Harvest Report

The vegetable garden is now almost totally put to bed. The only thing remaining are some marigolds and the potatoes. I have not had time to harvest the seeds off the Marigolds yet and am waiting for the tops of the potatoes to die back before digging them up.

Here are the vegetables I planted and how they did:

Tomatoes

Sungold Cherry tomato – small orange fruit – we had an excellent yield and the fruit did not split or otherwise lose its structure. They were very sweet. I’d plant that again.

Brandywine beefstake tomato – very poor yield; maybe three or four fruit and the split or developed blossom end rot. I think this is my third run at these with poor luck; I will not plant these again.

Beefy Boy beefstake tomato – very poor yield

Early Girl tomato – poor yield; these have done well in the past but not this year.

Oregon Spring Tomato – plant was very small and only set a few fruit; flavor was OK.

Tomatoes did not do well this year over-all and the local farmers are having the same problems. Spring was too cold and too wet followed by a very hot summer with too little water. Tomatoes, despite being a semi-tropical plant, do not like a lot of heat.

Peppers

Sweet Non Bell Pepper: v: “Fooled You” – a small non-bell pepper; the yield was very good this year. It was the best pepper growth I’ve ever had. The plant grew tall and vigorous with a lot of fruit. Flavor was good.

Sweet Bell Pepper –poor foliage with very poor yield; only one pepper reached maturity and it was too small.

Over all peppers do not seem to like my garden conditions and I will not plant them next year.

Other plantings:

Green Gold Broccoli – these may not have been hardened off well enough from my green house; they died within a week or two.

Butter Crunch lettuce – these did very well, excellent yield and flavor.

Genovese Basil – these did well with very nice flavor. They have been dried and saved in the kitchen.

Sunspot sunflower – this died within a couple weeks of planting the start; I suspect some kind of cut worm destroyed the stem.

Marigold Inca I – these did well, they are still growing.

I left most of my large box fallow this year; it has never been left fallow before and needed the rest. I only planted marigolds around the edge and they did well.

In the herb garden I added English Thyme, Italian Parsley and French Tarragon. The thyme is growing very slow.

Yesterday I threw out crimson clover throughout all the boxes for a cover crop. We are to get rain this week so if the soil stays warm enough it should sprout well.

Next year I will likely plant all four boxes and leave nothing fallow. I will try some succession planting as well. I’d like to plant some corn. We do not have room for much corn but I’d like to try it here.

 

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

 

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Fall is in the Air

It feels to me as though fall is coming more quickly this year. It may be because August and the first week or so of September were so hot and so smoky. The upper 90F heat and the smoke sucked all my energy away.

Now for the past week the temperature has dropped very noticeably. The smoke cleared for several days though it was back yesterday. The forecast now calls for five days of cooler weather and rain.

There are other signs that fall is here even though the calendar will not acknowledge it for five more days. Leaves are beginning to turn and fall. Not in large numbers yet, but enough to tell you that summer is coming to an end. Nights and early mornings are now chilly. Yesterday morning I actually had to wear a jacket working in the yard until about 10 AM.

The vegetable plants are also showing the end of summer. The tomato plants are looking tired. The leaves are beginning to dry out and although there is still some fruit ripening it is near its end. The pepper plants still look vibrant as does the potato.

In the next week or so I will clean up the vegetable garden and consider planting a cover crop for winter.

I do not like the dog days of summer. There is no denying that climate change has made summer hotter here and it is no fun for me. The smoke this year from the many forest fires throughout the western US also made August less pleasant.

I still have projects to finish though. I need to fashion a cover for the new compost bins before the rains come. I also need to finish the rain collection barrels to be ready for early spring.

I did get one little job done yesterday – cleaned up the Japanese garden. I trimmed the boxwood shrub and trimmed the lace leaf maple a bit. As autumn sets in I want to plant a couple more plants in the Japanese garden and in the front yard. There are some bare spots that need filling.

A friend of mine told me he reads this blog and that I must be very serious about my gardening. I suppose I am. It is a great hobby and it feeds me! Not many hobbies do that.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Compost Treasure

About five years ago I built two compost bins side by side out of old pallets. I’ve added compost to them for all this time. Once about two years ago I harvested some nice compost from the one on the right but left the left one undisturbed.

Screening Compost

The old Left side compost bin

Last weekend I began the long-planned move of the compost from the old bins to a new double bin I built out of cedar fencing and chicken wire. I removed about 4 or 5 wheel barrows of dried up weeds and other plants from the main bin, the on the left side, and found the bottom third of the bin was totally composted. I was delighted to find a foot and a half of rich, black compost.

I screened it creating a fine compost material that will be excellent for amending the vegetable garden this fall and next spring with enough to fill my container in the green house with bedding medium. It will be perfect for starting seeds.

Having moved this year’s weed and trimmings to the new compost bin I am starting the process again except this year I will move the contents back and forth between the bins to speed the process. I’ve learned that an undisturbed bin will fully compost in about two years. I hope to reduce that process to 9 – 12 months in the new bins.

I also have an old tumbler composter that I am again filing with kitchen scraps. It is already breaking down nicely and I should have some nice compost by mid to late October for the beds.

There is an original cost to buying the tumbler and building the bins, but they will last a long time and other than some labor the compost is free.

Compost is great for plants. It feeds them and acts a mulch to protect them and save water. More about how I mix ingredients in the compost for a future post.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Watering Tips

Here are ten tips from my favorite British garden expert on how to use water most effectively in the garden.

  1. Water selectively adding water when plants need it. Check soil moisture levels by digging down a bit. Hand watering can be the most effective way to get water just where it needs to be though drip systems can be effective too.
  2. Watering early in the morning gives plants a chance to absorb moisture before the heat of the day evaporates it. Morning watering also leads to less plant disease than evening watering.
  3. If watering by hand aim flow of water to the base of the plant.
  4. A good soaking less often is better than a light watering often. Deep watering encourages a good root system to develop.
  5. You can also sink a plastic pot (with drain holes) in the ground near the plants. Fill them with water which will then slowly drain into the soil.
  6. Use drip systems or leaking hose if you want to automate the watering. This I especially good if you cannot be present for a day or two.
  7. Clay pots are very porous which means they suck moisture out of the soil. In dry water this can be a problem. Plant in glazed pots or plastic pots to avoid this. You can place a plastic pot in a larger clay pot for a better appearance. Metal containers will heat up very quickly accelerating moisture loss. You can group pots together to provide shade and greater water conservation.
  8. Whether in pots or in the open soil use mulch to conserve water. The best mulch is a couple inches of well-rotted compost. You can use grass clippings, straw, black plastic and other materials.
  9. Collecting rain water conserves water, provides a free source of water to put on plants and it is better for plants then municipal water which has chemicals in it.
  10. Remove weeds as soon as they appear as they will compete with your plants for water.

The very hot weather we have been having in August and now in September with temperatures in the high 90s F. has made keeping the vegetables adequately watered a challenge. There have been days when the soil is sucked dry before I can get to it again. I try to water in the early morning as is recommended but often must water again in the late afternoon or evening.

I failed to mulch adequately this year. I was intending to get a bail of straw to mulch the veggies well but never got to it. I may yet do that for the remainder of the season as it looks like we will continue to hot weather for some time. I do however add compost.

Finally, I will mention that this is the 201st post on this blog. I forgot to mention last time that I’d reached #200.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Blossom End Rot

I’ve had blossom end rot attack my tomatoes in past years though most often it is not a problem. This year it is. One of my varieties, Big Boy, is supposed to be particularly vulnerable to it. I’ve lost about a third of my tomato crop to it so far.

Blossom end rot is when the blossom end of the tomato fruit turns brown and watery. You can cut it off but the entire tomato is often mealy.

My research indicates that inadequate calcium is the culprit. This often occurs because of erratic watering. I’ve been trying to water either every other day or every day during the recent hot period. I did not mulch my garden this year and I suspect that is also a problem – the soil is giving up moisture to quickly to evaporation.

From one on-line source I learned to make a slurry of pelleted lime and water. After mixing the slurry for a long time I then added it to the plants at the ground. I will report back on how that goes.

Today’s photo are my wife’s Morning Glory which is in full growth and bloom. It greets me every morning as I go out the door.

Happy Gardening,
Dan Murphy

How Should the Garden Grow?

Today’s title is a play on words. I have been thinking a lot about whether to expand our vegetable garden or not, and how best to deal with what is left of our little lawn.

I could expand the vegetable growing area to replace what is left of the lawn. I hesitate to do so however because it would mean much more work for far more vegetables than we could eat. Unless I want to spend all my time canning and garden-tending I am not sure expanding the vegetable garden makes sense.

Sometimes I get this bug in my head about it, thinking how great it would be to have more veggies growing. Then I think about the work involved and how it would prevent me from doing other things I’d like to do and the idea dies.

If I gardened the space I have more intensely I could increase yields as much as we could reasonably use. That then will be my goal for 2018 – to garden more intensely. I will use the space better and add a fall garden in the same space, or at least part of it.

It will be ultimately necessary to create an automated watering system to cover days when I cannot be here. That will allow us to travel a bit more without worry that all the veggies are drying up and dying.

Then what to do with the lawn, or what is left of it? We could create a few more flower beds but leave much of the lawn in its current form. That is feeling like the best plan at present.

I want to enjoy gardening and not have it turn into a chore. Achieving that balance is the challenge. It is a challenge I welcome. My problem is that I want to do too many things perhaps. I want to do more woodworking. I want to start making Shaker inspired furniture. I want to travel a bit more. Choices must be made.

I reflect that my parents had no difficulty tending a large garden because they rarely went anywhere. There were home all the time because they could not afford to travel much. I have spoken to avid gardeners who have large vegetable and flower gardens and they admit it demands a lot of time and attention daily from spring through fall. So the question I must answer is how much time do I want to devote to gardening?

Fortunately, I need not make that decision today. It will be something to think on over the next year.

Happy Gardening,
Dan Murphy

My Little Lawn Mower

I was amused recently to see a manual reel lawnmower on Facebook with an invitation to repost if you ever used one of them. The suggestion was these were antiques not used today. Au contraire, they are used today a lot and I’ve had one for a number of years.

There are a number of manufacturers. Mine is a Scotts. I’ve posted a photo of it here.IMG_0311

These mowers have a number of advantages. They cut the grass (when they are sharp) more cleanly than a power mower which tends to pull on the grass and chops it. This is better for the grass. Reel mowers are used on golf courses and baseball fields because they cut the grass better.

They are so quiet. I can cut the grass any time of the day or night without bothering the neighbors. (No, I do not cut the grass at night, but I suppose I could.) The reel mower makes a gentle snipping sound that is soothing.

Reel mowers create no pollution. No fumes.

Maintenance is easy. Once a year I sharpen the blades. I tighten nuts and inspect it for any problem. No gas, no spark plugs, no oil to drain and refill. No hazardous waste to dispose of. No carburetor to clean.

They are cheaper. You can get a good one for $120. They last forever which power mowers do not.

They require more effort, but that gives you exercise. They are much safer, you could not cut off your foot with one and since they only operate when you are pushing them they are very safe.

The do not throw rocks and other objects at supersonic speed like power mowers do.

There are some disadvantages. In the spring they do not cut that first wet and thick grass very well. It takes a lot of work. Sometimes I borrow a power mower for that first cutting if I have let it grow too long. But the rest of the season the reel mower is great.

There is no need to bag clippings. On the one hand this is a problem because composting really benefits from those green clippings. But since it returns the cut grass to the lawn it feeds the lawn and makes it healthier.

If your lawn is large (over 8000 square feet) the reel mower may not be practical. If your lawn is very bumpy it wont work well. I have a very small lawn and it is very flat so those are not problems.

I like my reel mower and as long as I have a small lawn I’d never go back to fume belching and noisy gas engines.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy