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Friday PhotoEssay – October 30, 2015

The garden is almost ready to for the winter. We removed the remaining sad tomato plants and the squash and trellises this week. The only “warm season” things left are the pole beans, the flowering sages, and the annual flowers.

We don’t have a lot of cool season plants either. Just the lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and a few herbs and strawberries. You might notice that we left the straw after removing the plants. I feel like we are constantly trying to balance protecting the soil by leaving the straw on over the winter with reducing insect pressure by removing a place that insects could overwinter (in the straw).

We harvested the remaining squashes as we took down the trellises, but most of them weren’t mature yet. Squash is technically edible at almost any stage, but a winter/hard squash that is not fully hard yet will likely not have very sweet or good flavor. They were still cool looking though!


Since we talked about ripening green tomatoes last week, I thought I’d show you a couple before and after pictures. My office gets pretty warm, hence the quick ripening. Again, if they were in a cooler spot, they wouldn’t have ripened so quickly.

 Even the really green tomatoes in this batch have mostly ripened! There are still a few holdouts, so the question is if they were truly mature and will ripen eventually or if they weren’t completely mature and thus will not ripen at all.

The pole beans are still doing well. The green ones have slowed down some, but the purples are still producing like crazy. The purple variety is ‘Carminat’ and it is probably one of the sweetest snap beans I’ve ever eaten raw. Different bean varieties really do have slightly different flavors, and this particular variety is very sweet. Some varieties are nutty without having any sweetness and other just taste green/like grass.

The most photogenic thing left in the garden is clearly the Pineapple Sage (red) and the Mexican Blue Sage (purple). They have pretty much taken over their bed and with the tomatoes gone can really show off now!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – October 16, 2015

I’ll be honest that I’m just waiting for it to freeze so we can be done with things. Not that we couldn’t pull things out already, but it’s hard to do! You always want to see if just a few more things can ripen before the yanking happens. I’ve got a couple squashes that I want to ripen, but it probably won’t happen as the nights get colder.

We have slowly been removing tomatoes, but everything else is still growing strong.

The pole beans have really come on strong in the past couple weeks. The moral of this story is that fall planted pole beans can produce well, but spring planted pole beans are awful. Now the question is yield per square foot compared to bush beans…something to look at another year.

We haven’t had much for caterpillars in the garden this year, for whatever reason. We do have a few of these Black Swallowtail caterpillars on the fennel this week.

Not only are the pole beans doing well, the other varieties are producing well too. Beans are a versatile and productive vegetable, although I don’t often recommend them for a small space garden. Now I’m wondering about the pole beans again…

The Mexican Blue Sage (Salvia leucantha) is finally in full, glorious bloom. It is also very attractive to our bees. When I was trying to capture some good pictures, I realized that the grasshoppers are also enjoying the plant!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – September 25, 2015

It is the last Friday in September, and while the sad appearance of the tomatoes and squash certainly bear this out, it has been warm enough that it doesn’t really seem like fall yet.
We took out a couple more tomato plants this week, and in doing so made an unhappy discovery:

Roots infected with nematodes! UGH! This is actually a pretty bad infestation because the roots are very swollen and knobby. Well, the nematode-free soil was nice while it lasted. As we continue to remove tomato plants, we will keep a close eye on the roots to see how much of a problem it is. It may be confined to just a section of the bed, and we will try to manage it using rotations, non-susceptible plants, and nematode-suppressing plants.

For comparison, the roots on the left/on top of the others are healthy tomato roots. Nice and smooth, slender, and white.

Our Saturday Sampler this past weekend featured a wide variety of recipes made from the Cushaw squash, including this scrumptious pie. Here are the recipes in case you missed them: Winter Squash

These are from the ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ plants. (Except the one Italian Gold.) The plants look like they are winding down, although I found several hidden tomatoes this morning. Several of the fruit also look like they have some Bacterial Spot, which is a little abnormal for this time of year, but not too surprising given the colder, rainer spells we’ve had. There’s nothing to do about it now, other than use the tomatoes quickly.

If you would have asked me a couple of weeks ago if the Blue Lake Pole bean was going to grow up the trellis, let alone flower and produce beans before it got too cold, I would have called you crazy! But look at this…flowers, and tiny green beans!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – August 28th

I can hardly believe that it is almost September. Well…until I look at our sad tomato plants. Then I can believe it! The overnight temps are also cool enough that we decided to go ahead and plant some of the lettuce this week.

Overall, everything still looks like a jungle in the garden.

The fascinating fasciation on the squash vine I showed you last week continues to develop. It could be pretty neat to see how much crazier the end of the vine gets before the end of the season.

Our peppers have been pretty pitiful this year, so I’m trying not to judge any of the varieties overly harshly. This is the ‘Sweet Sunshine’ that was billed as an “edible ornamental.” It was supposed to look like an ornamental pepper, but the peppers were supposed to taste like the sweet snack peppers. It is just barely beginning to set fruit, so it isn’t nearly as attractive as an ornamental. The peppers are tiny, and while the flavor is good, each pepper is about half a bite. It’s just not worth it!

We planted the lettuce seeds 3 weeks ago, and the plants are looking good! I have some new lights in my office, and everything looks great. We planted some of the transplants out in the tallest raised bed where we had potatoes earlier in the year, with the theory that the rabbits can’t get to them. We are going to try some type of rabbit fence to keep them out of the lower beds. This is (surprisingly) the first year we’ve had a rabbit problem in the garden. We’ve had squirrels in the past, but they don’t care about the lettuce.

We’ve had Swiss Chard in the garden all year long, and I’ve barely taken a single picture of it. For those of you that are long-time readers, you will know how impressive that is. We’ve been harvesting it regularly, so it has stayed more at the salad size than getting bigger into the “cooking” size. The leaves have also stayed very clean and disease free, considering the amount of rain we’ve had. I would guess that the regular harvesting combined with the plants being pretty isolated in a spot with good airflow has really helped.

We replanted the beans 3 or 4 weeks ago as well, and it is interesting to see the differences in growth and germination. One variety didn’t even come up! The ‘Carminat’ pole bean pictured here has really taken off and grown well. The ‘Blue Lake’ pole bean on the other side of the trellis really hasn’t started climbing yet. I’ll be surprised to see if we get many beans before it gets too cold.

Have a great weekend!

Bean Variety Review, Part 1

Our Bean trial garden has finished up the first planting as of a couple weeks ago and we are now on to the second planting. I wanted to take the opportunity to give you a few thoughts on how the varieties performed from the spring planting. We planted different varieties earlier this week for the fall season.

Our beans got off to a bit of a rough start this spring with cool, wet soils. We think we had some seed corn maggot in the soil causing problems. The beans finally took off when it got warmer and did quite well.

‘Contender’ Green Snap Bush Bean

This is an old variety that has been around since 1949. The beans aren’t always the most beautiful shaped, but this was by far the earliest producing and highest yielding of all the varieties we planted this spring. Sometimes the oldies are the goodies!

‘Golden Rod’ Yellow Snap Bush Bean

Another older variety, I would consider the yield was acceptable, but not spectacular. In fact, I’ve seen us have higher yields on this variety before. That said, there may be other yellow varieties, like ‘Rocdor,’ that perform better.

‘Velour’ Purple Filet Bush Bean

This is a relatively new filet bean variety. I’ve decided after this year that I like the idea of filet beans (meaning the pods are more slender and theoretically more tender), but I don’t like the reality of them. There were times when this variety was loaded with beans, as you can see in the picture above, but the yield felt paltry because of the petite size of the beans. However, if that doesn’t bother you, I think the yield for this variety was quite good.

A note though – purple beans will turn green when you cook them. My family always planted purple beans rather than green beans because my dad liked the flavor better. Whether that is true or not it’s hard to say. You’ll have to test it out for yourself!

‘Dragon Tongue’ Flat Podded Bush Bean

This heirloom bean doesn’t really fit into any category. It is typically pale green to yellow with purple streaks when ready to harvest. You can also let it to until you harvest it for the bean seeds. While an interesting novelty, the yield was poor at best.

‘Jade II’ Green Snap Bush Bean

This is a more recent variety that boasts straighter pods and dark green color. It’s a little hard to tell, but the beans definitely were a darker green than the ‘Contender’ beans and had much better shape. This variety is also longer to maturity, making it a good option to extend the producing season a bit. So, from all those standpoints it seemed to live up to its billing. Since we weren’t specifically weighing the yields, it is a bit difficult to compare the yields with ‘Contender.’ I think it seemed a bit less, but it’s hard to say for sure. The Master Gardeners who were working with these beans all summer were very definite that ‘Contender’ was the most productive. Still, if pod straightness and color are important to you, this would be a good choice.

‘Carminat’ Purple Pole Bean and ‘Blue Lake’ Pole Bean

As per our expectation, the pole beans grew well, but produced next to nothing. We got a few beans from the ‘Carminat’ but the ‘Blue Lake’ plants were just starting to bloom when the spider mites arrived. We pulled everything down and replanted to see if the fall season is any better for the pole beans.

Varieties that have been planted for the fall include: ‘Provider,’ ‘Masai,’ ‘Romano Gold,’ ‘Amethyst,’ and ‘Carson.’ We also replanted the pole beans.