike up and running.

Five hours later, I was full of regrets. I didn’t have the proper tools. All of my stuff vanishes into my husbands work space. I buy more. They to vanish. I have no idea where any of the hex wrench sets I have purchased over the years has gone. I can barely find a screw driver. My drawers that hold tools are empty. My house is not large yet it eats everything I need.

So, I used players. My left and right is terrible with screws and bolts so it took me quite a while to work my tires free. I then thought that I had the wrong tubes. Over the course of two hours I figured out how the tubes worked with some video assistance. I do hate watching videos so my temper had started to fray by the time I got the front tire retubed.

The rear tire proved an even bigger challenge because I could not get the bolt free on one side. Finally, bowing the frame just clear of the bolt became the only option and with a lot of work and sweat the tubes were switched out and filled.

That left the rear brake and front brake rubbing against the brake pads. Also the gear are doing I don’t even know what. My mother did something with them and now they are doing something. I’ve never changed gears on a bike. My frustration was consuming me to the point that I had to keep stopping to calm down. Throwing the bike off the back deck into the drainage ditch became more and more appealing.

Five hours and I don’t even know if the damn thing works. My temper is frayed from having to watch videos and things going wrong bit after bit. I know that I shouldn’t assume another bike would be better. Why would someone in a factory spitting out dirt cheap mass produced big box store bikes balance everything or care if they over torque bolts that some chick will be struggling to loosen with incorrect tools five years later?

I could go to a bike shop but I do not want to take my old, Walmart special in. I live in an area where 3-5 thousand dollar bicycles are the norm and everyone peddles by in spandex and seriousness. So today, I struggled. Tomorrow, I will try again. And I will get another hex set and try to reset the brakes a bit looser and then? I don’t know.

Daily Harvest

WordPress has been causing me issues with my posts and I’m currently trying to sort it out. Mostly, it keeps renaming every post that I write to the same thing. Sigh. Hopefully I will have time to cure it.

But, let us talk tomatoes.

I am suffering from a case of disease. Its mild enough and it is interesting to see how different plants handle it. Some, I have to viciously prune. Others seem to not mind overly much. The mixture of heat, humidity, and daily rain is not the best climate for tomatoes. Fortunately, this struck after my plants were healthy and well established. I don’t know how our long term health is but so far, I’m bringing in armloads of tomatoes.

This is a picture of lemon boys, yellow pears, my mysterious yellow cherry type, and red current cherries. The red current are the clear winner. I’m having a hard time getting enough of them to do anything with them because I want to eat them as soon as they turn red. They are crunchy and sweet and absolutely delicious when they pop between your teeth. Hands down they are the clear winners and I only have one plant of them.

I’ve done a lot of research for the various diseases I am suffering. The outcome tends to be the  same. “Less humid climate.” Sure, if I had a greenhouse. As is, we’re plugging along.

There has been some blossom drop to my disappointment. I’m not surprised. The storms are keeping the weather all over the place. Over all, I still have a very steady fruit set and the ripening is a rolling thing so I shouldn’t run out of tomatoes before new tomatoes are ready.

When ripe and ripening they are subject to being ripped from the branches by the wind. That is one reason I am pulling them as soon as I am. The heavier ones especially, such as that lovely green and yellow lemon boy.

That is simply a large, heavy tomato. They are all ready to snap off of their vines. I’ve had more than one fall with a steady enough wind and they are falling onto the hard deck and bruising. The Indigo Rose beside it came off in my mother’s hand when she was looking at the cluster.

With the weather I worry about losing all of my plants and such but I do have to say that its been a successful harvest even if we don’t make it to the fall.

First Ripe Tomato

I’ve been waiting for it. That first ripe tomato. The plants are hanging heavy with green tomatoes. Green cherry tomatoes. Green pear tomatoes. Green tomatoes of all sizes. The only non-green tomatoes are my indigo rose and they are purple and green.

With my deck being a jungle that is growing harder to navigate by the day, I struggle to check on some of the tomatoes. My set up is not optimal and hopefully I can try something else next year. For now, I’m stuck with climbing and doing aerobics to get to some corners of the deck to check plants. Its exhausting which is good. For such a small area it tends to take me at least an hour a day to do basic maintenance.

Anyway, the tomatoes. They should start ripening any day now. Most of the plants are well into their ripening dates and the size of the tomatoes is looking good. I’m not growing any huge tomatoes and I’m fine with that. I just want fruit.

So today, I decided to do a good and deep check on my lemon boys. They were the first to set fruit so I expect to have them ripen first. I checked all around them and as I leaned over them I saw a flash of rich, golden yellow.

A ripe tomato.

Holy shit.

004I decided ti pluck it and bring it inside to finish ripening. The plants are loaded with tomatoes so every one that I take off is less for the plant to work on. I could also see that it had blossom end rot. Boo.

Blossom end rot is often a calcium deficiency. Its seen in some of the first tomatoes quite often. With my artificial soil keeping a proper mineral balance is hard. I wasn’t surprised to see it. From what I could tell another tomato on this trellis also has it but the others are fine with healthy bottoms. Remember fruit starts as a flower.

I did a bit of sawing with my fingernail and popped off my prize.

007The end doesn’t make it inedible. We’ll just cut out the bad parts. Its dry although it looks gooey.

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The tomato itself needs another few days to ripen. One side is still very pale. I now hope that we will see flash over in the garden and tomatoes will start turning red for me.

 

 

 

Sugar Snap Peas

I’m very disappointed in my Sugar Snap Peas.

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The ones that made it have done exactly what I wanted. They’ve grown up the cage I gave them and are producing large amount of pears for us to eat. However, I wanted the entire container to be overflowing with them. Instead, I wound up with a handful of peas that produce only a handful of edible fruit every few days.

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My dreams had been of a huge mass of sugar snap pears to make dinner vegetables with. I had planted about forty peas over the course of six weeks. My total is about ten that made it. I won’t be using the brand I had. I picked up a seed pack from Costco and my end decision is that most of the items from it have not been worth it with crappy germination rates. The seeds came from Mountain Valley seeds and hailed as organic. I’ve not gotten that far onto the organic train yet so mostly I was irritated that they did so poorly. Other seeds from other plants have done fine.

I’ve since used the empty space for green peppers and some carrots. I have one green pepper plant growing up nice and strong as well as half a dozen carrots. Next year I will plant them deeper and early and hopefully have a decent pea harvest.

Lettuce

I suggest for all those that wish to grow lettuce that they do not become irritated and frustrated in the middle of march and throw an entire packet or perhaps two of lettuce seeds into their garden bed.

This may be the unfortunate result.

Now that summer is coming the lettuce is trying to flower. Instead of growing in big, leafy bunches they stalk out and the broad lettuce leaves grow more like regular leaves. They are tougher but still taste fine to us. Not the fine stuff one gets used to at the grocery store but plenty for us. However, next time I’m going to plant them properly and be calmer about their growth.

Vampire Squash

At first I thought it was cute. Then, I started to get a bit scared. Finally, as I watched some of my hopes and dreams burn I only sighed. I am the owner of a vamperic acorn squash.

My love affair with squash started two years ago. I discovered butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and acorn squash. I’d always disliked pumpkin and I assumed I’d dislike the other winter squashes. It turns out, I very much enjoy them. I had butternut ravioli at Bonefish and I was enthralled with it. It was very similar to sweet potato but not quite the same. It was enough that I decided to try more.

Squash have been a big goal for me this year. Year two and I’m trying to grow my must have vegetables. Imagine my joy when my first acorn squash started to form. They are beautiful little squash shapes topped by the massive orange squash flower. Just lovely.

Having had some success measuring things I decided that I would document the growth of the Acorn Squash. I read a lot of conflicting information or vague information about harvesting them and how long it takes them to grow and ripen. A lot of that information comes from the seed centers and you can taste how generic the advice is.

How long does it need to be on the vine? I’ve learned that number does vary by the fruit and individual plant. The more fruit the plant has the slower everything grows.

The first step is after pollination. The problem is that I did not have a male acorn squash flower. I did some reading and saw that I could cross pollinate with my yellow squash and zucchini. I’d not be able to use the seeds to grow anything but I was okay with that.

Pollination, once the pollen hits the female ovary, is fast. The flower collapses and the fruit’s stem collapses as well and starts to lay down.

And then it starts to grow.

Doubling in size overnight.

And it grows overnight at rates that made me gasp.

In a week, it was this large. In the upper right corner you can see another butternut squash bud that is being aborted by the plant. This one grew so large and so fast that the plant started to cut off and kill all the other buds. My other plants each have two squash growing or maybe even three at a much slower rate. This one, my first one, is the only one its plant is currently supporting.

Once it hit seven inches it started to slow down. It was getting wider and starting to darken. I figured that it had to be nearly full grown and now I’d wait.

Phew. Now at about seven and a half inches long and just as wide, it had stopped growing larger. Over on my other plants I had multiple fruit. Some were aborted. Some were growing.

And now, two weeks later…

I thought it will be ready in another few days. The skin has gotten hard on the bottom and up towards the top. What I’ve read says that it can hang around on the vine getting ripe but it will also continue to ripen off the vine. I may pull it so that the plant can recover and hopefully give me some new fruit. I do love acorn and butternut squash and am hoping for large harvests from each.

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I purchased an acorn squash from the store to do a comparison. Mine is a third as large again. I plucked another one that was ripe and it was smaller. Still, I’m pleased. My total harvest right now should be five or six of them. The plants are making flowers and aborting fruit left and right while growing others. I’m just trying to feed and maintain them all.

How I Got Into This Mess

I’m confident enough to start thinning some of my plants out. I should have done it before now but my lack of confidence in being able to grow anything was a problem. Now I can see that I need to thin some things. It is a mixture of mistakes, success, and doing thing until I pick up patterns. Of course, those tend to just come with their own list of new and confusing things.

But let’s go back to last year. Last year in July when I decided that I wanted to garden and grow some veggies without a clue as to what I was doing.

I grew some yellow squash and lost all of them. Now, I chuckle a it. I grew four of them and if they had done well I’d have died under the weight of yellow squash. As it was, they all drowned to death due to improper drainage. I’ve since corrected that but I’ve not forgotten it.

This is my unhealthy zucchini plant. He has struggled with leaf issues and neutrients. I am guessing he needs more, i dunno. He has started to flower and produce nice, small fruits. We’ve had some struggles but he has been a good plant.

This is about the size that my yellow squash plants got to last year. This is what I was expecting them to look like.

It turns out I had no idea how large healthy squash are. My current ones have leaves that are chest high and chest wide. They are enormous and I will only be growing one zucchini and one yellow squash next year. Zucchini is on the bottom and squash is on the top of this picture.

I was unprepared. Pictures don’t show you how large these plants get. It makes for a tight squeeze on the deck but I’m quite happy to have it. I can’t believe that some of my tomatoes are as tall as I am, but they are. They are not scraggly vines barely surviving. How bad I feel for the torture that I put my first tomato plants through.