Monthly Archives: July 2009

High summer

When temperatures hover near 100°F my appetite switches gears in a big way.  No amount of fresh beans, chard, squash, tomatoes, or cucumbers can lure me to a green salad today, and especially not to cooking.  The last bit of bolting lettuce was plucked this morning to salvage a salad, maybe tomorrow.

First tomatoes were plucked a couple of days ago, and the squash are gearing up for another wave of production; lemon cucumbers are no visibly forming. Almost 6 pounds of green cucumbers were pulled this last week, which was a surprise.  Corn tassels and silk are promising signs of ear production as the plants have grown taller.  Bush beans abound and are a real hit, while thinned basil provides a delightful zest for pasta with garlic, salt, and olive oil.  Nonetheless, tonight’s dinner is cold cereal, cantaloupe, and a blueberry smoothie.

Tasty peaches, apricot sized!

Tasty peaches, apricot sized!

The prize picking was of the three small peaches that had formed on my new 2-yr. old dwarf tree.  I wasn’t sure when they’d be ripe, and when I went to inspect them under their little “pom pom” branch clusters, they released themselves easily with just a gentle nudge.  One was the size of an apricot, and the others a tad bit larger, very sweet and tasty nevertheless.

And the deer?  They’re watching and waiting; today I found evidence of some minor nibbling on the chard, kale, and bean tips.  Time to soap the lines again.  After I have my unorthodox dinner.

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Bocce ball zucchini

The magic of zucchini: one day you can play billiards with the little round ones, the next you switch to lawn bowling.

Having shifted into a real stretch of summer for the last 5 days, the garden has responded in kind.  The thunderstorms of my last post soaked the gardens perfectly; no watering was needed for five days, despite 85-95° heat.  Summer squash and salad cucumbers showed their typical exponential growth in 2 days.

Plants are greening nicely in their new shoot growth, after more feeding; Swiss chard and bean plants are recovering from their deer-damage.  The first handful of green beans were picked today; there will be many more reaching full size in a couple of days.

The pickling cukes are just setting while the lemon cukes are in massive flower-stage; had to pull out 1 spaghetti squash plant because there are so many forming on the remaining vine, and the delicata squash was getting overrun (it has the slows).  There are some tiny buttercup squash setting as well.

Two or three corn plants are showing tassels already, which isn’t my preference.  This somewhat predetermines their height, and these are nowhere near their projected height.  We shall see!

In support of another sustainable urban garden movement, I’ve joined the project in their challenge to accumulate 1 million pounds of home-grown food; participants report their tally on any basis, be it daily, weekly, monthly.  It’s not a race, and there are no deadlines; just a way to see how long it takes to cooperatively accumulate the million pounds among the participants.

Since we’d been picking kale, chard, and strawberries (house yard) for a few weeks before discovering this challenge, we’re guesstimating that yield.  So far, the cumulative harvest stands at:
•    Summer squash (combined varieties):   5.25 pounds
•    Cucumbers:   1.75 pounds
•    Kale:  5 pounds
•    Beans: 0.5 pounds
•    Swiss chard:  3 pounds
•    Strawberries: 12 pounds
•    Blueberries:  1 pound
•    Artichoke: 0.5 pound

Oh yes, the sunflowers are winning….finally.

It’s squash vs. sunflowers…

Our crazy, often cold weather hasn’t been the best for fast sunflower growth, so now we find them almost engulfed by several squash.  I’ve had a talk with them, urging them upward.  They reply, “Get us some consistent, hot days and warm nights, please.”  Granted, they look better than the yellow California Wonder peppers, who have stubbornly refused to grow.

Some of the summer squash and cukes have been hiding their offspring under their huge leaves, and although we’ve been peeking, the plants are pulling their usual “overnight babies.”  We’ll be starting to harvest yellow straightnecks and the cue-ball zucchini, and a few cukes in a few days, provided yesterday’s rains didn’t rot anything.  Hopefully not too many blossoms were damaged, and the predicted hot weather is to arrive tomorrow.  The scalloped Patty-pan in the house yard is bearing 2 or 3 small squashes, so they’ll be ready soon.  Quite a few small spaghetti squash are forming on their vines, too, which is a great sign.

Picked the first quart of blueberries (var. Bluecrop) of our joint blueberry patch last evening when the rain let up.  Most were ripe, with a couple of tart ones mixed in; mainly didn’t want deer or birds picking them! There are other varieties ripening up.  Since these are first-year transplants there are mostly one or two clusters max.  Instead of removing them early, as often suggested, we wanted to see how big and how long they take to ripen.

It worked!

Next morning, neighbor Patty feel asleep within a few minutes of getting up at 04:00.  I went out shortly before 06:00, as I’d planned, once my old cat went into his morning routine of waking me anywhere between 05:00 and 06:00 to feed him.  I was delighted to see no more browsing!  And, even with thunderstorms moving in later in the night, there was no evidence this morning of any damage.  I could still smell some residual Irish Spring soap odor on the lines, although very little odor on the soaked rag strips.  We haven’t seen any distinct hoof prints of the deer, but the Ferti-loam doesn’t hold any form wherever it is dry, and I think they were browsing from the edge of the row, while standing on the bark mulch around the blueberries.

Meanwhile, summer is further procrastinating, so we hear, for another two days, upon which temps will jump to 90°!  Today it is just clearing 70° and raining heavily as I write.  At least I got in a few hours of yard cleanup and transplanting (good weather for that!) beforehand.

Applied a foliar spray of fertilizer to the corn leaves, and raked in more granular 5-5-5 along the rows and around the bases of the bushing plants, to boost the nitrogen.  Having withheld water for 5 days last weeks, the plants already showed signs of greener new leaves, but I realized time had flown by and more fertilizer was needed by some plants.  It is quite different growing the veggies in this largely composted manure base, versus in my house yard where, given some of the same plants, there has been no deficiency.  However, they were watered less, and grew more slowly.  Plants are fascinating that way, as are “soil types” for that matter.

Dear deer…*@#!

I really had hoped and thought this event would be postponed until next year, but alas, it would be our garden that induced the deer to venture further into the neighborhood than they ever have before.  I’d heard they occasionally cruised by some open yards 3 blocks away, on the lookout for delectable gladiola flower buds, and knew it would only be a matter of time, since their pristine wooded areas ½-mile away are being developed for new residences. We hoped we wouldn’t have them on our street so soon; I already had plans to work some strategy in next year’s plantings.  It’s not like we are in an absolutely rural area, but we aren’t really urban either, in the classic sense.  Forests and hiking areas surround Corvallis, even if we’re on the flat.  Yes, we even have cougar in the hills.

So, they took out half of the chard, and nibbled on the bush bean tips; didn’t touch much of the kale, since it’s quite a bit tougher, nor did they seem to bother anything else……yet.  And, they must be so hungry, they got the nerve up to poke their noses just inside the walkway to the main house yard and nibble off the centers of the lettuce heads.  But, I’ve heard enough of their eating behaviors from my office mate at work to know what has to be addressed immediately.  If you actually have mature beans on a plant, the deer help out by eating everything but the beans, but since our plants are still growing and barely flowering, this is not good news.

Since I have a lot of lavender growing in other parts of the garden, we’ve decided to soak rags in a blended lavender bud and mint leaf solution.  Upon arriving home from work I found one neighbor had been very busy during the day, setting up 5-ft. bamboo sticks around the perimeter, stringing monofilament line between them, and hanging strips of rags soaked in the solution.  I had picked up a couple of bars of true Irish Spring from the “dollar store” and swooshed a bar around a bit in the solution to enhance it further.  While she strung more line and rags around the perimeter, I set up lines directly between the rows of chard and beans, stringing rags at plant “nibbling” height.  I quickly realized it might be just as effective to rub soap along the sissal twine, covering the row length.  Then rub all the perimeter lines, and then….most of the perimeter bamboo sticks!  By the time I had done this for an hour, I was coughing from the soap odors (I think), so it ought to deter the deer.  (I was tempted to get up early this morning to see if I heard any coughing deer.)  Some people put down shavings of soap around their gardens, but this was a faster process for the set-up.  Also put a few soaked rags in amongst the blueberry bushes with their ripening fruit.  (Another friend has successfully kept deer from nibbling on the succulent shoots of his espaliered apples by hanging strips of greasy rags he has left from maintaining his bicycles and various house projects.)
Finally, we decided to leave the remaining solution in the dishpan right out in the middle of the yard for the night.   We’ll see what happens…Stay tuned.

Where’s summer?!

We’ve got a great case of “the yellows” from over enthusiastic watering most likely, even if it has been in short spurts on a daily basis.  Possibly a combination with some fertilizer tie-up with decomposer organisms, too, but with our cool weather, I suspect more of a moisture issue.  It’s always interesting to see which plants are sensitive, even when adjacent to each other. The peppers and 2 squash are not pleased with this return to below-normal temps, nor are the basil seedlings, which had nicely greened up and grown over the previous 2 weeks.

Knee-high by the Fourth of July

We’ve got knee-high corn!  What this means for a harvest date in the Willamette Valley is anyone’s guess, given the area’s propensity towards chilly nights in early July, even amidst near-90° heat. There have been tomatoes forming over the last couple of weeks, and there are 10 good-sized fruits growing on my Roma in the house yard, but they still may not ripen until August.

We’re hoping that this current 5-day heat wave will boost the bell peppers and scallop squash out of their stupors before the arrival of the next cool front of marine air moves in during this coming week.  As usual, our summer doesn’t really settle in for some days after July 8th.

Better than knee-high corn on July 4th.....

Better than knee-high corn on July 4th.....