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

Tomato Problems

Solanum lycopersicum, commonly called the tomato is an edible delight in the nightshade family (Solanaceae). They originated in Central and South America. Although botanically a fruit, tomatoes have a lower sugar content than most fruits and are considered a culinary vegetable.

Although not terribly difficult to grow in most of the United States they do have some problems due to their sensitivity to how often they are watered, how they are watered and how much water they get.

This year my tomatoes are doing well. All but one of the plants has good foliage growth. All have good blossoms and are setting fruit. I have some cherry tomatoes that are picked and eaten.

I attribute the success mostly to the weather. Until this coming week when we are to have triple digit heat the weather has been mostly in the 80sF and some days in the high 70s. The plants seem to thrive in those temperatures.

In the video below from www.growveg.com, Ben Vanheems teaches us about how to care for tomatoes and avoid their common problems.

 

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Castles and Spuds

IMG_0310Here is another photo of the blueberry castle all finished. The last post had a photo taken before it was done.

Also I’ve attached a photo of my wee potato box. My brother gave me two potatoes from his kitchen that had sprouted. One is a sweet potato and one is a russet. I planted the sprouted eyes in one of the garden boxes. Today I created a small box so I could build up the soil around the sprouts. As they grow up I have another bottomless box that will go on top to deepen the growing area. Maybe I will get a couple spuds!

IMG_0308I cut the grass and watered today. It is hot today (89F) and muggy. It was so muggy I retreated indoors. I hate the heat and hate muggy heat all the more. I could never live in a humid climate.

We are usually spared excessive humidity here but when it comes it saps all my energy.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy

Blueberry Castle

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Lawn & Blueberries

We have six blueberry plants in our back yard. Two are early bearing, two are mid-season and two are late bearing. We are not the only ones however who love the blueberries. We have many birds, especially scrub jays, who love the blueberries. Thus I must cover the berries with bird netting to save some for us to eat.

The first couple of years I put up PVC pipe hoops over the berry plants and draped the netting over that. That worked but was less than satisfactory. It did not look very nice and the hoops did not always remain vertical. The biggest problem was that it was hard for me to get to the blue berries.

Last weekend I replaced the hoops with the wooden structure shown in the photo on this page. It will allow for more growth of the plants, it makes it easier for me to roll up the netting to get to the berries and I hope it looks better overall. And, I got to do some wood working which I very much enjoy.

The photo of the “castle’ below is before I removed the hoops – they are gone now.

IMG_0305The blue berries have done well this year and we have had a good crop. This is their third season and they have prospered. I will actually have to prune them some this fall.

Inspiration at Butchart Gardens

Last week we visited Victoria, British Columbia. During our visit we got to spend half a day at the Butchart Gardens. For a garden lover like myself this place is fantastic. For me it was the second visit, I’d been there over 20 years ago. For my wife it was her first visit.

In 1904 the Butcharts developed a quarry and cement factory at Tod Inlet on Vancouver Island. They also built their beautiful home there. The quarry was rich in the limestone essential to making cement. They exported to the rest of Canada and to the US.

As the limestone was exhausted the Butcharts began to transform a barren and stark quarry – a giant hollowed out area – into beautiful gardens. They hauled in tons of soil by horse and cart from a nearby farm.

Between 1906 and 1929 they created a beautiful Japanese Garden. A sunken garden, Italian Garden, a Rose Garden and more followed until the entire quarry was transformed into a chorus of trees, shrubs, and flowers.

On his 21st birthday their grandson, Ian, was given the garden and he spent the rest of his life developing it and opening it to the public. The garden remains in the family having been passed down through the generations.

It took us over two hours to see the entire garden, walking slowly along perfectly maintained paths, across bridges and by water fountains and other fixtures. For me the showcase of the gardens are the immaculate lawns and the extensive beds of flowers and bushes. They plant over a million bedding plants each year. Nearly a million people a year visit from around the world.

I’ve included only one photo here of his amazing garden. To see much more go to their site here.

The Butchart gardens are in inspiration to any gardener. They show the potential. On returning home I dived into improvements in our gardens inspired by what I saw.

Our gardens surrounding our home have been a labor of love for 15 years and will continue to be so. The inspiration gained from viewing the Butchart Gardens only give me more energy to develop our gardens further.

If you ever get the chance to see these gardens in British Columbia I hope you take it. They are a ferry ride from Seattle, Vancouver BC or Port Angeles, Washington. It is well worth the trip.

Happy Gardening,

Dan Murphy