Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Posted by Kate at 10:18 AM
Our popcorn shows promise. If the harvest is as good as this augurs, we should be able to go without buying our favorite treat for quite a few months. Maybe even an entire year.
In general, the squash is not doing all that well this year. I don't think they liked the heavy rain this month. But one volunteer vine that I spared seems to have bred true enough to be producing pumpkins. I'm optimistic that I'll get at least one triamble from the seeds Novella offered this past winter.
The comfrey plants have exploded in their second year and don't seem to have minded the rain at all. The beauty of this plant is that I can hack it back, and hack it back again to spread the nutrients it accumulates all over the garden. I just use the chop and drop method. The pretty but shy blossoms are much loved by the bumblebees and other bees. These plants will provide fertilizer and mulch to the rest of my plants for many years to come.
The chili pepper plants did not like the heavy rain at all. I think they were almost ready to call the whole thing off when the rain let up. My husband planted some early Anaheims that already have recognizable chilis on them. My poblano chilis are farther behind, with just a few tiny buds promising fruit. With luck, the plants will get weather they like better in the next two months. I'm hoping for a large harvest so that I can smoke some of the poblanos, thus turning them into ancho chilis. When fully dried, I'll try making my own ancho chili powder, like Hank did. This mild but flavorful spice makes it into a large portion of the meals I prepare.
One of the two varieties of soup bean that I planned to grow this year failed entirely. But the Cherokee Trail of Tears bean (which I also grew last year) did better. I've since learned that light colored beans in general are more susceptible to ground rot than dark colored beans. As it happens, the Cherokee Trail of Tears is a jet black bean, while the Hutterite Soup is a creamy pale bean. So I guess it's no surprise that one did much better than the other with all the rain we had. Nonetheless, I'm trying again with a different pale bean - the Flagrano, a flageolet type. Show above are some Cherokee Trail of Tears growing on one of the bean tripods I made with that bamboo we harvested early this year. This is an evening shot so the vines are shaded. But they're growing well. And look what they're sheltering behind there:
-My next crop of spinach. The beans will keep the worst of the heat off these little sprouts, which like cool temperatures.
Here is my experiment with potatoes this year. There are rumors of prodigious yields from individual potato plants if they are kept well hilled as they grow. Most of my potatoes are planted in trenches about 8" deep. Each time the plant gets 5"-6" of growth above the soil line, I bury them a bit more. But I can only hill so far before I run out of loose soil to mound around them. Thus the bucket experiment. Not only is it trivially easy to continue mounding a potato plant in a bucket, but harvest will be as easy as dumping the entire bucket into the wheelbarrow. No-dig potatoes!
Some people claim that only late season potatoes will yield significantly more if well hilled. Some say potato plants set all the tubers they will develop before they flower, and that hilling beyond that point is wasted effort. A few of my trenched potatoes are already flowering, so the hilling there is done. In the buckets I have German Butterballs, the only late season variety I'm growing this year, though I have German Butterballs in the ground as well. They haven't yet flowered, but the buckets are already completely full of dirt. I recorded the weight of the seed stock for these individual plants, so we'll see how they yield. Incidentally, the potatoes in the buckets didn't seem bothered in the least by the heavy rains, while those in the ground started to look a bit sulky. I drilled several drainage holes in each bucket before planting.
My Tuscan kale plants, which for two years have been very reliable and vigorous producers, just aren't growing for me this year. They were badly damaged by the slugs and then hammered by the rain. They don't seem to be bouncing back at all. On the other hand, the Brussels sprouts I put in a week ago where the garlic had just been harvested, just a few feet away from the kale, seem to be doing quite well. I'm going to try again with new seedlings of kale and some Savoy cabbage, hoping for a good fall crop. Tuscan kale has been a mainstay of our diet for the last two years, especially over the winter months. The prospect of no kale harvest this year is worrisome.
I'm quite the curmudgeon when it comes to flowers in the garden. It had better have some utility beyond looking pretty if it wants a spot in the best growing area on our property. Oddly, my husband likes pretty things just for the sake of beauty more than I do. Fortunately, flower mixes attract polinators and predator insects, so I will cede some territory to him for his pretty stuff. He drastically overseeded his allotment with all sorts of flowers. They are just about ready to explode into bloom. These are a few of the earliest blossoms. It should be quite a show in another week or so. I don't even know what's in there, but I hope some are perennials or accomplished self-seeders.
This is a small patch of the fall cover crop we planted last year that escaped destruction. It's a mix of hairy vetch (purple blooms) and rye (drooping grain heads) that we decided to let go, just to see what it would do. Turns out that hairy vetch is one of the few plants that harbor the minute pirate bug, a voracious predator. The rye looks like it's nearing maturity. Maybe we'll harvest a few stalks and see how the grain threshes out.
Finally, a mystery bug. Anyone know what this tiny iridescent orange - fly? wasp? - is that I found on a corn leaf this morning? There are a lot of them around, but I've never seen them munching on any plant. So my guess is that it's a predator of some sort.