Late Frost Protection

Tomato and pepper plants are very cold sensitive, so even a few hours at 32 F may kill the plants.  A quick way to protect plants in early spring against an unforeseen cold snap is to use old buckets or plastic planters to cover the young plants.  The container traps soil heat from the day and shelters the plant from the wind shield.

Here is what I did earlier this week to cover my newly planted pepper and tomato plants on three cold nights.

 

 

Planting Patty Pan Squash

The Patty Pan is a spring variety of squash.  I suppose it’s named for it saucer shape.  It is ready to harvest in 60 days after the plant emerges.  This squash is vine like and likes to trellis.  I like to cut it when it’s about 6″ across .  The top can be scalped and the inside stuffed then baked.

The plant tolerates partial shade.

Here is a video on how to plant the Patty Pan squash.

 

Okra Beds

Today, I planted a small okra raised bed 2′ by 5′ on the south side of the house.  The bed has been dormant and covered with leafs all winter long.  I planted three rows, about 60 seeds total, in two varieties of red and green okras.

Okra is very drought and heat tolerant, but the pods do best when the soil is kept stable and moist, so always mulch with leafs or wood chips.  Harvest okras when they are about the size of your pinkie finger.  Don’t wait to have a perfect harvest of 20 pods ready to cook.  The pods go from tender 3″ long to woody 5″ long in about 2 days.  Instead, cut the okras at 3″ and freeze in a zip lock bag until you’re ready to cook them.

Asparagus

As I try to move my garden from an annual to a perennial food production system, I thought asparagus may make a nice addition.  I have been hesitant to plant them because they require two or three years to yield edible shoots, but I think I found a good spot in the garden where they can grow.

 

Planting Potatoes Spring 2016

Today, I planted my potatoes for 2016 in a combination of containers and a small raised bed.  I decided that instead of planting the potatoes at the bottom of the containers and hill-up the plant as it grows to the top, to plant the potatoes 4″ from the top and fill the rest with soil.  Hilling potato plants does not seem natural.  The leafs get soil on them which makes them more prone to fungus.  Ultimately, hilling robs the plant of sunlight because some leafs get covered in soil.  So this time I won’t hill as much, but the plant will have plenty of room to shoot roots down and develop tubers.

Here is the process I followed today.

Spring Arrived

The mild winter has been great for gardening and now spring is knocking at the door.  It’s time to get the squash, tomato and cucumber seeds on the ground.  But first, an update on the rat problem I had last year.  I had to get very aggressive with traps to disrupt their breeding cycle.   After I trapped 13 adult rats in October and November, the rest got the hint and packed their bags.  So it’s business as usual.  This was the first time in 8 years of gardening that I’d a  problem with rodents eating my greens.

The keyhole garden yielded Russian kale all winter long without frost protection.  I also harvested beets, red mustard, spinach and many other greens from the raised beds.  Leafy greens taste much better in winter and the body seems to crave them more for some reason.  Cold hardy Kale and Swish Chard are a powerhouse of nutrition in winter.  Cilantro and dill are rampant right now.  All I did last year was shake off their seeds onto the raised bed.  I’m also seeing a lot of volunteers starting to come out.  I’m reaching a point in the garden where even the annuals if left to go to seed behave more like perennials.

The last raised bed I built yielded nicely.  You can see it here.

Cedar Raised Bed
Cedar Raised Bed

Rats in the Garden

In eight years of gardening, I have killed three rats in my backyard.  That was until a month ago when I began noticing signs of damage in my kale, lettuce, spinach and tomato plants.  At first, I thought it was a late caterpillar infestation, but upon closer examination, I began noticing stem nibbles at the foot of the plants and rat droppings.  I cleared one bed that had been heavily damaged and found several burrowing holes within the raised bed.  Sure enough, the rats were living in the bed…right next to their food source.

My dog killed a couple of rats that popped-out that day.  Since then, I’ve been placing traps every night baited with peanut butter or chicken scraps.  So far, I’ve caught eight rats, big ones.  But where there are eight, there has to be thirty.  I’m guessing.

I’m not sure why there has been a spike in the rat population this year, but I have to get a their numbers under control.  They really did a number on my kale plants.  I’m using traps and keeping the garden clear of water sources and debris to minimize their habitat.  I’ll keep you posted.

Rats are smart, but they are also curious and greedy, so that makes them predictable.

November 8, 2015Permalink Leave a comment

The Kieffer Pear Tree

Last year late in the season my local nursery had a lonely pear tree neglected in a corner.  I’m sure it was destined for the dumpster if no one bought it in the next couple of days.  It was a whippy little tree, its trunk no more than one-half inch across.  It rang out to $8.99.  The purchase of the year.

One year later, the tree grew 2 feet taller and doubled its trunk diameter.  It also put about 40 fruits.  No pests, no blight.  Impressive!

However, never having grown a pear tree, I was not sure when to harvest the pears.  I cut one when it looked ready.  It was like biting into a stone.  So I did a little more research on the Internet.  This is what I learned.

Kieffer pears, as I’m sure other varieties, too, are not supposed to ripen on the branch.  If so, they’ll turn mealy and unpalatable.  Instead, the fruits should be cut when they go from bright green to yellowish green.  An easy test to determine if the pear is ready to cut is to lift the fruit just a bit and turn 90 degrees or parallel to the ground.  If ready, it will break naturally.  Place the fresh cut harvest in a cool dark place for 5 to 6 days to allow the pears to ripen.  Then, you can use them for fresh eating, cooking or preserving.  The flavor of the Kieffer pear is not award winning for fresh eating, but what it lacks in flavor it makes-up for in productive abundance, pest and blight resistance.  Moreover, the pear is perfectly suited for pies and preserves.  This make the Kieffer pear a must have tree in every backyard.

Below I show you my tree and how to harvest the pear fruits.

October 17, 2015Permalink Leave a comment