Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Taming the Wild Cucumber

First, a shot of the whole garden:
As you can see, it is kicking butt and taking names. The black snake looking thing is the soaker hose I have been using to water it, although that will be coming out and going to take care of the (still neglected) roses in the backyard as soon as I can manage. I believe that will be tomorrow, or maybe this afternoon. I have all the stuff for a drip system and I REALLY need to get it going because the hot, dry summer is upon us. Up until now, things have been fairly cool and wet, but that trend is changing. It had to happen and I've been spoiled, but I need to get cracking. I'll write more about that tomorrow, but it seems to be a theme of the garden this year.

Anywho, today I tackled trellising the Boston Pickling cukes. I've had the material for the trellis for a while, but have been swamped or lazy or not here at varying intervals, so it's been put off. But the cukes are growing like mad and taking over the Blue Lake bush beans, so it had to be done.

I first assembled a (sorta wobbly) frame from some 1x4s that I had had cut to size. I fastened the trellis frame to the frame of the cucumber/bean bed (previously known as Bed Five) and pondered how to attach the bird netting I was going to use as the actual trellis to the frame. I have been a bit hesitant to use the bird netting, owing to a horrible incident a couple of years ago during which a king snake got itself enmeshed in a net I had haphazardly thrown over the long-suffering blueberry bush. (I'll tell you that story some day.) But it's cheap, it's durable, and it seemed like a good material upon which to trellis the cukes. Eventually, I looped the netting over woodscrews place every six or so inches around the frame and screwed in until only the head was visible. This seems to be holding the netting tightly, although it might need shoring up as the season progresses and the cukes get bigger. Here's a pic of the finished trellis:

Once the trellis was finished, I spent a goodly amount of time painstakingly untangling the cukes from the beans and then tying the cuke vines to the trellis with cobalt blue embroidery thread given to me by my Aunt Nunu when she cleaned out her craft room. I don't know why I chose cobalt blue; green would have been a more obvious (or rather, less obvious and therefore better) choice, but the blue called to me so I went with it. After the vines were tied up (and the teeninesy little baby cukes counted), I very gently twined as many of the runners as I could around the netting in the hopes that they would catch on and the vines would start training themselves.

The cukes seem a little angry with me right now: lots of downturned, droopy leaves, but the beans are thrilled. I discovered, unfortunately, that the beans also have attracted some sort of bug or pestamathingy which nibbles the edges of leaves and turns them over to form an envelope kind of dealy. Er. Not sure what is up with that, but plan on consulting my Ortho garden puzzle-solving book ASAP. ALSO discovered that the bean germination rate was lower than I thought. I'll fill in the empty spaces in the rows with more beans when the irrigation system is in.

I fiddled around a bit more, deciding to pull the plug on the sweet peas. They were lovely vines and probably would have lived a few more weeks before succumbing to the heat without producing a single blossom. But they were also aphid magnets (and therefore fireant magnets) and were taking nutrients from the little Hero of Lockinge melons which are hanging in there, although not growing as I thing they should. So out they came. I also did away with the broccoli after one last harvest of side shoots. Again, I could have left them. They were still producing, although the heat would get them soon, too. But they were drawing moths and shading the melons and I felt I could use their space to put in a few more bush beans. I have to say that I felt a little sad tugging them up. They were great little plants and produced really well for me. I'll chop them up and put them in the composter and hopefully they can give me some good fertilizer for everybody else in a couple of weeks.

Finally, I did a mini harvest. I got a couple of banana peppers and eggplants, the broccoli, and a couple of volunteer squashes. I also dug up two volunteer catnips. I sort of hated to do it, but I have catnip in the herb garden already and I'm trying to keep the volunteers to a minimum. (I just discovered that two of the volunteers in the Roma tomatoes are actually cucumbers. Where the heck are these guys coming from?)

Anyway, the harvest:

Note the slice I took out of the squash to see if it was edible still. Oddly, although it's almost orange and bizarrely bumpy, the seeds inside were nice and small and the flesh was firm and sweet. I wonder if it's a result of the volunteer part? Maybe this generation of plant has regressed?

In any case, it's always nice to bring stuff out of the garden. We'll eat the veggies for supper and I'm going to hang the catnip up to dry in the kitchen to make some playtoys for the kitties in our life. Once the irrigation system gets going. And the trellising for the tomatoes and purple hull pinkeyes. And...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And the Garden Goes Wild!!!

So, I go away for the weekend and I come back and the garden is nuts. Seriously, you would think that I was fertilizing with unicorn poo (thank yooouuu, Robin McKinley) or something. I went away from a blooming but non-fruited garden and came back to:

Ichiban eggplants that make me blush a little. (Also, Blogger, what the heck is up with your picture loading? It's driving me crazy!!!)

Almost overripe squash on the volunteer crookneck that sprang up next to the compost pile.
The plant is seen below because...Blogger? Seriously? This photo stuff is making me insane!!

The leaves are bigger than my head. Or my torso, which is saying more. A lot more.

Banana peppers of such yellowness that they really look a little like bananas. Gorgeous.

So many Roma tomatoes amid such lush foliage that I'm afraid I'm going to come up on a snake. Or, you know, a tiger.

Really, it's all very verdant and staggering, especially given that I haven't staked the Romas or the cukes and that my broccoli is still producing and I really probably need to do away with the snap peas which are growing but not blooming and then there's the irrigation system.

I am embarrassed by the success of the raised bed system. I'm not sure I'm a good enough (or prompt enough) gardener for the bounty that is coming.

Oh, and here's a shot of the Boston Pickling cukes. They need to be trellised before they take over the world. (Wonder if it's the banana peel seen in the behind the blossoms?)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Work on the Cottage Garden.

Non-germinating Lemon Cucumbers pushed firmly from my mind, I went to work on the Cottage Garden again today. I figured that I can't do anything to make them come up and if they haven't come up by the time the moon starts waxing, I'll replant. I have to put in the Cherokee Trail of Tears beans then anyway, and fill in a few gaps in my Blue Lakes.

I focused on clearing the evil death grass from the second half of the Cottage Garden today. It is insidious stuff, showing a certain amount of sentience in twining itself evilly amongst the roots of my (struggling) daisies and beloved stokesias. Ugh. I hate that stuff.

It also managed to creep under and against (and possibly melded with) the fence that forms the back border of the Cottage Garden. The Joseph's Coat rose bush is braced against the fence and the soaker hose runs alongside it, so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to find this:

That's right, y'all. A spider condo. Now, I know that as a gardener, I'm supposed to be all "Ooooh, I luuuurrrrvvv spiders." Theoretically, I do. However, in practice, they give me the creeps. I can't help it. I just imagine them crawling on my fingers as I weed close to the condo and it WIGS ME OUT. Needless to say, there might be a bit more evil death grass next to this part of the fence than in other places.

I was able to get as much of the evil death grass out of the CG this morning as possible. I have a big pile o' leaves and weeds and other mess left ver, but the bed itself is ready to be planted. I also staked up some gladioli that I planted a couple of years ago which seem to serve no other purpose than to be chow for thrips. They drive me nuts, but I told them firmly that I was NOT going to allow them to just lay their lives down for the thrips. They might not bloom, but they will not wallow.

I then spent about thirty minutes being mesmerized by a bloom on the Joseph's Coat. It just looks...exultant. I think I'm going to load it onto my digital keychain camera thingy so I can always carry it with me. Pretty fitting pictures for May Day, I think.

Then I wandered around the yard looking for stuff to take pictures of. I found this magnolia blossom--the only one from the tree I gave Will for his birthday. Magnolias are so special to us, and this little blossom is important.

Tomorrow, it'll be back to the veggie garden. (If I can talk myself into NOT going to the local library's used book sale. So....hard....) I've got to get in my potatoes, garlic, and green onions in the next few days. I want to have everything in the ground and ready for the watering system to be put in the first few days the moon waxes.
Then I'll be able to sit back and relax. Snort.