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Friday PhotoEssay – October 9, 2015

I wonder if anyone has done a study looking at the relationship between the ugliness of a tomato plant and its productivity? Our tomato plants are UGLY, but the number of tomatoes we are still getting from them is a little bit ridiculous.

We are slowly taking a few more plants out as they die. Our squash vines are starting to die back as well, but we won’t remove them for a couple more weeks. Past experiences tell us that trying to remove live vines from our cattle panel trellises is extremely difficult. Dead vines are much easier to deal with. Sometimes I’ve even had to cut the vines off at the ground and let them dry for a week before we can take everything down.

One of our projects this week was to extract this Green Striped Cushaw from where it had grown through the trellis. It took a big knife!

We buried the knife! We cut the back part of the squash off, then had to trim it a bit more before pulling the other part off the trellis.

That’s one way to get a square squash!

This lettuce plant went and bolted this week. I’m not really sure why. I suspect that the weather fluctuations probably played the biggest role in it.

I know, I know…obligatory Swiss Chard photo for the week! I had to change it up with the yellow chard instead of the red.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – October 2, 2015

It’s October and all of a sudden the weather also feels like October! Not a lot to report on from the Demo Garden this week, although I did harvest a squash today and the Master Gardeners harvested quite a few beans, greens, and tomatoes earlier in the week.

There has not been much change in the overall look of the garden this week from last week.

That said, as ugly as most of our tomato plants are, they are still quite productive. The ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ was an All America Selection this year and is definitely living up to its reputation with all the late season tomatoes. This variety was rated highly in my earlier review post and it is only increasing in my estimation.

Our fall lettuces continue to shine. The front left lettuce is ‘New Red Fire’ (leaf lettuce). The far back left variety is ‘Muir’ (leaf lettuce). The back right variety is ‘Thurinus’ (red romaine). The front right lettuce is ‘Flashy Butter Oak’ (oak leaf lettuce).

Our Herb & Pollinator Garden hasn’t been as spectacular this year as it was last year, until all of a sudden the Mexican Bush Sage, Pineapple Sage, and Zinnias have burst into bloom. I guarantee you that no picture I take is as beautiful as it is in person, so come check it out!

I broke down and harvested this squash/pumpkin, the ‘Thai Kang Kob’ this morning. The rind wasn’t as hard as I would have liked, but there was a crack around the stem that was starting to rot and let bugs in. Watch for more on this lovely specimen next week!

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!