Friday PhotoEssay – August 22nd

Whew! It’s hot and steamy out there! I’m regretting not going out to take pictures first thing this morning.

As a result, you get the shadowy version of the whole garden today. Shadowy and slightly wilty, especially if you are talking about the pumpkins. It’s a good thing they’re almost ripe, because the plants are almost done for.

Also in the not so spectacular category are the zinnias. They usually look great, until all of a sudden they have powdery mildew. Then they look awful until we decide to take them out. And that is really the best option. I think we’re getting near that point here.

Apparently the peanuts are thoroughly enjoying the weather, because they are growing like crazy. I know they don’t look like much from the top, but I’m hopeful that  they will be pretty spectacular when we harvest later this fall!

Have I give you the spiel on how peanuts grow already? I can’t remember. Anyway, what you are looking at in the very center of the picture are the ovary tubes growing down into the soil that will grow the peanuts. Those reddish-brown sticks coming off the stem are what I’m talking about. The plants are still blooming too, which means even more peanuts!

Ironically, the trellis over the walkway has been rather pathetic this year, with both varieties not doing a lot of climbing. But who needs a trellis arch when the okra and the tomatoes can grow together over the path all by themselves? It’s starting to feel a bit like a jungle out here.

Denise made some yummy Indian dishes for our Saturday Sampler last Saturday. This is the Quinoa Chickpea Curry. The recipes should be up on the website soon, but in the meantime you can revisit other recipes here: Saturday Sampler Recipes.

Have a great weekend!

A Quick Tour of the MG Faves Garden

We haven’t done very many tours of individual garden beds this year, for some reason. I thought today seemed like a good day to take a look at the MG Faves Garden.

On the end of the garden, where the Yukon Gold potatoes resided earlier this year, we have a planting of ‘Rocdor’ yellow beans. They are generally looking pretty healthy and will probably start blooming in a couple weeks. Yum, fall beans!

Next to the ‘Rocdor’ beans is our fall planting of ‘Beananza’ beans. These were planted a couple weeks later, so they aren’t quite as far along. We had originally planned to try to keep the spring planting all year, but the spider mites just got too bad. So with that situation, we moved the ‘Beananza’ beans to this spot, where we would have other wise planted more root vegetables. Since this is the spot we just pulled beets and carrots out of, it wouldn’t have been ideal to go back in with more root veggies anyway.

The ‘Big Bertha’ bell pepper plants are huge, but they haven’t been very productive recently. They had a few peppers early in the summer, and all the remaining peppers are still pretty small. This isn’t uncommon with peppers, but my perception is that these plants are less productive than in other years we have grown this variety.

On the other side of the bed, we have two Cayenne pepper plants. They have been quite productive this summer. But then…it seems like hot peppers are always more productive than you wish they were!

Then we have the fall vegetable section, with a row of kohrabi (not pictured), and a row of healthy Watermelon Radishes. There will also be a row of lettuce or spinach planted in a couple weeks.

I didn’t take any pictures of the cucumbers on the trellis, because there isn’t much to see. I’m not sure why, but neither the ‘Sweet Burpless’ nor the ‘Straight Eight’ have been particularly productive. It may be the shading from other plants or something, but the plants aren’t huge and while we’ve gotten several cucumbers at a time, they aren’t spectacular. They do have a fair bit of anthracnose from earlier in the summer when it was rainy and cool, but I would have expected them to grow out of it by now.

We will probably pull them out and remove the trellis in a couple weeks to plant some fall salad greens.

The Jet Star has been reasonably productive, but again, not as productive as I think it should have been. In thinking about it and looking at the picture, I suspect that we should have used some fertilizer in the mid-summer after the first flush of fruit set. We put so much compost in during the spring, that I didn’t really think about it. However, the garden soil is pretty sandy and with all the rain and irrigation, these plants could be nitrogen starved. They do look a little bit yellow and peaked. At this point, I think that there’s not a lot of point in fertilizing, because I don’t know that it would get us anything. We’ll think about it!

The poor Cardinal basil! When we grew it 2 years ago, the plant was huge and gorgeous and full of blooms. This year I don’t think it has even considered blooming. I think this is a case of way too much shade from the nearby tomatoes and trellises. The plant looks generally healthy, just small. We have had more problems with shading this year than the last two years, it seems.

The sweet basil is sandwiched in between the Juliet tomato and the cucumber trellis. Can you see it there, stretching out? This basil also got shaded, but has just enough sun to encourage it to stretch. The ‘Juliet’ tomatoes have been fairly productive, as they do tend to be, although not quite as much as I would expect.

That’s what’s up in the MG Faves Garden! Is your garden starting to look tired too?

Friday PhotoEssay – August 15th

It’s Friday! And you can tell that the garden is continuing to wind down into fall. I will have to look back and see at what point the garden stops getting greener and starts getting browner. We are definitely into the “browner” stage right now.

I guess it’s still pretty green though, at least from a distance. It helps that you can’t really see the quinoa from this angle.

We did harvest the ‘Kesar’ and ‘Red Samurai’ carrots from the India Garden this week. They were pretty good sized! Unfortunately, they had just enough exposure to heat this summer to make them pretty bitter. Ideally we would have harvested them earlier, but since they got started late, they really weren’t ready. Honestly, they were pretty yucky.

So the ‘Kesar’ carrots, which were billed as “red” were actually purple skins with yellow interiors. I guess that is yet another lesson to take catalogue descriptions with a grain of salt.

The quinoa is still flopped over from the wind and storms last week, and it continues to develop some more color! I hope the color keeps getting brighter, otherwise I’m going to be sad.

We also went through and harvested all the okra that was ready (and past ready). Most okra starts to get tough and stringy once it is more than 3-4″ long, so it is important to pick it as it reaches the right size. I read a blog post this week called “A Reason to Love Okra” which talks about how okra is cooked in India. I thought it was a really interesting insight into the different preparations of okra that we use.

Speaking of which…tomorrow at 9 a.m. in the Demo Garden is our August Saturday Sampler program, and we are featuring Indian recipes and recipes with flavors of India. I know one of the recipes in the booklet is a Crispy Okra Raita, but I don’t know if that one will be up for sampling or not. Either way, you should come check it out!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – August 8th

It rained again! Quite a bit actually. The rain gauge in the garden only measured about 2″, but I hadn’t realized that the Cuban Oregano had kind of grown over it. So…we’re just guessing. Then again, we’re not that far from the airport that recorded less than an inch. My neighbor recorded 3.5 inches. (My rain gauge at home is laying on its side…not very effective for measuring the rain.)

Here’s the whole garden picture from this morning. I feel like we are in a “maximum garden growth” stage with not much visible change at this point. Well…until you get closer, that is.

 There are a couple small berries on the ‘Ozark Beauty’ plants. They both had a couple of small bug bites, so I picked them off and sampled the other side of the fruit. My opinion? They were soft, which is understandable given the rain, but still too soft. It is usually considered “okay” for a fruit grown in a home garden to be softer, but I think these would have been mush by the time you picked a bowl full and took them inside. Assuming you could get a bowl full. They are small, which is also annoying. What would make up for these factors? Great flavor. Well…in this case the flavor was okay, but mostly just sweet with no depth. Again, partially explained by the rain, but still… This is a variety that you can find at lots of box stores in the spring and is touted as one of the best “everbearing” strawberries for home gardeners.

Okay, because I can, I’m going to compare these to another variety (not in the Demo Garden) just to show the difference.

These strawberries are a variety called ‘Albion,’ which is one of the day neutrals we considered planting in this garden. Instead we chose ‘San Andreas’ which was supposed to be better than this variety. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it, we suspect due to residual herbicide issues. I have been getting a solid handful of berries from my plants (and a friend with the same plants has too). The berries are consistently medium to large sized, firm but not too firm, and have GREAT flavor.  This is a variety that is a commercial variety for market growers. Maybe I’m missing something, but why wouldn’t this variety be better in your home garden too? Why as a home gardener should you be given the “best” choice of something that is clearly sub-par rather than a great variety like this one?

Okay, end of mini-rant.

This is yet another case in point of why it is a good idea to pick your heirloom tomatoes early, when they just start to turn, rather than wait until they are fully ripe. This horrendous crack is due entirely to the rain we got.

Do you see it? Do you see the tinge of pink showing up on this head of quinoa? Am I way to excited/anxious about this quinoa getting to the colorful stage? Yes, probably just a bit. If you think I may be more excited about the colors than actually harvesting the quinoa, you may be right.

We have some radish seedlings! These are the Watermelon Radishes which seem to get planted at least every other year in the garden. These are in the MG Faves garden, so we will be looking for some colorful radishes later this fall.

Have a great weekend!

How Do You Know When to Pick Dry Beans & Peas?

This year in the Demo Garden we have several types of beans and peas that are typically harvested in their “dry” state rather than the fresh state. I don’t usually recommend that most home gardeners plant these types of crops, simply because the yield is too low for the amount of space you can dedicate to them, especially if you eat lots of dried beans! However, we had a couple of instances where we wanted to demonstrate this type of crop this year, so we went for it.

Of course, one of the challenges for a Demonstration Garden like us is that we like everything to be attractive all the time. And drying down beans isn’t really an attractive process, especially when you add Spider Mites to the mix.

We have the ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ Borlotto Beans in the Italian Garden and the cowpeas and chickpeas in the Taste of India Garden. So, how do you know when to harvest? The picture above is of the ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ beans that are clearly nearing the end of their lives. But just because the plants look bad doesn’t necessarily mean it is time to pick the beans.

Ideally, you want to leave the pods on the plants until the pods feel dry and crispy (no moisture in the pods). This usually means that the beans are nearly dry or fully dry and they can be shelled and stored. If there is still moisture in the pods, but we are expecting a rainy spell (which could cause mold) you could pick the beans and lay them out on a screen to dry the rest of the way. You don’t want to pick green pods unless you are planning to eat the beans in the fresh state rather than drying them.

The cowpeas are a little different, in that the pods start drying well, but the plants are still crazy and growing. In comparison, the bush beans are pretty much done. Again, the key is for the pods to be dry with beans rattling in them when you give a little shake.

The chickpeas are pretty similar. The plants are showing more signs of dying back than the cowpeas, but there are already dry pods. There are also a lot of empty pods. While it could be the heat, many of the empty pods have a hole in them, indicating to me that there are some opportunistic caterpillars around!

And yes, this variety of chickpea, ‘Black Kabouli,’ is supposed to be black.

So when the peas or beans are perfectly dry (either after picking or after letting them dry more) they are ready to be stored in jars or bags until you want to use them. If they are well dried, they should be able to just sit in the cupboard. I would say it is also important to sort through them before storage and get rid of any that show signs of mold or moisture.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 448 other followers