Friday, September 27, 2019

Garden Friday

Welcome to Garden Friday!
It may be officially autumn, but it still feels like summer.
Fall planting has not begun,
as we await cooler temperatures to get things started.

 It hasn't rained in over a month,
but the twice a week watering seems to be enough
for the sweet potatoes and a few other crops.

 The pollinators are getting what they need.

sweet potato box

With the melons ripped out,
the arches will soon have room for the snap peas to climb.

 The Red Ripper beans are starting to slow down,
with leaves turning brown and less blooms showing up.

Even the strawberries are faring well,
considering the lack of rainfall.
The straw bales really hold in the moisture.

black-eyed Susan vine in straw bales

 The basil was a late comer to the garden,
but is still doing well, even with 90 degree days.
We have had temperatures at or above ninety for 80 days straight.

 I started tearing out the okra,
which was easier than I thought,
but I'll leave the rest of the task for the weekend.
The plan is to pick up the materials needed for the new raised beds
next week so that fall planting can begin.

The loofah thrives on drought.
The flowers just keep on coming
and we're amazed to see the size of the gourds.

This is about the stage that they are being harvested.
The copper-colored, brittle skin is easily removed
to discover the scrubber underneath.
We've started shaking the peeled gourd to remove the seeds.

When tearing out the cucumbers,
this big guy was unearthed.
It's since been made into cuke salad.

Last weekend, we were finally able to empty the trailer
of the free mulch we got from the landfill.
Our county provides it to residents
and we have been blessed with many a load.

The pile of cardboard and newspapers was bothering me on the front porch,
but it needed to stay dry until we could get the mulch.
So glad we got this project done, so we could tidy this up.

Newspapers are used as a weed block
anywhere that might be planted,
like under this tree.
It would be nice to add some shade lovers underneath,
and the newspaper makes it easier to add plants later on.
Cardboard is better used for walkways,
where no planting will take place.

I like the way the mulch helps to dress things up.
We recently learned about a nearby tree trimming company
that is located near our neighborhood.
We are supposed to be on their list for free wood chips.

If we get a delivery soon,
the wood chips will be added to the front facade
over the mulch.

I'm hoping to get some bulbs planted this fall
to add a bit of color to the front of the house.

 Elsewhere, the blooms haven't stopped all season.
The butterflies have been all over the zinnias,

 and we are happy to oblige them what they need.
They get nectar, we get blooms,
everybody wins!

black-eyed Susan vine

 We've been doing our best to keep the bird baths
clean and full, using water from our rain barrels.
It's been so dry, that the birds, bees, and squirrels have been frequent visitors.
We keep stones in the bird baths (usually lids from pots)
so that the butterflies can make use of them to soak up moisture.

It's been a long, hot and dry summer.
With no rain in the forecast for the next week to 10 days,
it might be time to start a rain dancing ritual.
 I'm up for it!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Worm Bin Update

Welcome Autumn!

We started our worm bin about a year and a half ago
with worms purchased online
and a few everyday items.
 You can read about that here.

It was time (past time, really), to refresh the bin
and see what kind of garden tidbits we had collected.
Using a bowl and a bit of patience,
the worms were picked out individually and placed in a clean container.

The original bin was then hosed out (after removing the shredded paper),
and refilled with a layer of paper from our stockpile.
(Friends were happy to donate to the cause.)
I added extra paper this time, 
in hopes that the worms will stay on the paper,
instead of milling around in the castings on the bottom.

 The shredded paper is kept right next to the wormery,
so that I can add more when needed.
The clear bin on the bottom catches any liquid that may drain out.

 A spray bottle containing water is kept on top,
so that the paper can be moistened if needed.
The worms like a humid, dark environment,
so we accommodate them as best we can.
Considering the increase in their population,
I'd say they are quite content in there.

We were able to accumulate almost a full
5-gallon bucketful of castings.
These will be added to the new fall beds we create,
to amend the soil.
We will also add coffee grounds, eggshells and leaf mulch
to each planting area.
All of these materials break down and feed the soil,
so that plants have the nutrition they need to thrive.

The worm bin is a great family or homeschooling project.
It's relatively inexpensive
and serves as a wonderful way to dispose of vegetable scraps, 
coffee grounds, tea bags and shredded paper.
Anytime we can eliminate adding to the landfill, we are glad.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Garden Friday

Welcome back to Garden Friday!

When the gardener's away,
the okra will grow.
         And grow.
                           And grow!

 I was dogsitting for friends and away from home for a few days.
This is what I came back to.
If okra isn't picked twice a day,
it can grow out of control.
This Bradford Family variety can still be enjoyed if it gets away from  you,
but this is a bit beyond what would probably taste good.
Thankfully, nothing goes to waste,
we have several compost piles for just this purpose.

Since we are getting ready to add a couple of new beds to the garden,
the okra had to be pulled out to make room.
These stalks will be added to our open-air pile.

 The okra stems were left in place,
so that I'll have a "handle" with which to pull them up.
Removing the stems after they've had a while to dry up
is much easier than trying to yank them out while they're still green.
(Ask me how I know.)
Two okra plants remain in straw bales until it gets cooler and they're done.

A wonderful vision as I visited the garden for the first time in days
was the riot of Red Ripper beans, drying on the vines.
This new-to-me crop has been very satisfying to grow.

 It's one of my favorite things to sprout in the kitchen
to use on salads or sandwiches.
Once the pods turn brown, they can be plucked off of the vines.

I'll have my work cut out for me this weekend,
shelling this pile of beans,
but it's a labor of love.

 These beautiful beans will be a great addition 
to any soups or stews I'll be creating this fall and winter.
And, of course, sprouting can happen year-round.

The Diamond eggplant variety is just now getting close to harvest.
With a recent cooling off, I'm not sure if they will continue to grow.

 For some reason, the strawberries are lookin' mighty fine!
It hasn't rained in weeks, but you wouldn't know it to see these.

 Isn't this loofah a beautiful shade of copper?
I decided to try to harvest one,
just to see how difficult it would be to peel.
I cut this one down from the vine
and made slices in the skin vertically.
The husk came off so easily!

It is so exciting to grow something new!
The seeds are inside the loofah,
and removed by shaking or using a long, narrow instrument to coax them out.
Loofah is one of the best exfoliators to be found,
and rejuvenates the skin.

 We're still waiting to harvest even one of our watermelons,
and with temperatures fluctuating,
I hope we still get the chance.

The bush beans transplanted a few weeks ago
have almost all been eaten up by something.
It's the same problem I had earlier in the spring.
I will just direct seed in another week or two,
once cooler temperatures are more consistent.

With no rain in the forecast,
hand watering is still the best way to keep the garden going.
I'm hoping to purchase the materials necessary
so that I can work on my drip irrigation system.
By spring planting, I would like the new beds in place,
and the drip working to irrigate all the beds.
I can't imagine how much time that will save me.

Autumn is (literally) right around the corner!
What have you got planned for your fall garden?

Friday, September 13, 2019

Garden Friday

Welcome to Garden Friday!
Summer's fading fast and cooler temperatures are on the way!
Here's where the garden is on this 2nd week of September.

The okra forest is getting ready to be removed.
With fall planting ahead,
I need to make room for our new raised beds.
Next year, less okra will be planted (it was a prolific producer),
and they will be settled into straw bales.
The harvesting is much easier because they are off the ground,
and they do quite well in them.

This was yesterday morning's harvest,
which allowed me to make two jars of pickles,
and have another dozen for roasting.
The two varieties grown this season were
the Clemson Spineless and the Bradford Family Heirloom.

The runner beans seem to enjoy the hot, dry conditions.
This is a new crop for me and I think I will grow it every year.
It's been trouble-free and very low-maintenance.

 The sweet purple blossoms were an added bonus.

 The dried beans are picked off of the stalk and left out to dry.
I hope to have a Mason jar full of shelled beans to use throughout the year.
They also make great sprouting beans.

So far, the t-shirt slings seem to be keeping the melons cozy.
We have 5 or 6 that are growing and doing well.

 Some have been overtaken by critters.
I didn't bother to do anything about these,
just let things run their course.
I'm hoping the beneficial insects will balance things out.
That's something I've been leaning more toward,
trusting nature to keep things in balance.

The loofah took its time getting started,
but once it did, it never turned back.
There are still a ton of blooms on the trellis,
attracting all sorts of pollinators.

 Some of the gourds are turning color on the vine.
I've been told that it's best to let them get brown and dry before harvest.

There are more than I can count at this point.
I love me a carefree crop!

The strawberries in the straw bale looked almost dead at one point.
For some reason, they've perked up.
If I can keep them alive a little while longer,
perhaps we will be in for a tasty treat.
I'm thinking they may need to be covered with loose straw over the winter. 
Research is in order...

The white sweet potatoes have taken over the entire east side of the garden.
With dozens of blossoms and vines running amok,
they don't look close to being ready to harvest.
I'm waiting until the foliage starts to turn brown and dry up
before I begin the treasure hunt for spuds.

sweet potato blossoms

The orange sweet potatoes are far behind,
but are at last climbing the arches.

 The eggplant has been getting picked weekly.
There are two varieties growing, 
the long purple (Japanese) and Diamond.

milkweed seeds

Although I tried to locate them,
the four Monarch chrysali could not be found,
although I know that all four caterpillars grew to adult size.
It's probably too late in the summer to count on any more
making it to that stage. 
Hopefully, next spring and summer, 
we will have many to enjoy.

Look at this amazing spinner I found yesterday.
S/he was dangling from the maple tree
and appeared to be suspended in mid-air!

 This week, Big K and I were finally able to go and pick up
some free mulch, offered by our county.
This will be used in flower beds and underneath trees,
once we get our layer of newspapers laid down.


The new rain gauge I got for my  birthday a couple of weeks ago,
has regretfully not had much use.
We are dry, dry, dry,
but ever hopeful that rain will grace our garden.

I'll be taking some time off from blogging,
but will be back here next week for Garden Friday.
Wishing you continued blessings...