Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Longest Day.

Saturday 21st June

The longest day.
4 years since I started my present job.
5 years since I stopped smoking.
37 years since I passed my driving test.

Life moves on............................................

Rising at 8-00am to a pleasant sunny morning here in oklahomegrownvegland....

.............with no breeze to cool a happy gardener.

This mornings task before it gets to hot........

.................weeding, lots of it.

And pruning suckers from the tomato plants.

Now you see it........................

.....and now you don't.

Determinate tomato plants don't need any pruning, they grow to their size and stop. But Indeterminate varieties are true vines and will grow and grow. Without pruning they end up a tangled mess. Nipping off the suckers as shown above helps to keep the plant in check and channel it's growing efforts into producing better sized and healthier fruit.

A reminder from my wife that Alvin must return to the vets for the rest of his shots at 11-30am.

Transport awaits.....................

.......the unsuspecting patient.

Home for 12-30pm, Hey I missed breakfast !!!
So it will have to be lunch................

............of home made Spinach Pizza, low fat milk and a Navel Orange. African Blue Basil from the garden enhances the eating pleasure with it's pleasant aroma.

Lunchtime reading.

I met co-author Dr Zhang earlier this year at the Earthday meeting. An informative conversation with a polite and knowledgeable man.

A quick check around the property and I decide I must mow while the ground is at least partially dry. The grass is long and I may not get another chance over the weekend.
Herbie is called into action................

........and we spend a few hours together knocking things back into shape...... the back.......

...and the front of the house

The line between the ending of the dead end road to the house and the start of the garden............

....becomes vaguer every year.

Long may this continue to happen.

Preparing, cooking, eating.....

Beef Kebabs.

Homemade "No Bake" Cheesecake.

To relax. To bed.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fighting the good fight.

Monday 16th June

The unusually wet weather we have been having seems to be keeping major pests at bay for the moment. I'm sure that will soon change once things really heat up so I'd better be prepared.

This years Yolo Sweet Bell Peppers are plentiful

Firstly, I really don't want to kill every bug on the plots, not even all the bad bugs. Good bugs need bad bugs to eat. Kill all the bad bugs, no food for the good bugs. No food for the good bugs, good bugs either die or go off somewhere else to live.

Here's what I do to give myself a good chance of winning the battle.

To start with, get the soil tested in the fall, that way you have chance to remedy any deficiencies before spring. Home kits are OK but your local Extension Office is better in my opinion. I went to an Earth Day meeting in Grove earlier this year and they gave me 3 free tests! Even so it's only around $10 per test.

I try to keep the soil in good condition by applying plenty of compost. I make my own and we save all our peelings, leaves, coffee grinds, tea bags, egg shells (crushed) if fact not much from the kitchen goes into the trash. Brown paper, hair from the hair brush (mainly from my wife as I'm too thin on top to contribute much), cardboard centres from the kitchen paper rolls. In fact anything and everything that will decompose is chopped up and thrown into my home made compost box. There's plenty of information about how to make it on the Internet.

This years compost in the making.

Last years compost ready for use

In late fall I mulch heavily with straw to keep the soil temperature up as best as I can. This helps the worms stay nearer the surface and work the soil.

Well composted and mulched ready for winter

Remember, healthy soil promotes healthy plants which are more resistant to attack by pests.

I spread things around a bit, mixing different veggies together in the same bed and try to rotate from year to year so the same things don't follow on the next season. Some bugs and plant diseases live in the soil over winter and I learnt this the hard way. I'm lucky that I have the space to keep adding new plots each year, giving me more room to maneuver.

Fertilizing every couple of weeks certainly promotes good growth and I like to use a liquid fish emulsion such as Alaskan. It's 5-1-1 (5% Nitrogen 1% Phosphate 1% Potash).
OK, I know it stinks like something you've scraped off the bottom of your aquarium but it promotes good growth. For evidence see the pics of my tomato plants on the blog. I also side dress with extra compost throughout the season.

Companion Planting
Companion planting attracts beneficial insects and discourages the ones that want to steal the fruits of your labours so put plenty in. They also fill up any gaps and help keep down the weeds.
I put Chard in with the Pole Beans, Carrots and Onions in with the Lettuce, Radish in with the Squash, all good friends who like to grow together.

I've put in Marigolds and Basil as bug repellants wherever I can around the veggie plots
But you can also use Radish (left to go to seed, not eaten), mint, rosemary and sage. I'm definitely going to put a whole lot more herbs in with the veggies next year and I'll try to grow from seed to make it cheaper. This year I grew Spicy Globe Basil, mainly for use in the kitchen but also as a repellent. I also put in some African Blue Basil which, although it's not as good for use with food it attracted so many Honey and Bumblebees into the garden I just had to grow some more.

And, when the bugs do come I use a variety of home made sprays using Garlic, Cayenne Pepper. Lime and Flour mixture and again ther's a whole lot more you can find with a simple search on the Internet. None of the aforementioned will harm beneficial bugs and will keep many predators at bay.

The Bottom Line
I don't mind sharing some of my harvest with bugs and I certainly don't want to use chemicals to kill everything in sight. Chemicals get into the soil, the water and eventually into us!
What I aim for is a happy balance for me, them and my veggies and I hope these few words encourage you to do the same.

I'm always searching for new ways and asking questions on forums and blogs. I read anything that I can. Patience is a virtue and I'm finding that you need quite a lot of it in gardening.

Freshly made Tortellini Salad.

Mother Nature will not be hurried, but for those willing to plan, work and wait the results are a joy to behold.

Visit for the Tortellini salad recipe and many more quick and easy to make dishes.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Steamer

Sunday 15th June.

Arise at 8-00am to sunshine and showers but by 10-00am the drizzle has faded away leaving us with a hot, damp and sticky day with temperatures around 85 deg.

It's far too wet to work but here's an update of what's growing on out there:

Sunflowers at 50 days measure around 3 feet tall

Swiss Chard at 21 days. Pretty puny but all this rain wont have helped

Big Red tomatoes from my own seeds. The Old Virginia and Giant Beefsteak are similar.

Second crop of Turnips at 28 days look like all leaf and no root at the moment.

The Watermelon is branching out in all directions and needs keeping in check.

4th Radish crop at 8 days. No sign of the Swiss Chard, seeded at the same time.

Potatoes at 77 days are "Hanging on in there".

Squash plants in containers are flowering.............

............and heavy with buds.

The Cucumber is flowering too. Both this and the squash came from heirloom seeds.

Lettuce is the best I've ever grown. We are eating it as fast as we can before it bolts.

Plenty of onions. Red, white and winter varieties.

Pole Beans at 40 days are now at 6 feet and leafing up well

The herb garden has a visitor. Yes, a toad has moved in........

......and I have enough Basil to sink a ship. Lots grown from heirloom seeds too.

Even this, usually dry, flower bed is pretty wet due to the downpours we've had.

The Flowering Dogwood trees are loving this wet weather though................ are the Goldenraintrees....................

............Sergant Hawthorns, Crepe Myrtle, Flowering Crabapple and more Basil

American Redbud trees sheltered at the front of the house.

More rain, one to two inches, is forecast for tonight and we are 17 inches above average for the year at the moment. The soil is not getting chance to drain and I worry about the adverse affects this could have on some of the plants root systems. The raised beds are helping but we need to dry out soon.
By the look of things it isn't going to happen for a while yet though.

I just heard thunder in the distance so I'd better bring the hanging baskets under cover.............