A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘squash’

Keeping My Interest

Some of the biggest, most beautiful blooms in my garden aren’t flowering perennials, but vegetable plants.   The squash and zucchini flowers not only catch my interest, but keep the local bee population busy all day long.  There’s plenty of nectar to go around, and the bees have to wipe their feet before exiting to dislodge caked on clumps of pollen.

honeybee tongue darts out like a sword

Baby Veggies

It is always exciting when our vegetable garden starts producing.  After a few failures in the past two summers due to pests, disease and/or uncooperative weather, it is encouraging to see the plants bursting forth with tiny veggies that will continue to grow into harvest-able crops. I’ll get to those mini-veggies in a minute, but first, BIG news.  Well, sort of.  The spring/summer garden offered up its first harvest over the weekend – a single zucchini measuring 9-inches long!  I am amazed at how fast zucchinis grow!  I literally watched it grow a few inches in a matter of two days and a few more are just a day or two behind it.  I think this one plant will provide enough zucchini for us to eat for a few months – and bigger than we’ve been able to get at the grocery store.  The first picture below was taken on Saturday.  I chose not to harvest it then because I wanted it to get an inch or two larger.

Then, on Sunday, I awoke to find the same zucchini had grown almost two inches to the size of a large dinner plate!

Well, that’s the big news.  Hey, I relish in good news, whatever it is!

Now for the mini-veggie photos!  We have tomatoes, habaneros, green bell peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, jalapenos and what looks like cantaloupe starting to form!

baby cucumber (tied with nylon cord to tomato cage)

teeny jalapeno

small Early Girl tomatoes clustered together

healthy nub of a habanero pepper

tiny yellow squash (foil to deter vine borer)

beginning of bell pepper

could it be? a cantaloupe fruit?

All of these plants received a healthy watering on Saturday, followed by a 12 oz. cup of freshly brewed compost tea to top them off!  Here is the yeasty smelling, foamy, frothy mixture right before I served it up!

What Compost Tea Does to a Veggie Garden

The veggie garden seems like it has grown by leaps and bounds the past couple of weeks.  Here is a shot taken two weeks ago, followed by a recent shot:

Image uploaded 4.5.11

Two weeks later ...

That’s what a few batches of compost tea will do!

The zucchini (upper right of the bed) is already producing.  The flowers are always so large and beautiful.  The bees love them, too.

zucchini flower

... turns into zucchini!

As you can see by the first two photos, everything has grown.  Check out the tomatoes (top two plants on left side of bed), now flowering and hopefully soon producing:

celebrity tomato bush

early girl tomato bush

Or the yellow squash (second from top, center row):

yellow crookneck squash

The cantaloupe vines are reaching out a couple feet in every direction (second plant from bottom on right row) …

cantaloupe

And the peppers…

habanero

bell pepper

The slowest growing plant has been the watermelon and it was planted a couple weeks after the others (the first plant died).  It is finally starting to grow more, too:

watermelon

And my flowers get compost tea, too.  The gauras are just going crazy right now and the Indigo Spires salvia is starting to bloom!

The New Garden Bed

Last week, I wrote about the new garden bed I built on the north side of the house.  Although I’ve been growing veggies in raised beds in other parts of the yard for the past couple of years, I decided that I needed to do something different this season.  The main reason for building a new bed is that the veggies simply weren’t getting enough sunlight.  Vegetables require at least 8 hours of sunlight a day to be really productive and the other beds only allowed for a max of six hours of direct sunlight before being shaded from the house or the fence.  In years past, I’ve had struggles with low productivity as well as powdery mildew on my cukes and squashes.  I think the low productivity was, in part, due to the shortage of direct sunlight and, also in part, due to the extreme heat (tomatoes stop setting at consistent temps over 85 degrees, for example).  I am also fairly certain that the powdery mildew proliferated due to the amount of shade the plants received.  Being exposed to full sun all day should help this situation.  If not, I’ll be trying some different techniques to get it under control.  More on that later should the need arise.

This new bed is about four feet wide by eight feet long.  It is now in a location where 100% of the bed receives direct sunlight all day long.  If it performs well, I just might expand it for the fall, perhaps putting another 4×8′ bed next to it.  This summer, I’ll be growing tomatoes, jalapenos, bell pepper, habaneros, cucumber, yellow squash, zucchini, watermelon and cantaloupe.  I skipped the bush beans this season, but might end up putting them in the additional bed if I decide to build it for fall.

 

the new garden bed

cantaloupe leaves

 

zucchini

tomato plant

mmmm, fire.

cucumbers

yellow crookneck squash

jalapeno

green bell pepper

Macro Monday – Caught in the act

Syrphid flies getting it on

Both of them looking at me like, “Uh, do you MIND?!”

The cornflowers are going gangbusters in the wildflower bed.   After the flower petals dry and fall off, the flower base takes on this golden glow in the sunlight.  I tried to capture it on film, but it doesn’t quite convey how shiny it was.  This photo captures the blooming and death stages …

I can’t get enough of taking bee photos.  We just got a new Nikon D-90 camera, so I played around with the macro and speed settings, as well as the camera’s ability to take 4 shots per second – pretty helpful capturing those bees in motion.

And, not entirely unrelated to the bees – the first yellow crookneck squash is starting to form in the garden.  I say not entirely unrelated because this little squash wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the bees.  That little squash was once a yellow flower that must have been pollinated by one of my little buzzing friends in order for it to start developing:

For more Macro Monday photography, please visit Lisa’s Chaos.com:

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.