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Friday PhotoEssay – July 31, 2015

Even though the tomatoes are just starting to ripen, we are beginning to think about fall in the garden! Here’s a before and after look at the garden this week. Can you tell what changed?


This is Tuesday before our regular work day.


This is Thursday, after the work day. Can you tell what we did? We did harvest the potatoes last week, but this week we removed our spring planted beans because they were full of spider mites and pretty much done. We are planning to replant with different varieties next week for our fall bean crop. We also pulled the pole beans off the trellis, even though they had just started blooming. We will replant the same varieties and see if we get better results this fall.

At long last, the ‘Muir’ lettuce finally gave up in the heat of last week! We had been very impressed with the fact that it had not bolted nor gotten bitter yet. This variety should be a great option for us to grow in spring into summer. We will have to try it again another year to see if the results are the same. We will be replanting lettuces in the next few weeks.

As per usual, the cherry tomatoes are the earliest ripening and most prolific tomatoes in the garden. This year we have Sweet Million (red), Chocolate Cherry (purple), and Yellow Pear (yellow) growing in the tiered Accessible Garden beds.

One of the delights of growing a range of winter squashes – big, beautiful flowers and attractive leaves! These squash blossoms would be great to pick and stuff with cheese or other fillings.

When I was checking our squash stems for signs of vine borers the other day, I noticed this big guy hiding out under the vines. Do you see him?

The zucchini have quickly started producing now that the row cover is removed. I guess the row cover was both a successful and failure as an experiment. It definitely prevented the squash vine borers while it was on, but we didn’t get much squash until it was removed.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – July 17, 2015

The garden is growing well in the heat, but we are starting to see the effects of the heat. Spider mites are popping up on the beans and tomatoes, the squash are looking a bit scorched, and the strawberries are tiny. Let’s take a look!

The garden doesn’t look quite as lush and green as it has some years, but that’s okay. The combination of rain and heat has been challenging, so it isn’t surprising to see things looking a little less than ideal.

Most of the tomato varieties are just starting to ripen. This is actually the normal average for ripening here, although the last few years have been such odd tomato years it is hard to keep track. This tomato is one of the new ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ that we are trying. As you can see, the cracks are problematic. That said, almost all of the varieties we’re growing have some cracks this year. Cracking is a very common problem in Kansas, primarily caused by fluctuating moisture levels and temperature. That pretty much describes this year! The best solution to cracking is to harvest fruits early and let them ripen indoors.

Many of the tomato varieties have good fruit set, but I’m particularly impressed with this ‘Italian Gold’ variety, an heirloom roma with golden yellow skin and flesh.

The spring planting of beans are starting to show signs of spider mites. The yellow and white stippling on this leaf is caused by spider mites. While we could try treating, I think that we will probably pull these beans out in a week or two and replant for the fall.

After harvesting the pitiful amount of zucchini off these plants on Monday, we decided to leave the row cover off from here on out. (Partly because we didn’t think we could get it back on. Clearly our design needs some work…) The removal of the row cover has resulted in floppy plants and some sunburn on the leaves, not surprisingly. I expect the plants will improve quickly though.

Tiny strawberry! No, they aren’t supposed to be this size, but considering the heat, I’m impressed that there are fruit at all. Everbearing/day neutral strawberries typically will not set fruit at temperatures over 85 degrees. The flavor was nothing to write home about either. It was very sour.

We have Saturday Sampler coming up tomorrow at 9 a.m., featuring summer squash/zucchini. This is one of the ‘Tromboncino’ squash that is supposed to be resistant to squash vine borers. So far, so good on that front!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – July 3, 2015

The garden feels like it is still in it’s early summer stages, even though it is now the beginning of July. We’re picking beans and some greens, but not much else yet.

The poor potatoes keep falling further over, but they are still pretty green. Most everything else is growing well, although we certainly haven’t reached the jungle-like stage yet.

The ‘Muir’ lettuce is the winner so far this year. All the other lettuces have been removed for the summer, but this one is still looking good and really hasn’t gotten too bitter yet. It has a bit of strong flavor to it, but not so strong that it is distasteful.

In the bean bed, the best yield so far has come from ‘Contender’ which is one of the old school varieties. It is also the shortest day to maturity variety. We’ll have to see if the other varieties catch up. The ‘Blue Lake Pole’ beans are doing pretty much nothing, while the ‘Carminat’ pole beans are setting a few beans.

We have a squash! This is one of the ‘Tromboncino’ squash, which is primarily eaten at the immature stage as a zucchini. It is growing on one of our trellises, and the plant is still looking pretty good with no signs of insects.

It’s the first tomato of the year! This is one of the ‘Italian Gold’ roma tomatoes. Not sure what’s going on with the weird shape of it, but hey, it’s a tomato. It even appears to have beaten out the cherry tomatoes for earliness! Most of the other plants have some nice sized fruit, but they aren’t all that close to ripening.

This ‘Fernleaf’ Dill is looking great with some nice clusters of flowers. If we had any cucumbers in the garden, we’d be ready to make dill pickles. But…no cucumbers this year! I suppose we could make dilly green beans if we were so inclined.

Have a great 4th of July weekend!

A Look at the Parthenocarpic Squash

Outwitting the squash vine borers is one of the ongoing themes in the garden this summer. Let’s take a look at our parthenocarpic (no pollination needed) squash trial.

This is the fancy cage we built for the row cover over the squash. We hadn’t really made new row covers/low tunnel frames for the new raised beds yet, so this seemed like a good opportunity to try something new. One of the things that I’ve always struggled with on our raised beds is how to manage the lower edges without resorting to a bunch of bricks or milk jugs of water. I had this idea to use a PVC frame along the bottom edge that the row cover could be clamped to. We also decided to make a larger, square frame because the squash get big, especially under cover.

The biggest problem we’ve had is that there’s no good way to open the row cover when we need to get in and work on the plants or harvest. When we take the clamps off, it tends to tear the fabric. So…it’s a good idea, but still a work in progress.

That’s what the clamps look like, in case you were curious.

The squash under the row cover are looking quite jungle-esque. This is pretty typical when you have plants under a row cover. They are protected from the wind and they are slightly shaded, so they tend to get a little bit tall and leggy. You can see the longer, skinnier stems on these plants compared to what you might expect. It’s also nice and warm under the row cover, so the plants grow quickly.

As you can see, we are starting to get some flowers. With most squash, when using row cover to circumvent the squash vine borer, we would take the row cover off right now. However, since we are using parthenocarpic varieties that supposedly require no pollination to set fruit, we shouldn’t need to do that. It will allow the protection to continue until we take the row covers off.

 So…is that translating into squash? As you can see from this picture, the answer is not so much. There are several squash that are clearly rotting and have not successfully set. Now, it could just be early and this will straighten out. It could be that the varieties we picked are only partially parthenocarpic. Or it could be that the project is a big bust and we’ll have to take the row cover off to get any zucchini. I looked up the varieties we chose to see if there was any data on how they do. ‘Partenon’ was listed as setting fruit 69% of the time parthenocarpically. I didn’t find any data on ‘Segev’. So, we’ll see how things continue! The plus side is that even if we have to take off the row cover now, the plants should be large enough to withstand quite a bit of squash vine borer damage before they die.

Friday PhotoEssay – June 26, 2015

Long time, no photoessay! I could be wrong, but I think that the Friday PhotoEssays (and hopefully other posts too) are back for the remainder of the summer! Let’s get all caught up on what’s been happening.

As you can see, most of the garden seems to be growing well. We had a little bit of a hiccup last week and over the weekend with the irrigation system being down due to a problem elsewhere on the grounds. Bad timing! Everything looks a little bit scorched from that experience. It’s hard to catch up with watering when things get too dry.

The squash in the vertical garden are looking good overall. I saw some wilting in the heat of the afternoon yesterday, but I think it is just the hot and dry. I checked several of the plants for signs of squash vine borer and didn’t see anything. I also checked the soil, which seemed dry. I turned the water on! It’s nice when the solution to wilting is easy and not a pest. I read an article just this morning that said that squash vine borers prefer Cucurbita sp. with large hollow stems over smaller, solid stems. That probably accounts for at least some of the purported resistance of these varieties.

Only a couple of the varieties are starting to flower and set fruit yet, so when they progress further I will do a closer look at this garden bed. I’m a little surprised that the plants aren’t larger, but it is probably mostly weather. They might want a little more nitrogen too, given all the rain.

This is the parthenocarpic squash (don’t need pollination to set fruit) under the row cover set up. This picture is from about 2 weeks ago. It’s been a little tricky keeping everything sealed around the edges with the wind. But…it’s better than nothing! I should go take another picture of this today to show you, but it’s hot outside! The plants are now so big that they are pushing out on the row cover fabric, and there are flowers and fruit setting under the row cover. I’ll hopefully take a closer look next week.

Most of the tomato plants do have fruit set on them, and there are some really interesting differences in the sizes of the plants. I’ll plan to do a more in depth look next week or the week after. This is the ‘Indigo Apple’ tomato plant, which is a variety with purple coloration. The shoulders are already starting to show the coloring on these tomatoes.

We often have one of the red/purple basils somewhere in the garden, but most years they either get washed out or turn green. Apparently the key is to plant it in a shadier location! This ‘Red Rubin’ basil is under the lattice area where it gets more shade and the color is great! Of course, it isn’t very big either, but it seems like a fair trade for the color.

It’s in a tomato cage, but it’s not a tomato! This is a dwarf, container-type raspberry. It doesn’t look like it is producing anything this year because it died back to the roots over the winter. It is staying nice and compact though. I don’t know that it will every need the cage!

The beans are all looking good and seem to be producing well, after they had a bit of a rough start. This is the ‘Dragon Tongue’ bean that has purple stripes/splotches.

We’ll finish up for this week with this cool looking coleus. It’s name is ‘Rodeo Drive’ and I suppose it does look a little bit like a crazy bull, but I just think it looks cool.

Have a great weekend!