Our 2022 garden: gourds, ground cherries, and one. Just one!

While doing my rounds this morning, checking the remaining garden beds, I found myself giving the ground cherries a closer look.

They do have frost damage, but a lot of the leaves are still looking just fine. The entire patch is all leaning over, making it hard to reach to pick anything. I’ve found that the plants, as strong as they appear to be, are actually quite fragile, and branches break off easily. There are still so many green berries on there! I’m not too worried about missing any ripe ones that have fallen off, though. Part of the reason we chose this location, was so they could self seed and hopefully come back every year on their own.

With how big they got, and how easily they fall over, though, I’m thinking we will want to add a support structure of horizontal wire mesh. Maybe two horizontal layers of them, with a mesh of about 4 inches square. That way, the plants can grow through the wire mesh, and still be supported during high winds, or when the weight of their own branches start pulling them down.

Oh! I just remembered. I’d dug out a roll of fence wire from a shed last year. It has 4 inch square mesh. It would be perfect for the job! I’ll just have to figure out what to use for vertical supports.

But that can wait until spring.

I finally remembered to get a picture of this crab apple tree this morning.

It has SO many apples on it, and they’ve turned such an incredible red colour. They are like beautiful ruby ornaments! The apples on this tree are not really edible – at least not for humans. The birds and the deer like them, though. The apples will be left on the tree to freeze. Every now and then, in the winter, I hope to be able to get to the tree to knock some of the apples down for the deer. Otherwise, they stand up on their hind legs to reach, and end up breaking branches.

This tree still looks pretty healthy, so we will be able to keep it while we cut away the dead and diseased trees. It may not produce apples we can eat, but it will serve as a cross pollinator. We plan to eventually plant apple trees that are not crab apples, and they often need a tree like this nearby, to help with pollination. Of course, there is the one big crab apple tree that produces some tasty apples, still. We will be down to only two apple trees in this area, from the dozen or so that used to be here. They were planted way too close together, which certainly didn’t help. We just need to get rid of the diseased tree in particular, and hopefully will be able to keep the remaining trees nice and healthy.

After covering the eggplants and apple gourds last night, I went over to the trellis to check on the Ozark nest egg gourds. Having confirmed the vines were completely killed off by the frost, I decided to go ahead and pick them, this morning.

I am just so happy with how these gourds turned out! Like everything else, they had a rough start, and yet they still produces so many little gourds! A few are still more on the green side. Imagine how many we could have had if it had been a good growing year? We will definitely be growing these again, and I hope to have some seeds I can save from these.

I’d brought pruning shears to harvest them. Those vines are pretty spiny! I also harvested the Tennessee Dancing gourds. They snapped off their stems quite easily; no sheers needed. As I went around to the inside of the tunnel trellis to pick more, I spotted what at first looked like a little snake, hanging in the air!

There we have it. Our one and only Red Noodle bean. Just one! It’s about half the size it could have been.

I now have to decide if these are something I want to get seeds for and try growing again. Under better growing conditions, they should have done just fine in our area. I’d like to at least know if they are something we enjoy eating.

Here are all the gourds I gathered – and my little buddy, who kept me company the entire time! She is such a little sweetie.

I rearranged the chocolate cherry tomatoes to make room for the gourds to cure for a while. Eventually, they will be brought indoors, given a wipe down with a bleach solution, then set up somewhere to continue curing all winter. Probably in the old basement, where the cats aren’t allowed. It may get damp in there during the summer, but in the winter, it is incredibly dry, so that should work out.

The onions my daughter braided yesterday are so heavy, with such thick necks, they started falling out of their braid. I remembered the hooks I put up that held our lights for the seedlings we had set up over the swing bench, so after the gourds were laid out, I strung the onions on some sisal cord to hang them. Once they were hung up, I ended up adding two more cords to help hold the weight! These are definitely the heaviest of all the onions we grew this year!

I absolutely love those nest egg gourds. They are beautiful, and even a pleasure to hold. I have some ideas of what I can do with them. What I do end up doing will depend on how many fully cure properly. The greenest ones probably won’t, but I think most of them did get a chance to become fully ripe. This is from two or three plants. We planted four, one died, and one never fully recovered. They’re so intertwined, it’s hard to tell them apart, but I don’t think that one smaller plant ever produced any gourds. Eighteen gourds from two (possibly three) plants during a bad growing year is pretty awesome! I want to plant more next year. The Tennessee dancing gourds also did really well under the circumstances, and I hope to plant more of them next year, too!

It should be interesting, once everything is in and we can do an assessment of what we got, and use that to help decide what to do next year.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: some progress, and a little harvest

It’s just past 10pm as I start this, and we’re still at 21C/70F, and the higher winds of earlier today have died down to a lovely calm. I found myself looking for reasons to get the fire going, but I really need to get some sleep tonight! Sleep has been frequently interrupted for the past while. 😕

Lack of sleep wiped me out enough that I was feeling quite ill this morning, to the girls took care of feeding the critters so I could try and get at least a couple of hours in. With Leyendecker still in recovery in my room (no, he wasn’t the one keeping me up at night!), and my daughters still having their days and nights reversed, my younger daughter has been taking her “night shift” and sleeping in my room, to keep and ear out on Leyendecker while I’m out. (He seems to be doing all right, though still having difficulties voiding, so we are monitoring him very closely) In the end, it was almost noon before I finally was able to head outside and do my rounds – minus the critter feeding.

Of course, a fair amount of that is spent checking things in the garden. Things like this.

Here we are, into September, and the Red Noodle beans are just starting to show flower buds!

This Kakai hulless squash was the first to develop and is looking like it’s ripe – but it’s about a quarter the size it should be. If the weather holds, there’s a chance we’ll have a couple more, larger ones. In fact, all the hulless pumpkins are going rather well, compared to the other winter squash. Only the Baby Pam pumpkins are managing as well. The Lady Godiva should give us at least 2 fully developed squash by the end of the growing season, with a few more little ones developing. Likewise, the Styrian variety has a couple large pumpkins that should be harvestable by the time growing season is done, with a couple more developing.

As for the Baby Pam, we have a little few bright orange pumpkins that could probably be harvested, that are smaller than they should be, but there are others that are still growing and turning colour that look like they will reach their full size – which isn’t very large to begin with.

This Georgia Candy Roaster is one of two stunted plants that were just covered in slug trails this morning!

While watering this evening, I was amazed to find female flowers among the Georgia Candy Roaster, and even one Winter Sweet. I hand pollinated them, just in case, but I think it was too late for one of the Georgia Candy Roasters.

While harvesting, I was surprised by how many Yellow Pear and Chocolate Cheery tomatoes were ready. I took the few G-Star patty pans that were on the plant killed off by a cut worm.

A few more of the Cup of Moldova tomatoes were ripe enough to pick, and into the freezer the went, with the others needing to be processed.

I keep saying I need to get those done, but the fact that they are in the freezer actually frees me up to work on other things. But that will be in my next post!

As for the garden, it’s a waiting game. So far, we’re not looking to have cold temperatures or frost for the rest of the month. With our first average frost date on Sept. 10, that is very encouraging. I plan to do recordings for another garden tour video on that date. Hopefully, thing weather will hold and things will have time to catch up.

I’d really like a chance to try those red noodle beans!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: progress, and one last cardboard mulch

There wasn’t much of anything to harvest this morning. I picked a few shelling peas and just ate them right away. There was no point in bringing so few inside! At least with the first planting of peas. The second planting is looking like it will have a decent amount to pick fairly soon.

I really don’t know what to make of the beans at the tunnel. These are the Blue Grey Speckled Tepary shelling beans. They are so small and delicate looking. They are just barely tall enough to reach, but are managing to climb the mesh. I have no idea how big these would normally get, but for a shelling bean, I would have expected them to be at least as big as…

… the red noodle beans on the other side of the tunnel. These are much bigger plants, but there is still no sign of any vining happening. I’m not seeing any flowers, either. Given that it’s the start of August and our average first frost date is Sept. 10, I’m starting to wonder if we’ll get any of these at all. Even if we do get a super long, mild spring, like we did last year, I wonder if we’ll have any of these at all. At least the purple beans on the A frame trellis are blooming and producing tiny little pods, with vines extending well past the top of the trellis frame, while the green beans on the other side are climbing and blooming.

I have never grown pole beans before, but I really expected them to do better than this. This area did not get flooded out the way the bed with the green bush beans did.

Well, next year we’ll be moving the trellises closer to the house, and this area will be getting perennials planted in it. Parts of the area will need to be kept clear because of the phone line running under it, but not all of it. Hopefully, a new location for our legumes next year will be better.

The dancing gourds are doing rather well, at least! The plants are much stronger and more vigorous this year than they were during last year’s drought. So far, there is just this one early gourd growing, though I am seeing quite a few female flowers developing. This one gourd is already bigger than the biggest we had last year. For perspective, the squares in the wire mesh are 2 inches.

In between the tunnel and the A frame trellises are some hulless pumpkins. They are the last patch without the cardboard mulch. I still had the cardboard sides from the wood chipper in the garage, so I decided to use it.

This is how it was looking. There’s an awful lot of creeping charlie making it’s way through the straw mulch around the pumpkins in the foreground. There are actually less weeds than it appears, though, just because of how they spread out.

The cardboard from the wood chipper box was very heavy duty, and had even more staples holding it together than the lawn mower box I used on the Boston Marrow. Cutting it so I could put it around the plants took some doing! Sliding the cardboard in place required quite a bit of care, too. The vines were gripping the straw and weeds quite strongly.

I placed some of the protective poles back, around the patch, and will be adding scythed hay mulch on top as I am able, but I find myself wondering if I should make a support frame for the vines to climb. I don’t know if that would actually help these or not. At the very least, I’ll be adding cord around it, to discourage deer from walking through.

There were quite a few female flowers on the vines, but I found only one male flower, so I used it to hand pollinate as many of the female flowers as were ready. While moving the vines onto the cardboard, one of them had already fallen off, because it had not been pollinated. Hopefully, the hand pollinating will help.

All three varieties of hulless pumpkin have at least some developing pumpkins. Some of summer squash is also finally picking up; the sunburst patty pans are starting to show female flowers again. The Madga squash seems to be doing the best, and we finally have yellow zucchini starting to develop. Not so much of the green zucchini, though.

At least we will have lots of the determinate tomatoes. Even the Cup of Moldova tomatoes are starting to show more of a blush in them.

If the weather holds and the frost stays away, we might still have something to harvest this fall.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: things are trying to grow

My daughters were sweethearts and took care of feeding the cats outside for me, as I’m still feeling pretty unstable, so the cats weren’t out and about by the time I headed outside. I did get to briefly pet a kitten, though! 😀

While checking out the garden, there was some new progress – and a bit of deer damage – to find.

The Carminat beans are reaching the top of the trellis, and you can see their flower buds. At my fingers, however, you can see the stem of a missing leaf! There was a vertical row of missing leaves, a few feet along the trellis. Right about deer height! Time to find more noise makers and flashy things to set up.

On this side of the trellis are the Seychelles beans, which are starting to get pretty tall, too. None of them show deer damage, which is good, since less of them germinated. In the foreground are the self seeded (or should I say, bird-seeded) sunflowers that I left to grow. The beans can climb them, too! With the flooding this spring, we did not plant any of the Hopi black dye or Mongolian Giant sunflower seeds we’d collected from last year, so I don’t mind letting these one grow. These would be the black oil seed that we put out for the birds in the summer. We’re finding them all over the place, thanks to being spread by birds!

The first sowing of shelling peas may be about half the size they should be, but they are loaded with pods. At least on the north end of the pea trellis. Towards the south end, the sugar snap peas are barely surviving, and the shelling peas on the other side of the trellis are much weaker, too. The entire trellis gets an equal amount of sunlight, so this would be a reflection of soil conditions.

This should be the last year we use this spot for growing vegetables. Next year, they’ll be moved closer to the house, and this area will be made available for planting fruit or nut trees. We haven’t decided what to get next, yet.

The cucumber row is a mixed bag of plants that are growing nice and big, and filled with little cucumbers, and others that are barely bigger than when they were first transplanted!

I had an adorable find at the big trellis.

We have a first Tennessee Dancing gourd developing! It is so cute!

The beans on the same side as the dancing gourds are the red noodle beans. The plants are pretty large, but they are still not at the point of climbing. The shelling beans on the other side, however…

The are much smaller, but have tendrils climbing the trellis, and have even started to bloom!

The most adorable little pollinator showed up just as I was taking the picture.

I startled a bee when checking out this HUGE pumpkin flower.

Yes, it’s on a giant pumpkin plant. 😁

I’d seen some female flowers previously, but now I can’t find them, so there are no pumpkins starting to form, yet. While we are not shooting for super big pumpkins, and won’t be pruning them down to just one pumpkin per plant, it feels like it’s too late in the season for any giant pumpkins to mature. We’re near the end of July already, and none have formed, yet!

In the south yard, we finally have Chocolate cherry tomatoes! Just this one plant, yet. Of the 4 varieties we planted this year, the Chocolate cherry have been the most behind – and they are planted where tomatoes had done so well, last year. The plants themselves are getting nice and tall, and we’ve been adding supports and pruning them as needed, but there are much fewer flowers blooming, and only today do we finally have tomatoes forming. Thankfully, the other varieties are much further along.

I also spotted some ground cherry fruit forming! These plants are doing remarkably well, given how much water they had to deal with this spring. It took a while, but not they are quite robust plants, and I’m happy to see them setting fruit!

Hopefully, it won’t be too much longer before we start getting actual food from the garden. Everything is so, so behind, I am extra happy to see progress like this.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2020 garden: the bean tunnel

This year, we decided to use the squash tunnel for vining beans.

But first, it needed some work.

We were able to weed and prep this side of the tunnel in the fall. Can you tell?

What a huge difference in the soil. When we first set up the squash tunnel, using a post hole digger to make holes for the support posts, it was incredibly hard. For the rows to plant in, we layered straw, then fresh garden soil – we’d long run out of carboard, and even shredded paper, if I remember correctly. Then the top was mulched with straw after the squash, gourds and melons were transplanted.

As you can see in the photo, the garden fork can now did deep into the soil, and I could push my hands into it to pull out the weed roots.

And tree roots. A remarkable amount of fine, thin tree roots.

The only things causing problems while using the garden fork was hitting rocks or larger tree roots!

So. Many. Rocks! Deep enough that I didn’t try to dig them out, though. I just pulled out the small rocks nearer the surface.

In the picture, you can see some orange twine. I found 3 places where the screws had snapped, and the cross pieces were basically being held in place by the wire mesh. I just lashed them back to the support poles. We might get one more year out of this tunnel before we build a permanent one, closer to the house, so I’m not too worried about it.

It was very hot work. Though my weather app said it was 19C/66F, with a RealFeel of 21C/70F, this is what the tunnel thermometer read.

Yeah, that’s reading about 33C/91F out there.

I’m sure the heat loving melons, eggplants and peppers were just loving it.

Me? Not so much!

Along with beans, the two Canteen gourds were transplanted. These were growing so fast, they had been potted up three times, and we needed to add support poles because they were trying to climb anything they could reach, including the tomato plants they were sharing a bin with! They were outgrowing their pots again, and really needed something sturdy to climb!

In the row on the left of the photo, I planted Blue Grey Speckled Tepary beans. These are a vining bean for drying, not fresh eating. They are also drought and heat tolerant, so perfect for this spot! The space was just enough for the amount of beans in the package, too. I supposed it’s possible there were more, but the cats tried to eat the package, scattering beans all over the floor. I think we found all of them, but some may have been missed.

On the right in the photo, I planted Red Noodle beans. These beans can grow up to 20 inches long! The packet was supposed to have 25 seeds, but I counted 33, which didn’t fill the row. We still have 2 other varieties of pole beans, but there are too many in the bags to fit in the remaining space, and I didn’t want to plant just a few. One of them has something like 200 seeds in it, so we aren’t going to be planting all of them!

I think, instead, we’ll plant some climbing gourds in the remaining space. We have some Tennessee Dancing gourds that would fit. Or some luffa. I think we have some that survived. We’ll decide after we get the remaining two trellises ready.

I’m glad we got at least two types of vining/pole beans in. It’s quite late in the season to be direct sowing beans here, but they are short season varieties, so it should be fine.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer