Posts Tagged photos

The good, the bad, and the tasty

Spent a few hours out in the garden yesterday. We had our biggest harvest yet:

A couple pounds of green beans, a couple pounds of lima beans, and handful of blackeye peas, five spaghetti squash, five tomatoes, two zucchinis, and 5 serrano peppers, not pictured here as I gathered them later in the day. All together it was just shy of eight POUNDS of food! 😀

Those are the last of the spaghetti squash. After the heavy trimming a few weeks ago, the vines stopped setting new fruit but everything still on them ripened quickly. The rust was back in full force, so I harvested what was left and pulled out the vines. I also trimmed the zucchinis again, removing the infected leaves and leaving what looked healthy. I think they’ll hold out a while longer for me. Where the spaghetti squash had been, I spread a layer of coffee grounds and mulched to prep the bed for the next big thing. Later this week, I’ll plant soybeans there!

I pulled out some of the green bean plants too. I am confident now that my green beans have common bacterial blight. I’m also confident that it has started spreading to my lima beans.

I feel conflicted. I think I ought to pull all the green bean plants to protect the limas and tomatoes… but they’re still producing and I’m reluctant to rip out plants that are creating a couple pounds of food a week! I pulled out the row closest to the limas, the row where the plants are sort of falling over each other, and for now I’ve left the rest of them. When everything is spent – green beans, limas, tomatoes – I’ll solarize this bed through the hottest weeks of the summer and hopefully will head into the fall and winter with healthy disease free soil.

So this is two garden beds that have already experienced disease. Some of that is just life in Florida as hot and humid as it is. But next year I’ll do more to mix different vegetable types together and avoid the big solid patches I have here now, which should help.

In happier news, the new summer crops are doing beautifully. Here are my cowpeas just two weeks after planting:

 

The calabaza all sprouted, and I thinned them yesterday to one plant per mound.

The sweet potatoes are all growing nicely too.

The okra is doing beautifully, but I neglected to photograph it for you. I suppose that will give me an excuse for another post soon.

The peanuts I planted haven’t sprouted. I suspect a squirrel dug them up. I haven’t decided for sure whether I’ll try again, since I know the squirrels will still be there if I do.

Herbs I started a while back are doing well. Here are baby lemongrasses:

 

The passionvines that I’m allowing to run wild are blooming.

I haven’t seen many honeybees in the past couple of weeks. There’s still a constant flurry of activity from wasps and solitary bees, and all my veggies are getting pollinated. But I do miss the honeybees and I’m hoping whatever colony had been visiting me before is okay.

I think this is a solitary bee.

I think this may be a yellow jacket.

I try to do most of my harvesting and cultivating in the beds when the pollinators are less active. Sometimes I can’t help being out there when they’re busy. So far, none of them has stung me (and I’m really hoping they don’t… last time I got a wasp sting I had a welt that lasted a couple of months, so I suspect I’m mildly allergic). I make a point of moving gently and while I’m cautious, I’m becoming less frightened of them as time goes on, which is good.

The gnats are less willing to coexist with me. They insist on flying up my nose when I’m hunched over picking beans. I doubt any of them has survived the vigorous nose blowing that ensues. Not. Fun.

Last but not least, I think my Brandywine tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Very excited about that!

See that slight tinge of color? I think we'll start seeing the gradual fade to red soon!

That’s it for the time being. We’re feasting on fresh veggies and I’m already plotting my garden plans several months from now, as I think through where I’m planting now and what I’ll be ready to turn over in the fall. Good stuff. 🙂

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At last!

After starting my seeds nearly 8 weeks later than ideal, and the long wait that has ensued in the time since, I was finally able to pick my first tomatoes yesterday!

 

There are many more coming ripe now, as well as new fruits still setting. It’s been hot for a long time but apparently, it’s still cooling enough at night for them to set fruit. Yay!

I was adamant about eating the first one simply, with olive oil and salt, where the flavor of the tomato could shine through. This is the first home grown tomato I’ve eaten ever. This one is a Margherita; I also have Brandywines in the garden but none of them has started to ripen yet.

It was very good. Not quite as mind-blowing as I’d been told to expect, but I may have picked this a day or two sooner than I should have. I’m looking forward to gathering more ‘maters in the days to come! 🙂

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Another post on lubbers

I’ve posted before about Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers, but I didn’t have any good photos to share because it was too early in the year for the adults – and because I’m always too rushed to stomp the crowds of nymphs as the emerge to run inside for my camera.

But today I found this guy on my lima beans, and I took the time to take a few photos:

You can see his mouth parts pretty clearly in this photo - he was busy munching.

In the brief space of time that I took these photos, he ate his way through two blossoms on this one lima bean plant (not to mention however much he ate while I grabbed my camera). They eat so much… and he was focused on the blooms. Sorry to inform you, fella, but that was supposed to be my future dinner.

Enjoy this meal. It will be your last.

On the bright side, I’m only seeing one or two of them a day at this point. The downside is that they’re fully grown now – which means they eat more, freak me out more, and are harder to eliminate.

Hopefully a bit of vigilance this year will mean fewer are laid/hatched in our garden next year.

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Memorial Day Weekend Garden Update

It’s been busy in the garden the past few weeks, but I officially have the last of the summer crops planted. The sweet potato slips I planted last weekend seem to be doing really well. A few of them lost a leaf earlier in the week when it was blazing hot, but all of them have new growth in the past week, and I feel confident that they’ll take off brilliantly now.

On Tuesday, I planted two varieties of cowpeas, Mississippi Silver and Pinkeye Purple Hull, as well as some calabaza. I also took time to lay out drip lines and a bucket, following this tutorial for gravity fed drip irrigation. I’m hopeful that this will allow me to reduce my water consumption for the garden, and will also allow me to use captured rainwater. (Guess what’s on this girl’s birthday wish list this year? If you said “rain barrel,” you’re correct!)

For the moment I am still running the sprinkler on this bed, to ensure water reaches the seeds while they germinate and until the roots have grown a bit. But I hope to switch to the drip irrigation completely in just a couple of weeks. This morning, we spotted our first baby in this bed – one of the Pinkeye Purple Hull peas. Hello, friend. I look forward to the many Southern dinners you’ll provide me!

Seriously, gardening makes Southern food way more appealing to me than it ever was before. In the past week we’ve eaten home-grown lima beans (with bacon and onions) alongside home made corn bread, and also barbeque chicken with home-grown blackeye peas followed by banana pudding. Fresh ingredients elevate that humble sort of fare to a fabulous experience (where frozen beans send me back to childhood dinnertime trauma).

As for the summer crops, I also planted peanuts. No special area for them, I just stuck them throughout the yard in places where there’s a bit of overspray from the sprinklers but nothing else growing. Maybe a dozen or so of them? I’m told they can largely be ignored until harvest time. Here’s hoping!

In other news, the loquat that I pruned so very heavily at the start of the month is showing lots of new growth. I expect it will produce many new low branches and will hopefully be easier to harvest in future years.

The squash plants that I cut back so heavily earlier in the week are doing great as well. The zucchini plants look especially happy, and there are several young zukes growing. The spaghetti squash vines, despite being nearly completed denuded, are looking good too – the leaves I left behind have all grown larger and so far I haven’t spotted any more rust or powdery mildew (I am checking daily and plan to remove any damaged leaves immediately if I find more).

I planted seeds for lots of herbs a couple weeks ago, and most of them have sprouted now. Thai basil, Mexican mint marigold (a heat tolerant substitute for tarragon), oregano, rosemary (which has not sprouted, and likely won’t, as it turns out it prefers to be started in cool weather). Also, cayenne peppers, two of which have sprouted.

And maybe a month ago I planted seeds from a jacaranda tree we passed in the woods. Only one of them came up (but really, I wouldn’t need more than one of them in my yard as they grow really big in the end). Here’s my little baby jacaranda.

And – my tomatoes are starting to get some color at last! I am hopeful that we’ll be able to harvest these later this week. I started my seeds so much later than is ideal, but it does look like we’ll get to enjoy at least some ‘maters before the heat overtakes them. And in the meantime, the marigolds are doing their job – no worms or other bugs. Just happy tomatoes and the bushiest healthiest marigolds I’ve ever seen!

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend everyone! Take a moment to remember and honor our fallen servicemen, and to thank any military families you know. Then fire up the grill, grab a cold beer, and enjoy the time with your family. 🙂

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Another bed!

From The Office:

Jim: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Dwight: You can catch even more with manure; what’s your point?

We put in another bed to make room for the summer crops we’ll plant this weekend. I used all our remaining moving boxes, all the remaining oak leaves from our neighbor, a ton of mulch from our recent delivery, coffee grounds from Starbucks, and an entire truckload of composted manure – and sheet mulched a 16′ by 16′ space where we’ll grow 2 varieties of Southern peas and calabaza.

Before we’d started any gardening, back in February:

The first several layers of organic matter in place; Girly inspects my progress:

Finished! This took several hours over the course of the past three days. I’m exhausted, but giddy to have a home prepared for our next round of veggies!

Whew! This first season of gardening is some hard work. I’m so excited though to see our yard transforming from empty to lush.

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Pipevine

This little beauty grew over the fence from our neighbor’s yard. The leaves looked familiar to me; I was fairly certain it was a pipevine. Since pipevines are a preferred larval food of several species of swallowtail butterflies, I decided to let it be.

And now, here’s proof – our first bloom! Aren’t they just crazy? Big oval, leading into a sort of pitcher shape, with white and purple speckled petals. Yup, that’s a pipevine. 🙂

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The garden continues

There’s been a LOT of activity in our little garden in the past two weeks. Between the delivery of our 40 yards or so of mulch, and the rapid approach of the summer, I’ve had my hands very full out there (to the point that it has resulted in a deep tan and notable weight loss in just the past two weeks of hustling). Photos in this post are from Saturday morning’s gardening; I’ll take more photos for another update today or tomorrow. There are already visible changes since Saturday.

I’ve spent a great deal of time in the past two weeks shoveling and carting mulch around to the backyard. My goal is to add a thin layer to all the areas where grass has (so far) refused to grow. I could plant grass seeds or plugs, fertilize it, water it… but I’m not going to. It takes a lot of resources to make grass grow in our poor soil, drought, and hot temperatures. And the grass we have when we have it isn’t all that pretty. So – if it grows, great, but I’m not pouring effort into a lawn in Florida.

And yet the bare sand we have is ugly, washes out with every rain, and sticks to our shoes each time we garden. Not to mention it reflects light like a mirror, making the bright sun just that much brighter. A layer of mulch – even a very thin layer of mulch – will help all of that. I’ve been trying to avoid covering any grass that is growing, and spreading an inch or so on the bare sand. Hold the moisture, keep the top “soil” in place, and eventually break down and add organic matter to what’s there.

Here’s what it looked like first thing Saturday morning. In the foreground, the bare white sand that makes up most of our yard. In the background, some of the area where I’d already laid down some mulch.

This is what "soil" looks like in Florida

For comparison’s sake, a shot of just the background… isn’t it *better* with a layer of mulch?

Mulching has been the most demanding, intense workout in the garden, but isn’t our only update. Girly wanted to make a “home for the bees” so we planted our remaining annuals in a little garden spot that’s all here own. Here she proudly demonstrates.

She picked the mismatched shoes. 🙂

I spotted a little volunteer plant along the side of the house, and I would love other people’s input… The leaves and the milky sap from this plant look so much like a fig to me. Anyone agree? I would be beyond thrilled if there’s a free fig tree at our house! And I could imagine some plant previously tended by the former owners reviving now that there’s mulch and water to be had. Or it could be something else entirely. I suppose time will tell.

And Girly very much wanted to get to demonstrate this plant as well. 🙂

Now that I’ve planted okra over there, the cantaloupes are finally starting to grow. Go figure. At this rate, I doubt we’ll get any fruit from them before their season ends, but I will give them the chance. 🙂

And, finally – Saturday’s harvest. Green beans, blackeye peas, zucchini (there were two; only one made it in the photo as the other was given to a neighbor by that point) and our first haul of lima beans! Delicious!

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