Fall garden update: sunflowers, corn and peas

When it comes to the sunflowers, it looks like we’ll have a few Hopi Black Dye seed heads that will fully mature, but I wasn’t expecting much from the Mongolian Giants.

Then I took a closer look at one of the largest heads.

This is only about a third, maybe a quarter, of the size it should be, and yet there are maturing seeds in here!! There are so many developing and opening seed heads still, too. I don’t think there are any other Mongolian Giants like this one, with pollinated and maturing seeds in them, but while looking at them this morning, I did see some bees fluttering around, so who knows what will happen? It’s been such a strange growing year, there’s just no way to know anymore.

Some sad little peas among some sad little corn! This is the sweet corn block that is doing the worst, and yet they are still trying to produce little bitty cobs! We’ve got the most pea plants growing in this block, though, so at least this area should see the most improvement from their nitrogen fixing capabilities.

And we’ll even have a few peas to harvest!

The Montana Morado corn – what’s left of it – is being left to go to seed, and a few of the cobs have uncovered themselves. Which is helpful, since it lets me see how the seeds are maturing and drying on cob. A fair number of peas interplanted with them have been managing to grow, too. Not a lot of pods developing, but I’m seeing flowers around.

When it comes to the corn, I find myself waffling back and forth over whether or not we want to try growing them again next year. I still want to get Maize Morado seeds to try, and maybe we’ll do the Dorinny Canadian hybrid again. It’s hard to guess how much better the sweet corn would have done, had we not had drought conditions. The soil is nitrogen depleted, but we did use a water soluble, high nitrogen fertilizer on all the garden beds, a few times over the summer, plus were able to amend a bit with the purchased garden soil.

Is it worth trying the sweet corn again? I really love corn, but until we are able to improve our nitrogen depleted soil, is it really worth it?

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: assessing the corn damage

Well, I’ve cleaned up the mess in the Montana Morado corn.

There isn’t much of it left. 😦

I decided to shuck what cobs I could find.

Get a load of this little mutant corn!

There are three tiny cobs growing out the base of the main one – and they were all developing kernels!

What a loss. 😦

I considered the possibility that the damage was done by raccoons, but they would have actually eaten the corn, not just knocked over the stalks. None of these have been nibbled on. Which puts me back to thinking “cat fight” as the most likely cause of damage.

When I first ordered these seeds, I thought I was getting a variety of corn from Peru that was being successfully grown in the US. However, the info on the website changed, and it turned out this is a variety that was created in the US from glass gem corn. In the cobs on the left, you can see that some are more blue than purple, and others are more red.

I found a source for the Peruvian variety that I thought I was getting. For next year, I want to get those and try again.

With better critter protection!

That purple has some real staying power. It won’t wash off! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: onions harvested, first melons, and more carnage

Today has turned out to be – so far – not as hot as predicted. On the down side, the smoke came back with a vengeance this morning. It has gotten better since then, thankfully.

While heading out to move the sprinkler, yesterday, I spotted Butterscotch and her brood.

I’m not sure if this is Bradicous or Chadicous. Either way, he’s adorable!

While tending the furthest garden beds, Butterscotch and her babies went through the squash tunnel on their way to the neighbour’s farm across the road. So much space they could have gone through, and they chose the squash tunnel! 😀

I also saw a lot of birds in the garden. They were appreciating the water on the ground from the sprinkler!

I decided to pick the two biggest, oldest melons to check them out. The one on the left is a Halona melon, and the one on the right is a Pixie.

Here, the Halona is at the top, and the Pixie at the bottom.

First thing I could tell is that they were not fully ripe yet. So we knew, when we taste tested them, that they were harder and less sweet than they should be.

They were still very tasty, though. General consensus is that we like the Pixie a bit better than the Halona, though it was really hard to pick one as better than the other.

With the weather predictions including thunderstorms over the next few days, I decided it was time to harvest the rest of the onions.

The canopy has been moved over the picnic table, so that’s where we set up the screens to lay them out on.

The screen with the fewest onions on them are the ones grown from sets I bought locally. About half of those had already been harvested earlier and are hanging in the root cellar.

The red unions are the sets we got from Veseys, and the screen in the middle has the onions we grew from seeds. These will stay outside until the soil is dried enough to brush it off and trim the roots. At that point, I will decide if I will leave them under the canopy to cure longer, or set them up in the root cellar. It will depend on the weather.

This morning, we are finally seeing yellow petals on the sunflowers! Most don’t even have heads developing yet. The Mongolian Giants are the only ones with developing heads right now. Given we’re in the second half of August right now, I don’t know that we have enough season left for them to develop. The sunflowers in the fields we pass are not only in full bloom, but today I drove by a field where the seed heads are already past blooming and starting to dry up.

In checking the rest of the beds this morning, I found this carnage in the purple corn.

Quite a number of stalks have been knocked down to the ground. From the looks of it, I think there may have been a cat fight in here or something. This is not the damage of a critter trying to eat the corn. I had to head out, so I left it until later today, when we’ll head out to clean up the mess. Hopefully, when it’s a bit cooler.

*sigh*

Anyhow.

Today I made a run to the nearer little city to do a Walmart run and pick up some more cat kibble, among other things. The smoke actually got thicker the further south and east I drove; most of the smoke we’d been getting before was from fires to the north. We are now getting predictions of possible thunderstorms starting tonight, which would go a long way to helping with the wildfires. I’m debating whether we should do an evening watering of all the garden beds or not. Some beds, like the tomatoes, got done already. Though we didn’t reach the predicted highs, I still had to run the hose into the rain barrel for a while, to get rid of the hot water, first. Otherwise, it would have scalded the plants. After letting it run, our well water still is not getting cold like it usually does. Even our ground water is warm! Which means there’s no danger of shocking the plants, I guess. I watered the potato bags, and those looked like something went crashing over them, too. Those, at least, can handle it better than the corn!

This year’s gardening has certainly been a learning experience.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: back at it

As I write this, in the early afternoon, we have reached 30C/86F, with a humidex of 35C/95F. Our high of the day is expected to reach 35C/95F with the humidex at 40C/104F. Thankfully, this is supposed to be the hottest day for the next while, but it means that we’re back at watering the garden at least once a day.

At least this time, I had a full rain barrel to use in the garden beds by the house, while the sprinkler was running in the furthest beds.

With the upstairs so hot during the day, the girls are still staying up all night, so my old daughter can work on her commissions. They still have to put ice packs around their electronics – and themselves – to keep things from overheating.

Since they were still up during the cool of the morning, they did a bit of harvesting, and this was waiting for me when I got up.

We actually have summer squash to pick! The cayenne pepper seems to be working and keeping the grogs (groundhogs) away. This is the most we’ve been able to gather all summer.

They also picked a single red crab apple for me. ❤

It was delicious.

The summer squash bed now has one of the sprinkler hoses I found by the grog den a while back, so they can be watered from below more easily. I set the other one up through two bean beds, but half of the hose seems to have clogged holes. I think they will clear as the hose is used more often.

I’m rather encouraged by these tomatoes. The wilted one is the branch that broke off in the wind, and that I just stuck into the ground. The leaves may be wilted, but the stem is still strong, and the tomatoes that are on it are ripening.

I found a surprise while watering the tomatoes.

This cluster of seedlings has emerged from the new garden soil we recently added!

My initial thought was more sunflowers from the bird feeder, but these actually look a bit like squash seedlings.

We’ll leave them to see what they turn out to be.

Unless the grogs eat them, first.

The sweet corn may be small, but they are maturing. The middle block is maturing the fastest, while the northernmost block the slowest. The southern block has one half maturing faster than the other. This area gets shade in the morning, but at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. The Eastern side, however, would still have shade longer than the rest, and that is likely why the plants are shorter on that side.

It does not seem to matter as much for the sunflowers.

The earliest Mongolian Giant flower heads are progressing nicely.

Even the ones that got chomped by deer are recovering. These are the Hopi Black Dye sunflowers, transplanted next to the Dorinny corn, where the entire row had lots their heads.

You can see the cayenne pepper on the sunflower leaves. Since we are using the sprinklers to water things, we’ll need to reapply it at the end of the day.

On the garden cam, I spotted a big raccoon headed towards the summer squash. It reached a plant, touched it with its nose, and pulled back its head like it got bitten, then ambled around the squash bed, avoiding the plants.

When setting up the sprinkler on the purple corn, I noticed a cob with husks that looked quite dried up. I took a chance and harveted it.

It’s ripe!! Small, not completely pollinated, but still pretty full, and the deep, dark purple it’s supposed to be. I found one other little one with dried husks and picked that, too.

With only two of them, I went to the Dorinny corn and picked what I could there, too.

It isn’t a lot for four people, but enough for part of a meal!

I’m thinking of moving the BBQ my brother gave us to the canopy, so we can grill in the shade. Corn on the grill would be awesome! We’ve got some sirloin steaks from the meat pack we got thawing out, and the summer squash are prepped for grilling. I don’t know if we’ll be up to grilling in this heat, but if not, the vegetables can be roasted.

Either way, I’m looking forward to an excellent Sunday dinner!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden; NOOooo!!! *sob*

Today is supposed to be hot again, so I wanted to make sure to get the garden watered early in the day, while it was still cool. I started with the soaker hose at the squash tunnel, then went around checking the melons, squash and gourds.

I was extremely disappointed to find this.

Our one and only Teddy winter squash was gone.

Et.

Munched.

Masticated.

The two Teddy plants are blooming, and there is even a female flower developing, but that one baby squash had grown so much after the rain, I was really looking forward to watching it develop.

This is one of the nearby Little Gem winter squash. There were no developing squash down here to be eaten; those are much higher on the trellis. Still, it means energy will be going to recover from the damage, instead of into developing squash.

Thankfully, that was the only damage here. The melons and gourds had no critter damage. I did find one of the nearby Dorinny corn had been gotten into, the remains of a cob on the ground. The corn may have been a deer, but I figured the squash was a groundhog. The deer don’t go along that side of the garden beds, preferring to walk through the open areas in the middle.

I was wrong.

When I checked the garden cam, I almost missed the shadow moving in the darkness. It was a huge raccoon! So big that, if it hadn’t turned at the end of the bean bed and I could make out its tail, I would have thought it was a bear cub.

I continued checking the beds, and was so disappointed to find this.

A deer got into the Montana Morado corn. In the above photo, several stalks in the outermost row are gone.

I found corn cobs scattered on the ground, each looking like they had only a single bite taken out of them.

Hoof prints left no doubt as to what was responsible for this damage.

The deer had traipsed right through the middle of the corn block, leaving damaged plants and nipped corn cobs in its wake.

These are all the cobs I picked up off the ground.

I think it would bother me less if the deer actually ate the corn, rather than taking a bite here and a bite there. and leaving a trail of damage.

On checking the cobs, you can see that a couple of them were almost completely ripe, if poorly pollinated. When ripe, the kernels should be an even darker purple.

One cob is looking like it was going blue, instead of purple!

Several of the cobs had been beautifully pollinated, full of developing kernels.

I am so incredibly unhappy. Clearly, the flashy spinny things around the corn block are no deterrent.

Not even our purple beans escaped damage. The purple beans are lusher and bushier than the green and yellow beans – except for at this end of the row, where the leaves have been thinned out by nibbling.

And here is the beast that did the damage – nibbling on a sunflower!!!

I. Am. Not. Impressed.

I even added bells to the lines around the corn and sunflower beds, but the deer came from the other side!!

Venison is sounding very good right now.

What a disappointing way to start the day.

Other things went well, though, and I will save those for other posts!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: what happened? and more critter damage :-(

One of the things I’ve been trying to baby is our Montana Morado corn. I really, really want these to work out!

As these were started indoors, they are much further along than any other corn we have, and have been developing ears of corn for a while now. I’ve been a bit concerned about pollination, and have even been hand pollinating any cobs that look like they might get missed.

My concern?

Many of the silks have have dried up. This is supposed to be a sign that the cobs are ready to pick, but they shouldn’t be ready to pick until the end of August or so. The packet didn’t have a “days to maturity” on it, as the variety is just too knew, but in looking up maize morado, it says 120 days to maturity, so I figure this should be close.

As my daughter and I were looking the corn over and talking about our concerns over how many silks are dry, even on tiny little cobs, I went ahead and picked a cob from the plant that first developed one. This would be the largest, most mature, of all the cobs. The silks at the top were so dry, they came off as I started to peel off the husks.

So this tells me one thing, at least. Pollination is good. There are lots of developing kernels, and almost no gaps. It is also clearly immature, and just starting to turn to its mature colour.

I have to admit, that looks very… unfortunate… 😀

We did taste it, and while not particularly sweet (I was not expecting it to be), but it did taste… well… like corn.

So why are the silks starting to dry so early? Yes, it’s been dry, but we’ve been diligent about watering these.

Have we not been watering it enough? Has it been too hot, even for this variety that was developed in a warmer zone than us? Will the cobs continue to mature, even if the silk dries up as would normally happen when the cobs are ready to pick?

I don’t know, but I’ve posted the question on one of my local gardening groups. I’ve had some clarifying questions, but so far, no answer.

Crud.

Well, we’ll just keep watering them and hope for the best!

Meanwhile, on checking the Crespo squash nearby…

More, “oh, crud.”

One of the vines have been eaten, and it does not look like deer damage. The barriers we put around it might convince a deer to not bother, but they can’t actually stop anything. I’m guessing this is from one of the woodchucks.

Today was hot enough that everything has dried up again, so I set up the sprinkler on the purple corn for a while. As I was moving the sprinkler to the corn at the opposite end of the garden area, I spotted a woodchuck in the middle of one of the sunflower blocks!! It wasn’t eating anything, and there was no damage when I checked, so it may have been just passing through.

I greatly encouraged that notion, and chased it through the hedge, into the ditch. It can go to the empty house across the road!

Anyhow.

As for the corn, I guess the only thing we can do is keep watering it and hope the cobs will continue to mature.

When we first bought the corn seeds, the produce description was for maize morado. The site even had a video talking about how a cowboy from Peru brought some seeds to where he was living in the US, and was able to grow extra to provide seeds for the company. I thought I was getting a Peruvian corn. Then the story changed, and it turned out to be a purple corn developed in Montana, and now it seems the name has been changed to Mountain Morado.

While trying to look up what the days to maturity might be for this corn, I found a different seed company that is selling the actual maize morado from Peru, Kulli. I think I will try buying those for next year. The packets only have 25 seeds in them, so I’ll probably get two or three. I had hoped to have seeds to save from this year’s corn, which may still happen, but if I don’t, I will also try the Mountain Morado (again?). Between the two, I hope to have something that will grow in our zone.

Until then, we’ll see how things go with what we have now.

The Re-Farmer

update: well, that was fast! Having tapped into the wealth of knowledge in the local gardening group, I have a likely answer. The drying of the silk may show that they have been successfully pollinated.

It’s either that, or the heat.

Our 2021 garden: corn, melons and new critter damage

We have been very excited by how well the Montana Morado corn has been doing. However, as some of the stalks have gotten taller, they have started to fall over. The soil around the plants seems to be washing away as we water them. So, this evening, I added more garden soil to the bases of each one.

While watering these, my daughter has been focusing on giving a deep watering into the paths in between them, then using a finer spray to water the entire bed, so as to prevent more erosion. A couple of the stalks are also supported by stakes.

We are very curious about what the cobs will look like. Some of the stalks, silks and tassels are very purple, while others are varying shades of green. These are all supposed to give us corn so dark a purple, it looks black. But is that what we will get? We shall find out! It does look like several cobs are filling out nicely. 🙂 I’ve taken to hand pollinating every now and then, just to be on the safe side.

Meanwhile, while watering the squash tunnel, my daughter found another little melon!

At first, she thought one of the ones she’d found before had fallen to the ground, but then she saw they were both still there, so she lifted the third melon onto the structure. This had me looking around for more, and I was very excited to see two of these.

Tiny little melons, juuuust starting to form!

This is awesome!

I checked the other melons, squash and gourds. The summer squash is getting nice and big, and I might even have a couple of squash to pick tomorrow. The other melons and the winter squash have flowers and/or buds, but no fruit forming. Same with the Crespo squash. The luffa isn’t even showing flower buds, but it is climbing the trellis.

Then we went looking at the tomatoes (so many fruits are forming!), and they are doing great. The tiny little onions we planted under them are still tiny and little. 😀 I noticed this morning, however, that a couple of self seeded (likely from the bird feeder) sunflowers seemed to be gone. This evening, I looked again and found their stems, leaves all eaten away. *sigh* More of the flowers in the bed nearby have not only had their heads eaten away, but in one area, even the stems are being eaten. We will not be getting many blooms out of that bed this year!

That reminds me: it looks like a lot of our French Breakfast radishes have been eaten, too. Possibly grasshoppers.

When checking the cucamelons, it looked like some of them had lost a few leaves and vine ends, too! They’re such small, fine plants, though, it’s almost hard to tell.

Then I saw this. 😦

This is the Thai Bottle Gourd. We had the one transplant, and a second seed germinated next to it. Now, the little one has lost most of its leaves, and the big one has lost a couple, plus a couple more leaves are partially eaten.

No damage to the Ozark Nest Egg gourds. Which is good, but we have more of those!

Very frustrating.

This year’s garden has been such a mixed bag of stuff going well, and stuff going badly, due to critter damage!

The Re-Farmer

Distractions

Last night, before doing the evening watering, I did a couple of things to – hopefully! – distract the deer away.

One of them went around the Montana Morado corn.

The aluminum tins spin freely on the twine, so I hope they will do as distractions. We can add more distractions after a while, to change things up before they get used to them.

This next one is more of a diversion than a distraction. On a wildlife group I’m on, someone had posted a picture of a deer with her fawn, in their yard. With the heat and lack of rain we’ve been having, they had put out a bucket of water for the wildlife. The mama and her baby promptly showed up and started drinking, even as the guy who posted the picture was sitting on his deck with a coffee!

We have water bowls all over the place for the cats, plus we found a way to keep using the cracked bird bath. Which is great for the cats and birds (and skunks, and probably the woodchucks and racoon), but they’re rather small for deer. I imagine they might still be drinking from them, but for the amount of water in the shallow containers, it wouldn’t slack their thirst.

It occurred to me that if we could set up water for the deer in the right place, we might be able to divert them away from the garden. The deer damage we have been seeing has been comparatively small; they seem to be just nibbling a few things on the way by. My thought it, if they can get water somewhere away from the garden beds, they won’t have a reason to go by and nibble.

The deer go through the maple grove and jump the fence at the gates along West fence line. Our kiddie pool isn’t being used right now (who knew a kiddie pool could be so useful?), so I set it up near the old willow that overhangs the fence. The rocks and bricks are there to keep it from blowing away if it gets emptied, but for little critters, like frogs or kittens, to use to climb out if they fall into the pool.

I checked it this morning, but I honestly couldn’t tell if the water level had changed much.

We’ll see if it works!

Meanwhile, here are a couple of other distractions. Some pretty, developing tomatoes!

This is one of the Mosaic Medley plants. It’s such a dark green! There are others I couldn’t get good pictures of that are a much lighter green.

More like these.

These are the itty bitty Spoon tomatoes. They’re so adorable! 😀

Last night, after setting up the deer distractions, I stayed out to do a very thorough watering of the garden beds. Last night, I ended up awake and 4am and unable to get back to sleep, so I finally gave up and headed outside to do my morning rounds early. With the expected heat, I stayed out to give all the garden beds another thorough watering.

Then I napped. LOL

This afternoon, after coming back from a dump run, I stayed out to check the south garden beds and noticed that the gourds were actually drooping from the heat. When a hot weather crop like gourds are feeling the heat, I am glad I gave everything that extra watering!

Meanwhile, as I was writing this, my daughter went out to put frozen water bottles in all the cats’ water bowls.

Any little bit to help the furry critters deal with the heat!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: nibbles and attempted nibbles

While doing my morning rounds, I found that something had tried to get under the floating cover on a beet bed.

It seems than an onion did its job of guard duty!

This particular union had been falling over on its own before, and when I picked it up, I could see it’s roots were gone and it had started to rot a bit.

There is now a brick where the onion used to be. LOL

Unfortunately, other things were not so lucky.

While our Crespo squash has not been bothered since we put distractions around it, for the first time, I’ve found some of our Montana Mordao corn has been nibbled on. Just two little ones, right at the corner, suggesting a passing deer. The flags I left from marking where to transplant seem to no longer be enough to keep them away.

Project for this evening, when things cool down a bit: place distracting things around the purple corn.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2021 garden: how it looked this morning

Apparently, we got rain last night.

I have my doubts.

Apparently, we got rain while I would outside, watering the garden, too.

That would have been nice, but all we had was hot, muggy, thick air.

*sigh*

One of the awesome things about gardening is how fast things can grow. We’ve got a whole bunch more summer squash blossoms, more squash growing (still no yellow zucchini, though), and the squash that started earlier could probably be picked right now. I’m going to wait until they’re a bit bigger, though.

I was very excited to see our very first WINTER squash blossom! Those are starting to get quite big. As we are able, we’re moving them to train them up the trellis, and some are sending out tendrils and looking almost ready to be climbing on their own, as are more of the melons. We’re going to have to go back with some twine to string between the sections of mesh and fill in the gaps a bit for the few plants that are under them. I had remembered to look for twine when I was last in the city, and found a huge roll of it. It should last us until next year! 😀

I am absolutely thrilled by the Montana Morado corn. This is the stalk that we are seeing silk on already. Pretty soon, it will have pollen, too! A few of the others are starting to show the little red bits, but they do not yet show corn silk.

We’re going to have to go in between these and “hill” the corn. With having to water so often, and not having a mulch, the water is eroding the soil at the base of the corn a bit. A couple were starting to fall over, so last night I worked the soil around their bases and secured them upright with it, but I want to do that with all of them. The ground here is so soft, though, we don’t walk in here at all unless we absolutely have to. I’d hoped to be able to add grass clippings for mulch, but with the heat and lack of rain, the grass hasn’t been growing.

There are just a few potato blossoms that are fully open right now, but I am seeing many, many buds!

Of course, I’m always second guessing myself about deciding not to “hill” the potatoes more. As determinate type potatoes, it won’t result in more potatoes, but the plants have gotten so tall, it feels like they should be hilled! 😀

When I got to the old kitchen garden, I found the end of the L shaped beet bed was nibbled on.

I did see the woodchuck run under the garden shed this morning, but I’m not sure it is responsible for this. I think the carrots in this garden were nibbled on more, but I’m not sure. The motion sensor light would cover that carrot bed and the section of this beet bed next to it, and should be startling off any critters, but the section in the photo has a lilac bush between it and the light, so it wouldn’t be triggered by anything nibbling on the beets here.

I did see a deer going by the garden cam when I checked the files this morning. They seem to be just walking through, and not even going very close to the garden, now that I’ve put up the stakes and twine around the corn, and rope along the back of the Dorinny corn and the pea beds. I find myself wondering if a deer might have nibbled on the beets, since the woodchuck doesn’t seem to like beet greens, but that would mean the deer coming right up to the house, and pushing its way through the asparagus ferns and rhubarb, and I just don’t see that.

The beet beds in the old kitchen garden did get the Critter Ridder granules, but I was finishing off the container in the area in the photo, so there wasn’t as much there. It obviously doesn’t work to stop cats, since yesterday evening, we saw Junkpile and her kittens in the beets by the retaining wall. 😀

I still have to use the new spray we got, but it’s supposed to be applied on dry surfaces, so I’ll have to wait until later in the day.

Or until tomorrow, if we actually get the predicted storm!

Wouldn’t that be nice? 🙂

The Re-Farmer