A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘cucumbers’

Progress in the Garden

Hello gardening world!  It’s been so long since my last garden post, I don’t even know where to begin.   I can’t believe it’s been almost a month.

I’ve made some changes to the garden in the past few weeks.  Most notably, the squash and zucchini both died.  I tried replanting the zucchini, but then something came by and ate all of the seedlings when they were just a couple inches tall, so I have given up on growing those – at least for now.  I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.  Most of the time, squash and zucchini thrive and produce more veggies than you know what to do with.  The other curcubit I’m trying to grow, cucumber, is doing alright.  It’s just now starting to produce small cucumbers, although two of them that started already shriveled.  Thinking it may need a boost of phosphorous for fruiting, I gave it some bone meal and we’ll see if that helps over the next couple of weeks.

Straight Eigtht cucumber vines

The lettuce/parsley bed was empty, so I worked the soil over really well, added a bunch of compost, a little bat guano and a little bone meal and let the soil sit for a couple of weeks.  Then I planted three rows of beans and they are all doing really well.

Tendergreen Bush Beans

Three of the tomato plants are getting quite large and although they are flowering, have yet to set any fruit.  I sure hope this isn’t a repeat of last year.  I got only a dozen or so tomatoes last year!   I have a total of seven plants going, but four of those got started really late and may take awhile to start producing as well.

Three tomato plants

I’ve got quite a few pepper plants right now.  I thought I was losing several of the ones I started from seed a few weeks ago, so I got more transplants nd started more from seed for fall.  Well, the initial plants rebounded, are flowering and there are even a few pepper nubs forming, so I may end up with a pretty decent pepper crop.  I have probably ten cayenne, ten bell pepper, and four jalapenos going.

The sunflowers are tall and are flowering.  Unfortunately, I planted them along the fence line running north to south, and I’ve come to realize that once they start blooming, sunflowers permanently face east towards the rising sun.  As such, they are not facing the house, but the neighbor’s!  I hope he enjoys them!

Mammoth sunflower

The butterfly garden is coming along, too.  The verbena has spread out to create two good-sized mounds.  The black-eyed susans are finally looking like they’re going to flower soon.  The fennel is reaching high in the back, despite a continual defoliation from the dozens of black swallowtail caterpillars that have grown up here.  The other day, my wife and I counted fifteen new eggs on one plant alone.  We even found three large cats on our dill plant, and we had to remove them before they killed it.  The fennel appears ready to flower in the next couple of weeks.

Purple Moss verbena in the front ...

Black-Eyed Susans with Dusy Miller, Fall Aster and Texas Lantana

Fennel (a.k.a. Black Swallowtail nursery)

Four Nerve Daisies, Creeping Lantana, Milkweed and Butterfly weed ... followed by rosemary, Copper Canyon Daisies and Indigo Spires salvia

The Texas Lantana is growing a little slower than I expected, but the creeping lantana has really spread out.   I continue to love the Four Nerve Daisies that seem to bloom profusely in waves every several days.  The milkweed cuttings are established and will hopefully begin to fill out some more.  I have another fifty milkweeds going indoors, and I plan to transplant them in a few weeks.  I need to prepare a space along the northern fence line for them first.  My hope is have them well-established by mid-August when Monarch populations are highest.  Perhaps I can entice a few to stick around.  Milkweed is hardy in my zone, so it should make it through the winter to come back again in the Spring.

The Copper Canyon Daisies have created one big bush and I can’t wait for their show this fall.  As big as they are, I’m sure that they will be covered with yellow blooms!  The Indigo Spires has grown so much faster than I expected.  I ended up cutting off an entire section already because it was getting in the way of the other salvias!  Not wanting it to go to waste, I’ve started a dozen cuttings inside, so hopefully I’ll have more in the future.  I was thinking that a bed in the front yard would look good, and these would make a wonderful addition there.

The mint bed is standing three feet tall – taller than I thought it would, but makes a nice smelling mound of green in the corner of the yard.  So far, there’s been no sign of spreading, but I am watching for runners constantly.

Mint bed with rosemary, Copper Canyon Daisies in foreground

The Mexican Mint Marigold has all but died (pictured next to the rosemary above).  If it doesn’t come back, I’ve got to find something else to put there.  I’m thinking something red … Any suggestions?

And, the wildflowers are all done.  After a heavy downpour and fifty-mile per hour winds, they were all tore up, laying over and generally very, very sad.  I hacked them down with a machete and plan on sowing more seeds this fall.

Look How They’ve Grown

The cup of Life is full and runneth over.  The Spirit of creation abounds at every level, constructing – in no small way – the world you see, the air you breathe, the soil beneath your feet, the beating of your heart.

You are intimately bound up in Creation, eternally connected to the unfolding of Life Itself, just as a new leaf extends in the embrace of the sun and sends its roots deep into the soil.   Look at the natural world around you.  There is no death, only change.  Spirit, like matter, is neither created nor destroyed.  It merely changes form.  There is peace in the whisperings of Spirit.  Quiet your soul and listen well.   The wellspring of Life cascades through you.  You are Its expression.

What started as a hobby has turned into a full-time fascination.  I enjoy looking at my plants on a daily basis, tending to them, assisting them in their growth.  Day-to-day, it’s difficult to notice the big changes, although I catch little details in photographs.  When I look back on pics taken months or even just weeks ago, I am amazed at how much they have grown.  I look forward with great anticipation to the coming months when many of these plants should be much larger and producing lots of flowers.

Take the Texas Lantana.  I bought them in small 1/2 gallon pots and planted them in mid-March.  Now they’ve established themselves and are beginning to spread out and bloom.  This variety can grow to be 4′ x 4′, so I should have a very large mound of lantana with two plants side by side.

Texas Lantana

The two Purple Moss Verbena plants were purchased in a similar size pot and transplanted at the same time as the lantana.  They have grown incredibly and delight the butterflies with their numerous purple blooms.   These plants should each get a couple feet tall and wide.

Purple moss verbena

The Fall Aster was purchased last year in a small 4″ pot.  I transplanted it, but it didn’t do much last fall but put out two or three blooms.  Over the winter, I cut it entirely back.  Then it started to produce more leaves as you see below.  I transplanted it again with the others in March and now it is three times as large and covered with flowers.  Shhh, don’t tell it that it is late Spring…

Fall aster

An amazingly fast grower, the Indigo Spires salvia is a truly gorgeous addition to the garden.  I bought in two plants in 1/2 gallon containers and transplanted with the others.  In just two months it has grown incredibly and is covered with those beautiful indigo spires.   These can get pretty large at 4′ x 4′.

Indigo spires salvia

The Trailing Lantana, like the others, was purchased in 1/2 gallon container and transplanted in March.  It has really begun to spread out now, and after a few weeks of not blooming, has really turned on the flowers the past week.  It should spread out 3-4′ in diameter.

Trailing lantana

And the wildflower bed is just a sea of yellow right now thanks to the Coreopsis and Mexican Hats.  Below you can see the beginning stages of the wildflower bed followed by a close-up of a section of Coreopsis and a long-view of the bed as of yesterday.   The dark coreopsis is the first I’ve seen in the bed, but may be the first of many more.

The Straight Eight cucumber vines are really starting to take off.  I’ve had to tie them a few times in the past couple of weeks as they stretch up.  I’ve included a close-up of the end of the cucumber vine, as well as one of a cucumber flower.

And, remember my landscaping project?  I installed some flagstones and planted some Mother of Thyme and Yellow Thyme between the stones.  They are filling in nicely, though I really think the Yellow Thyme is doing what I want it to.  The Mother of Thyme is growing taller than I expected.  The first image below is right after transplanting the thyme, followed by pictures taken yesterday.  They should start flowering in mid-summer.

The mammoth sunflowers have sprung up, growing inches everyday.  I can’t wait to see those dinner-sized plates of yellow happiness!  The flowers are forming already and soon will start unfolding!

Mammoth sunflowers in the morning shade

And, finally, the herb garden.  The first picture below was taken September of last year.  Eight months later, the garden scarcely has a bare spot.

September 9, 2009

What’s growing up in your garden?

Checking up on the Veggie Garden

I have been so fascinated with flower, bee and butterfly pictures for the past few weeks that I have not posted a vegetable garden update.  Before the rain moved in this week, I woke up early Wednesday morning and grabbed a bag of compost, a bag of bat guano, a bag of bone meal and headed out to the garden.   The pictures included in this post were taken Saturday morning.

One of the last pictures I posted of the veggies was of a newly forming yellow crookneck squash.  The plant soon died of neglect, I’m sad to say.  Now I have an empty spot and I’m debating whether or not to try another round, or go with a different variety altogether.  That same variety failed for me last year as well.

Meanwhile, the zucchini is doing well and has been flowering.  Maybe soon it will start producing.  There is no shortage of pollinators in the yard, though I wonder if they are too busy loving on all of the natives to come and pollinate my zucchini!   I went ahead and worked some compost into the soil, then sprinkled bat guano around the plant and watered lightly to let it absorb a little.  The rain did a better job at working it in anyway.  You can see the remaining Red Sail lettuce there next to the zucchini.  It looks beautiful and has a wonderful, glossy, deep red color.  Unfortunately, since weather has been so warm, it has turned bitter.  Yet, I think this shows how resistant this variety is to bolting.  We’ve had several days of ninety degree weather and it is still compact.    This weekend I will actually have to buy lettuce for the first time in six months.

The cucumbers have really started to vine out this past week, which is good because I was starting to worry about them.  I have since tied them to the tomato cage for support, which only seems to have encouraged them.  These, too, did not make it last fall, so I am wary of their success.   I do have my fingers crossed! I gave them more compost and a sprinkling of guano as well.

The Blue Lake bush beans are coming along and they are flowering like crazy and producing lots of green pods!   The Tendergreen variety didn’t survive all of the wind.  I had started them inside and they did get pretty leggy before I transplanted them.  Then all of the strong winds took their toll on their thin stalks.  I will be resowing more this weekend.  As with the other veggies, I applied a side-dressing of guano.

I pulled up the parsley and added it to the compost pile (first, however, I made sure there weren’t any black swallowtail caterpillars – there weren’t).  Then I pulled up the lettuce and worked the soil over really well, adding some bone meal, fresh compost and bat guano.  I’m not sure what I will plant there – quite possibly more tomatoes.  I thought about retrying squash in this location, so a butternut or another summer squash might be in the not-too-distant future.

The carrots are still forming, so I have left them.  I gave them a good fertilizing with bone meal, which is a good source of phosphorus for developing roots.  I hope to be harvesting some carrots within the next couple of weeks, but I think they should definitely be ready to pull up within a month.  I don’t know how long they will last into the warmer weather.

Also in the carrot bed are three tomato plants that are also now flowering.  I will continue to pinch those flowers until I’m happy with the sizes of the plants.  I want them to get bigger and bushier first.  To encourage that, I also gave them compost and a side-dressing of guano.

My pepper bed is coming along slowly.  The cooler nights still aren’t ideal.  They like the soil to be at least 70 degrees.  The larger jalapeno plants have been producing flowers and buds like crazy, but I’ve been pinching them off to encourage a bushier plant.  I went ahead and gave them all a good amount of fresh compost and applied guano around the base of each.

Check back later this weekend for an update on the flower beds and the development of the black swallowtail caterpillars of which I now have twelve on my fennel.

Spring veggie garden start

As the lettuce continues to mature, the spinach offers yet another harvest, and the broccoli is producing side shoots like crazy, I know the winter garden is almost done.  I still have a few rows of carrots going, and hopefully I can harvest them in another month or so, but I’ve already started switching beds over to the summer garden.  I say summer because Spring lasts all of four weeks here it seems.  I have transplanted zucchini, squash, cucumbers, green beans, and have sowed another round of green beans as well as sunflowers.  My peppers are doing pretty good – I’ve actually had them outside now for the past week, but they are still portable.  I won’t put them into the ground until later this month.  I have to harvest some more lettuce first.  In total, I have four orange bell pepper plants, two jalapeno plants and four cayenne pepper plants.  The pics are small, but you can view them full-size by clicking.

Ring-O-Fire Cayenne and Cal Wonder Orange Bell peppers

Jalapeno plants

Heirloom Yellow Crookneck Squash - second go (last fall was a fail)

Black Beauty Zucchini - Second Go (last fall was a fail) - also pictured: Red Sail lettuce

Straight Eight cucumbers - second go (Last fall was a fail, these look not so good either)

Blue Lake Beans - second crop (last year did good, but planted too late)

Tendergreen green beans - first attempt

Broccoli bed is really full right now

Another view of the broccoli bed

Mammoth sunflowers in the morning shade

Indoor Seed-Sowing for Spring

Saturday was a beautiful day of sunshine.  I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to spend gardening, but I think I made the most of what little time I had.

I pulled up the remaining carrots.  There were slightly more than three dozen, all with varying sizes.   In retrospect, I need to do a better job of thinning the carrots to 2″ apart.  Most of these were just too close together and it limited how big they were able to grow.   They had incredibly long tap roots, but they just didn’t fatten up and fill out like they should have due to space restrictions and probably less available nutrients.  Still, there were several good-sized carrots.   I went ahead and worked the soil well and planted five more rows – three of the Danver’s half-long and two of the Big Top.  (For the record, the three rows closest to the lettuce and marked by wooden sticks are of the Danver’s variety.   Last time I couldn’t remember what was what after they grew!)  In the fall, I think I’ll dedicate the 3’x3′ broccoli bed to carrots.  The broccoli needs to be rotated, and I need more room for carrots.  So far, they seem like an easy crop to grow and, as I’ve mentioned before, they are a common staple at our house.  It makes sense to have a bigger bed that I can successively sow seeds in.

I transplanted about six more lettuce plants and then cut three more heads down for our use this week.   I have another half dozen transplanted into cups, which are growing under lights in the garage.  I’ll pull up the roots of the heads I just harvested, plus I think I currently have space for a couple more in the bed, so that should give me room to transplant the remaining plants.  That will probably conclude my lettuce planting for the year.  Oh, and I still have many sprouts of the organic lettuce blend coming up, which will need to be thinned out after they’re a couple inches tall.  The blanket of snow we received last week did absolutely nothing to the sprouts, luckily.

It was also time to start the rest of the veggies for transplanting at the end of March.  I’m going to try the zucchini, cucumbers and squash again.  Because I had half a pack of seeds of each leftover from fall, I decided to go with the same varieties:  Black Beauty, Straight Eight and heirloom Yellow Crookneck.  I have eight seeds of each sown.   I started eight containers of Tendergreen bush beans, but I also need to do another eight or so Bush Lake Beans here in a couple of days.   To get a jump start on the sunflowers, I started them in large paper pots – I started about half a dozen Russian Mammoth.   These seeds are all sitting in a sunny window covered with plastic until they sprout.  Finally, I sowed about twelve chives.   These need darkness to germinate, so they are sitting in a closet for now.

The cayenne (4) and bell peppers (5) are now 3-4″ tall.  They weren’t growing very fast out in the garage due to the colder temperatures.  I moved them indoors to the sunniest windowsill where it’s at least 65 degrees.  I placed them into a recycled, clear-plastic Baby Spinach tub and then used binder clips to attach another tub on top.  This created a mini-greenhouse.   As it sits in the sun, the entire container warms up and gives the pepper roots the warmth they need to grow.  Since doing this, they’ve grown at least 2″ in the past week!  Mental note: next fall, purchase a couple of heating mats for germination and seedlings.  This will accelerate growth and I’ll have healthier and bigger plants to transplant.

In addition the all of the above, I have a dozen or so Sweet Alyssum, four Mexican Mint Marigold, six Verbena, twelve Black-Eyed Susan (just starting to germinate!), four Calabrese Broccoli and one Bloomsdale Spinach plants growing from seed.

Worm castings tea … hopefully to the rescue.

This isn’t your mom’s home remedy, but possibly an elixir that the garden will find potent and invigorating.

You see, despite the cooler weather and the much appreciated rain, the squashes and cucumbers are struggling.  Their growth appears stunted and both the yellow squash and the zucchini are now flowering.  I don’t know what to make of it.  Top it off with a small infestation of aphids.  This doesn’t sit well for an obsessive-compulsive gardener.

I brewed up a small batch of castings tea yesterday.  I read that it can help troubled plants by giving them a dose of immediately available nutrients and trace minerals and a bath of beneficial microorganisms.   As it turns out, there were a couple of sites that proclaimed the virtues of castings tea as a pest deterrent precisely because of these microorganisms.   This is the recipe I used:

Materials:

5 Gallon Bucket

Foot-long piece of old panty hose

Stick (from which to hang the panty hose)

.

Ingredients:

2 C. Worm castings

2 T. of cane syrup (molasses or corn syrup)

Chlorine-free water

Bucket, stick, panty hose, water, sugar and worm poop.   Mmmmm.

Bucket, stick, panty hose, water, sugar and worm poop. Mmmmm.

I put the worm castings in the panty hose, tied a knot at the top, then tied the panty hose to a stick I notched to sit on top of the bucket.  Then I filled the bucket with water and let it sit 24 hours.  It is suggested that one use an air pump to bubble the brew, but I don’t have a pump and just decided to let it sit as is.  The cane syrup serves as a food for the microorganisms living in and on the worm castings, and allowing the mixture to steep for 24 hours gives it time to produce excellent levels of these beneficial bacteria and microbes to enrich the soil and protect against harmful fungi.  I am hoping that this will help the veggies out.

Yeah, I know it's nothing pretty to look at, but the toads came out for a gander.

Yeah, I know it's nothing pretty to look at, but the toads came out for a gander.

I came home and sprayed down the plants.  I’ll hold out hope that they’ll be rejuvenated even though they’ve scarcely grown the past three weeks.   I sprayed down the herbs as well, and it didn’t take but ten seconds or so for the little green worms to come slipping off.  I found a couple more that obviously enjoy the basil almost exclusively.   I feigned eating one, which totally freaked out my daughter.   “Mmmm, tastes like basil.”

Garden update 9/26/09

The garden veggies are now twenty-eight days old from planting.  I honestly thought they’d be a little further along than they are right now, but I’ve never grown any of these vegetables and I certainly do not know what to expect.   The pepper plant has rebounded joyously and is offering up several young peppers.  It is also covered in flowers and nubbins, so I expect that it’s most productive days are still on the horizon.

IMG_5729

The beans – well, they’re doing their thing – slowly.  As you can see, the first set of leaves are dying away and fresh leaves have unfolded.  But they’re still so tiny.   It has been very overcast this past week, which probably explains why they haven’t grown much recently.  The next few days of sun will hopefully renew their growth with much-needed vigor.

IMG_5730

The squash and zucchini plants are doing okay.  They sure have a lot of leaves starting to form near the crooks of each plant.

squash close up

squash close up

zucchini close up

zucchini close up

zucchini (above) and squash (below)

zucchini (above) and squash (below)

IMG_5719

The cucumbers are slowly doing their thing and there isn’t much to report.  I thought that the cukes and squashes would really do well on that side of the house because they enjoy full sun all day long, but they’re still pretty puny.   As with the beans, I hope to see them really go to town this week.

cucumbers...

cucumbers...

Well, that’s what I said last week, too!  I guess I’m an over-eager gardener.

GROW DANGIT!!

hibiscus bloom

hibiscus bloom

IMG_5718

On another note:

The broccoli seedlings are now an inch or two tall and the lettuce has almost all sprouted!

broccoli sprouts

broccoli sprouts

lettuce sprouts!

lettuce sprouts!

And the oregano is trying to escape the herb garden!!

A blanket of oregano flanks the thyme and curry

A blanket of oregano flanks the thyme and curry