2014 Squashes (end of season notes)

Squash Vine Borers and Mildew still problematic – frequent surgical intervention and overplanting (to compensate for plant loss from borers) and focus on productive, mildew-resistant varieties

Cucumbers: pickling type did better – try different standard type
Delicata Squash: Sugar Dumpling more productive, standard variety squashes small
Kabocha Squash: serious mildew issues, disappointing yield – try resistant variety
Melons: uneven germination, transplanted, major mildew, difficult to tell when ripe – failed experiment?
Pumpkins: unimpressive germination and yield, produced wide range of sizes
Yellow Squash: shorter season & more mildew than zucchini – try Success PM (mildew resistant)
Watermelons: uneven germination, transplanted, low yield
Zucchini: excellent variety: mildew resistant, early, productive and very hardy
Zucchino Squash: poor germination, 7 seeds = 1 plant w/1 huge squash, mildew killed plant before ripe

2014 Legumes (end of season notes)

Bush Beans: Dragon Tongue & Rocdor great – try new green variety
Fava Beans: poor yield, hit hard by aphids (spray at first sign) & rust or fungus – try different variety?
Peas: all 3 early varieties triumphed, poor germination for late variety – position snap peas in middle next spring, try Sugar Sprint in fall
Pole Beans: perfect planting time, excellent harvest – plant purples & make structure all reachable
Purple Pole Beans: excellent on archway – plant some between other types of pole beans
Soybeans: short harvest window this year – try another variety?

We're ahead of the curve with our growing of popcorn

This from the September 30, 2014 NY Times about the new wave of artisanal popcorn:

"The reward, however, is popcorn with a better nutritional profile, and hulls — the bits that stick in your teeth — that seem to all but disappear. The flavor can be subtle but complex, mixing toast and sweet corn, delivering in taste what the aroma of popping corn has always promised."

And this from our own blog post of September 15, 2012:

Today our bounty included corn from our Three Sisters plot (beans and squash make up the trio). The corn is a popping variety--popping ability still to be tested, but fall beauty not in question.

Jewels from the Three Sisters

And yeah, it does pop great and taste great! (This is Johnny's Miniature Colored Popcorn.)

The NY Times article also has instructions for cooking heirloom popcorn in a pan, which in summary is:

  1. Put a few tablespoons of oil (coconut, corn, canola or olive) in a pan over high heat with a few kernel.s
  2. When the kernels pop, add the rest of the kernels and optionally some butter.
  3. Cook over medium-high heat, covered but letting steam escape, shaking the pan every 10 seconds, and cook until there's only one pop every couple of seconds.
  4. Dump it out of the pan into a bowl, salt to taste, enjoy.

Visit the website of the Popcorn Board for more info than you ever wanted to know about popcorn.


Mason's Line

We've liked using cotton mason's line to outline the borders of the beds in the garden, because it's nice white and visible, and it doesn't stretch. Unfortunately, after a few months in the weather, it just comes apart, and we've been spending a lot of time replacing it. I think next year we'll be using sisal binder twine or something else that will last the whole season. We can still use the mason's line for row markers, which don't have to last more than a few weeks. Garden and learn!


Technology to the Rescue!

You may have noticed a curious addition to our tomato beds this week: compact discs. They are an experiment to try to deter the birds from eating our tomatoes.

The trouble started when our first full-size tomatoes ripened. We showed up at the garden expecting to pick ripe tomatoes, only to find all the ripe ones already partially eaten.

We suspected squirrels, raccoons or bunnies. Then we began to wonder if the ever-present birds might be the culprits.

The presence of birds is generally a delight in the garden. Yet, we definitely draw the line at deeding them our tomato crop.

We're not the first to keep birds from their garden with CDs dangling from strings. It's generally acknowledged that their movement in the breeze and reflectivity can make birds uncomfortable enough to stay away from adjacent food crops.

At the very least, they should make for interesting conversation.

Update 8/28: The CDs have made a noticeable difference. A few additional tomatoes have been damaged, but the remainder of the crop has been beautiful!

Today's Harvest - July 26, 2014

First cukes, all of the spring broccoli, an amazing harvest of gorgeous carrots, and the last of the 2014 garlic. Lots of onions, more potatoes, okra and cabbages and the usual abundance of greens. The bush beans and summer squash have slowed down from their early surge but will probably bounce back after a short break.


Pea-picking confusion

Picking peas last night, I found it difficult to distinguish the mature flat-podded snow peas from immature shell peas, because they are right next to each other and are roughly the same height - the line between them is fuzzy. The sugar snaps are reliably taller than the other two, so next year I suggest that we plant the snap peas in the middle, and simply note on the garden plan if the snow peas are on the left or right of the snaps.

What's with the red plastic?

Q: Why did we plant the tomatoes through red plastic mulch this year?

A: It's an experiment. According to a UMass Extension report on the use of plastic mulches "Researchers at the USDA and Clemson University noted that certain crops performed better when grown in red mulch as opposed to black mulch: tomatoes, which yielded 20% more fruit; basil, the leaves of which had greater area, succulence, and fresh weight; and strawberries, which smelled better, tasted sweeter, and yielded a larger harvest. Penn State researchers found yield increases for tomatoes and eggplants on red mulch compared to black. Anecdotally, gardeners in Berkshire County saw marked increase in overall plant size, fruit size, and yield of tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers when plants were grown in red mulch as opposed to straw mulch."

We have noted that weeds are growing under the mulch, which might be a problem later in the season.

The particular perforated product we are trying is "Better Reds", by Dalen Gardener, about $8-10 for 8 3'x3' sheets.

The Great Three Sisters Experiment


This is our "Three Sisters" plot, which demonstrates the traditional method of planting corn, squash and beans together. This year as an experiment, in the left half we turned the bed over as usual before planting, but on the right we only aerated the soil (stuck a garden fork in the ground to its full depth and just wiggled it a little, every six inches or so) and left most of the clover cover crop that wintered over. The seeds were all planted on the same days and as far as we know nothing else is different between the two sides. The right side is so far doing noticeably better for one reason or another, or maybe both, or maybe luck. To be continued...

Today's Harvest - June 21, 2014

Today's firsts were peas, peppers, basil, cilantro, baby potatoes and garlic scapes, and we harvested the winter rye a little early so we could get the nursery bed going. The lettuce rotation continues to provide a good harvest, but the radishes are just about through for this spring. Plenty of greens keep coming.

We got our first okra flower, which is early, and may be the result of warming the soil with black plastic.

And Lisa found one of these on the fennel (a juvenile American Black Swallowtail caterpillar).


Perpetual Lettuce

For years, we’ve put up with uneven lettuce harvests -- too much some weeks and none at all on others. We knew that the key to a continuous harvest was to plant more regularly throughout the season, so we decided to schedule our lettuce space.

We divided the space in 4 beds (based on an 8 week seed-to-harvest schedule). The first plantings were sown indoors in March. In April, we began transplanting the indoor seedlings and planting seed in the garden. The plan is to harvest from each bed for 2 weeks, then immediately replant the bed and begin harvesting from the next bed.

Our first lettuce harvest was on May 24th and it’s looking like we’re on track to keep the plan going for the rest of the season. Voila, perpetual lettuce!

Special thanks to Dick for providing the post title.


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