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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 18, 2015

The garden continues its downhill trend for the fall. The tomatoes may still have some green fruit on them, but I’ll be honest that they have reached the stage of ugly where I just want to yank them out. We harvested quite a bit of squash this week and planted some late spinach seed for the fall. 

Our last Saturday Sampler of the year is tomorrow, and we’ve been busy in the kitchen chopping and prepping some of the squash from the garden. We estimated that we have at least 15-20 cups of cooked squash right now. Yikes! Come out to the Demo Garden at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19th to learn more about growing and cooking winter squashes.

This is just a portion of the Green Striped Cushaw. It is really tasty! It is always a good start when the vegetable that is insect and disease resistant is also flavorful. The cushaw has a nice yellow flesh.

This is one of the ‘Fairy’ squash that has a much more orange colored flesh. We haven’t cooked it yet to compare flavors. SPOILER ALERT! We’re making this one into chili for Saturday.

I guess we’re going backwards in time here. This is our “haul” from the garden this week. We harvested a bunch of butternut squashes, some tromboncino, and a couple more cushaws.

Some of the lettuce survived the caterpillar onslaught and some didn’t. This plant survived, only to have a grasshopper hanging out in the center on Monday morning. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another!

Sorry…I just had to break out a Swiss Chard photo to end the week. We’ve let it go for a couple weeks and it has gotten bigger quickly. It is one of the few things in the garden that is still looking spectacular!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – September 11, 2015

The Demo Garden has an Instagram account! Check us out @thedemogarden on Instagram. You can see a few pictures on a more regular basis.

The garden is still looking good after the rain this week. That said, on close inspection a lot of the plants are looking tired, so don’t feel bad if your garden isn’t perfectly beautiful anymore. The lovely lettuce in the close bed is looking a little bit skimpy today, and you will see why in the next picture.

The nice thing about growing red lettuce is that the green caterpillars show up really well. They have been having quite the feast on the lettuce, because it has gone from looking lush to munched in just two days. I had to go out and buy an insecticide this afternoon, because I was pretty sure the lettuce would have been dead by Monday.

When you are dealing with caterpillars, my preference is to use one of two organic products: spinosad or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) dust. Because we only have a small area planted to lettuce, I bought a ready-to-use spinosad spray. Hopefully the lettuce is strong enough to put on new growth from the roots for this fall.

Since we are on the “death and destruction” theme today, I noticed that most of the leaves that had powdery mildew are gone (dead) since last week, although there are a few (like this one) still showing symptoms. I’m not 100% sure which variety is the susceptible one, but I rather suspect it is the ‘Butterpie.’

I know it is hard to tell because of the light, but most of the rest of the vines, including this one have huge, healthy green leaves. No sign of powdery mildew! I’m glad we have some great resistant varieties, I’m just bummed that I’m not sure which variety is which.

This time of year it is very common to see some big, crunchy grasshoppers. Here in town, they usually are around but not a huge problem like they can be in more rural areas. I think they are very attractive and photogenic – when there’s just a few of them. They can be huge at this time of year! They are not easy to kill right now, other than by smashing, so unless you have a major infestation, don’t bother trying to spray anything.

If your tomatoes look awful, don’t worry! Ours do to. It is natural for this time of year. They are working on ripening the last flush of tomatoes as we move into the cooler parts of fall. Incidentally, this picture is the ‘Beefy Boy’ which I gave a generally favorable review to earlier in the summer. I finally had a chance to taste one, and it is quite good. That means a lot, coming from someone who doesn’t generally care for red tomatoes!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – September 4, 2015

Labor Day weekend seems to be the official “end” of summer, although many gardeners still have lots of produce coming in through the month of September. Many years the best peppers are harvested this month. I know that although our tomato plants look awful (and we’ve removed some of the worst), there are lots of green tomatoes still on the plants.

The lettuces in the close bed really pop with that neon green color, don’t they? The strawberries are also looking very healthy and most of the flowers still look great.

There are often spiders everywhere in the garden at this time of year, especially when it has been a rainier summer. I almost walked into a big web stretched between the grapes and the peanuts this morning. This spider was on the web, but then ran off to hide under this grape leaf. As annoying as the spiders may be, they are generally considered beneficial for the garden, so don’t try to kill them!

We did such a good job keeping the squash vine borers and squash bugs at bay this year that our zucchini finally succumbed to another problem – powdery mildew! Many squashes and pumpkins are highly susceptible to powdery mildew, although newer varieties have been developed that are resistant. We removed these plants right away, because we didn’t want the disease to spread. On the neighboring trellises, I’ve seen a couple vines with spots of mildew, but nothing major yet. If you don’t catch the mildew early, removing the plants really is the best option.

We transplanted the rest of the lettuce on Tuesday and surrounded it with some rabbit guard fencing, since we’ve had some rabbit troubles this year. We decided it wasn’t very pretty, but at least it should be functional! Hopefully the un-munched lettuce will be pretty enough to offset the fencing.

We harvested a bunch of squash this week, mostly the ‘Tromboncino,’ which seems to be very productive. We’ve also started harvesting a few others, including a huge ‘Green Striped’ Cushaw that will be featured in our next Saturday Sampler. I’ve been checking out potential recipes!

Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – August 21, 2015

We seem to be in a bit of a late summer lull in the Demo Garden. We have a few things going for fall, the tomatoes are looking worse every week, and the squash aren’t quite ready to harvest.

As you can see, the tomatoes continue to look more grey or brown than green, even though the tops of the plants are a little bit crazy. The beans we planted a couple weeks ago are up, but the spider mites seem to have attacked immediately. Luckily it is a bit cooler, keeping the mites slowed down somewhat.

For the third year in a row, the begonias and coleus planted in this section of the garden look amazing! I’ll be honest that I don’t love begonias, but they are stunning in this spot.

In this wheelchair barrel planter, we had potatoes in the spring that did extremely well. Since then, we tried planting beans but they didn’t grow well. It seemed silly to think of a nutrient deficiency when the potatoes did so well. But then we planted radishes, and it was clear two weeks ago (above) that the leaves were pale yellow and stunted. Below you can see the improvement.
We fertilized and although there is still a bit of chlorosis (yellowing) they have grown well. We often forget with vegetable gardens that when we harvest a crop we are taking all of the nutrients from those vegetables out of the soil and consuming them. Just because a spot produced well last year or in the spring doesn’t mean that it won’t need additional fertilizer or compost before planting another crop. Maintaining and building our soil is a continual process!

This is something cool that you don’t see every day! This is one of the vines of the ‘Tromboncino’ squash. One of the neat things is that the seeds were planted at the other end of the bed and this plant has climbed all the way to the opposite corner of the bed. The other neat thing is that the vine has gone from round to flattened. This is a phenomenon called “fasciation.” A mutation happened at some point during growth and that mutation continued to manifest in all future growth on this vine. It doesn’t hurt anything, but it is a bit bizarre.

This is also the ‘Tromboncino,’ but these squash are a much darker green color than the others have been. I don’t know if this is a different vine (genetic variation of the seeds), if this is related to the mutation causing the fasciation shown above, or if this is a different mutation. The vines are such a jumble that I don’t think it is possible to sort out at this point. Anyway, it’s interested to all of a sudden have different colored squash!

I also caught this praying mantis hanging out on one of the squash last week. They can eat many insects, including grasshoppers, but I wonder if this one has been feasting on squash bugs?

Have a great weekend!