Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More Things Discovered

Who Knew Peppers Would Survive the Blazing Summer Sun?
I had a most pleasant surprise when I cleared the morning glory vines off the spring garden in September. There, still struggling to put out fruit, were the two green pepper plants I had put in April. I found three peppers that were beginning to turn red (and now you know why red peppers cost so much in the grocery stores - they are actually green peppers that have been left on the vine to ripen - it takes longer), which I picked. Now that they no longer have to compete for sun and water they are continuing to produce, there are at least 5 - 6 peppers at various stages of growth. Some look like they are even ready to pick.

Gifts from Hurricane Ike -          The next two pictures were brought to me thanks to hurricane Ike.

 These sunflowers now grow in profusion in the cracks in the concrete between the garage and the neighbors fence.

This WAS a Chinese Elm tree. They produce an inordinate amount of seeds every fall and can really be described as a weed tree.  There are baby Chinese Elm trees in a great many places they do not need to be around our property.

I can still remember asking my DH to remove that little tree in the corner of the garden before it got too big.  Well, it was about 10 - 12 inches across when Ike came blowing through and he broke off a number of branches, it being a soft wood.  A friend offered to cut it down for us and we took him up on the offer.  Since Ike, the stump has been busily trying to send out tiny, thin branches all around its edge, that is until I tried something.  A friend of mine shared with me a technique she uses to remove old stumps from her property.  She piles a mound of lit charcoal briquettes onto the offending stump and just keeps lit coals on the stump until eventually the stump is just burned away.  I'm quite good at putting the lit charcoal on the stump but I am not so good at remembering to keep adding new charcoal.  The first time I did this to the stump however, I did manage to kill it and now it has stopped sending out thin little branches.  I've even noticed that the bark has fallen off.  I think I'll try burning the stump one more time and then if I haven't cleared it completely, I'll let the termites finish the job.


The Fall Garden 2010

The weather here in South East Texas is beautiful. My tomatoes have been planted for a few weeks now but is wasn't until last week that I started to grow them vertically. My vertical support system took a beating this summer with the weight of the morning glory vines so I had to do some hunting around to find fittings and poles that were still straight and undamaged to create somthing for this fall. I love the nylon netting they have a Home Depot, the squares a wide enough apart that I can weave the tomato vines in and out of them without difficulty and without using twisty ties. This is what is looks like.

In front of the tomatoes are 9 broccoli plants and 18 butter crunch lettuce plants. The white strips are old window blind strips. They say if you don't have a square foot garden marked in square foot blocks it's not a square foot garden. The fall garden is in my second grow box, behind it is the spring grow box.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gardening - Spring 2010

This year I tried something a little different.

I started "Lasagna" composting, i.e. linear composting is what it's been called for a long time. Every time I had plant matter that could be added to the garden, be it grass clippings, rabbit litter, or kitchen vegetable waste, I added it. Sometime in March I noticed some type of squash growing in a great clump a one end of the grown bed I was actively adding material to. In fact, I had two different types of vines pop up out of the grown box. I weeded most of the huge clump out and left probably 3 - 4 plants to continue growing. It was fascinating to watch and I was excited to know what I had tossed in that had volunteered.

Since one end of the bed was actively growing something vine-like I decided to plant the opposite end of the box with tomatoes, green pepper, Japanese eggplant and bush cucumbers. This was at the beginning of April. Note to self: If you want tomatoes before it gets too hot, they must be either short season varieties or they must go in no later than the beginning of March. I tried growing several 'heirloom' varieties but my most successful was one from Mexico called Tlacolula - It's shaped somewhat like a plum tomato but it had deep ridges all the way around it. It was a very mild tomato in flavor, it didn't have the sharp, acidic taste of so many tomatoes you get these days. I really enjoyed and have (I hope successfully)saved some seeds.

I wish now that I had taken a picture of my thriving garden. I haven't grown so successful a garden since I lived in New Jersey, more than 15 years ago. I think it had a lot to do with the composed organic material.

I discovered I had volunteer spaghetti squash and volunteer acorn squash coming up at one end of the garden bed. Every day when I came out to check the garden it seemed like the vines had grown another foot or more. I had 12 spaghetti squashes of various sizes hanging from the nylon netting I had stretched across my galvanized tubing frames and 1 acorn squash. I was excited. Then it happened...

The squash vine borer moth found my garden and my lovely vines. In two weeks my vines were history. I tried to cut the grubs out of the vines in an attempt to save the plants and for a short time that worked but quickly the moth laid more eggs, and as they say, the rest is history. The first to go was the acorn squash vines (I harvested 1 acorn squash), the next was zucchini (it was almost like it was here today - gone tomorrow) (I harvested just one zucchini squash), then the spaghetti squash vines were attacked(I had to pick my immature squash and hope that they'd ripen on the counter.) It was very sad. I'm still seeking an organic way to deal with them next year. The Master Gardeners at the AgriExtension office have all said "Good Luck with that, there isn't anything." The moth has a fat red body with black wings.

I fought the birds and won most of my Tlacolula tomatoes. Bird netting helped with that. Near the end of the tomatoes productive season the leaf footed stink bugs arrived with their nymphs. Now I know what the white dots on tomatoes and peppers are - they are the damaged done by the stink bugs. I discovered that a dust buster is an excellent way to deal with them, since they prefer to crawl rather than fly. I'll be using a dust buster more frequently in the garden next spring.

Currently, the only thing growing happily in the garden is morning glory. I pulled out everyone I saw before it got too hot to work in the garden. The minute I turned my back it spread like wild fire.