Wednesday, June 11, 2008

It Was The Worms On My Green Beans That Did It...

Induced me to go out and get some insecticidal soap, that is. For a few days, I've been duking it out with the aphids on the peas. The little suckers are so thick and the fire ants farming them are so protective that I spend several minutes every morning with my bottle of Dr. Bronner's solution.

But yesterday, I discovered a worm's hind end poking out of one of my almost ready, beautifully succulent Blue Lake green beans. That is not going to work, my friends.

So I went out and bought some Safer Insecticidal Soap. It's certified organic, and won't kill any of my good guys--it gets only the leaf munchers. The package also says it leaves behind a pleasant scent. Ooookay. I'll let you know.

Monday, June 9, 2008


..of dinner came from the garden tonight! Woohoo!

We had pork chops and couscous PLUS:

  1. Fried eggplant--I'd never eaten Ichiban eggplant before. It tasted exactly like "regular" eggplant and was much easier to deal with, actually. To prepare it, I peeled it and sliced it into thin slices, maybe two quarters thick. After giving it a good soak in salt to get the excess water out, I tossed the slices very lightly with cornmeal. I think next time, I'll try for an oven-fried dealio, but tonight I went old school and deep fried them. Oh, the heavenly, lightly salty yumminess of deep-fried eggplant. It's my theory that if you get the oil hot enough, it acts like an oven instead of an artery clogging monster. I'm going to keep telling myself that.
  2. River had a piece of squash that I steamed in the microwave. She was not impressed. Sampling a bit of it, I have to say I agreed with her. The outside was sort of rubbery and the inside oddly mushy. The flavor was fine, but the texture was revolting. I hope it's just that I shouldn't have nuked it instead of the plant producing yucky squash.
  3. Refrigerator pickles--These are a favorite of my family. You mix up white vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Slice up a cucumber (two Boston Picklings...which were FANTASTIC) and an onion. I used a handful of red onions which clearly weren't going to "make." They weren't particularly hot, but they still had a good onion flavor. Dump the onions and cucumbers into the vinegar mixture and let the whole yummy concoction soak in the fridge for a while. This will keep pretty much indefinitely; we used to slice up a cuke every few days when I was growing up and add it to the jar. So good. (Jeffrey ate too many and said he was getting a "vomiting feeling." So...go easy on the refrigerator pickles.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to get some green beans out of there!

I spent a good part of the morning laying the rest of the tubing for the irrigation system. I didn't melt, but it was close. Hopefully I will be able to get the system finished up tomorrow. I am so ready to have the bones of the garden done--it feels weird to have the muscles already up and flexing. (Bad metaphor? Probably.)

On the pest front: the aphids staged a comeback, so out came the lavender spray again. Mwahahahahaha. I also spotted some stink bugs on the green beans and cucumbers. Argh. I don't think the lavender spray will get rid of those jokers. Argh part deux.

Also, I haven't gotten the composter going yet.


Irrigation. Harvest green beans. Deal with bugs.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Whatever It Is That I'm Doing--Is Working

Here's a shot of the garden yesterday:

It's taken from a different angle because, quite frankly, I am overwhelmed by the success of the garden and all of the green stuff therein. I'm not trying to brag; I'm just kummerfloxed by the whole thing. I've had gardens my entire life: little patches of dirt which Will tilled for me and into which I plopped seeds and plants and occasionally watered or fertilized. These gardens have been, with the exception of the herbs I've been harvesting for years, collosal wastes of time and money. Turns out, my friends, that actually putting work and thought and preparation into a garden actually means that you get, um, a crop.

My father poked at me today, asking how much I've paid for my cucumbers. I think his point is that I've spent a good deal of money to get the results I'm getting. I've had to haul in dirt and build beds and trellises and install an irrigation system, never mind the actual plants. It's a good point, but will only go so far, particularly in light of the thirty years he's spent turning his soil into fluffy beds for plants. (Never mind the gazillions of dollars he's spent on tillers and wheel barrows.) My money is well spent, the dozens of cucumbers on the trellis tell me.

That said, in so many ways, I have no idea what I'm doing. I've never grown in raised beds, I've never used intensive methods, I've never installed an irrigation system more involved than dragging the soaker hose around. I'm doing things I've only read about or heard about...or completely invented.

Case in point:

This is what one of my corn patches looked like after a heavy thunderstorm the other day. Actually, all of my corn patches looked like this, although the others were languishing on pepper plants and tomatoes instead of eggplants. I remember Daddy's corn doing this before and that he always let it pull itself upright or just chalked it up to a loss. In my tiny garden, each plant is valuable, so when mine only managed to get up to a sixty-eight or so degree angle, I staked it. I don't think you're supposed to stake corn, but I didn't want it to just wallow there. I also staked my peppers and I'm going to stake my eggplants. I don't know if I'm supposed to stake them either, but they're bending with the weight of their fruits and I don't want them to die.

I've put the volunteer AND Lemon cucumbers on tomato cages, because I don't know what else to do with them and can't figure out how to adequately support them. I guess I could let them run on the ground, but with my "stuff it all in" approach, I don't think that would work. (And actually, I'm not sure that the volunteer cucumber is actually cucumber. The fruit looks more like cantelope to me, although I didn't plant cantelopes last year. I suppose it could have come from a cantelope we ate. What do you think?)

I know. It's not the best picture, doesn't look prickly enough for a cucumber to me.

I suppose I could use a "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" excuse for the tomato cage/cucumber trellis dealy, but I have no such excuse for my Pinkeye Purple Hulls (Purple-Hulled Pinkeyes?) I originally wanted to use bamboo poles, but couldn't find anybody selling real bamboo that was longer than four feet around here. Then I thought I'd use (wait for it) tomato cages turned upside down

*Hang on...while I'm on tomato cages, what are you supposed to do when the tomatoes outgrow the cages? My Better Boys are now a foot taller than their cages and LOADED down with babies. Ideas? Please?*

and attach string from the cages through a hole drilled in the trellis frame I'd built over them. This wound up not working so well. Instead, I tied string to one plant, looped the string around a cup holder screwed into the trellis (one day, I will write a book about the millions of uses for cup holders) and tied it to the plant next to it. I repeated this around each circle of peas, creating a sort of self-service teepee for them. I was afraid that the string might pull the plants out, but this seems not to be the case. I wrapped each growing pea vine aroung the strings and waited to see what happened. (In the interim, I mixed up a mild Dr. Bronner's lavendar castile soap/water solution and sprayed the heck out of the aphids and fire ants that were having a party in the peas. I didn't want to run the risk of killing any lady bugs with my organic insecticide. I also sprayed some horrible looking white bugs that I think might be mealy bugs, although I'm calling them Satan's Little Fuzzies. The spray took away the fuzz and killed them dead. Woohoo!) What happened, you might be asking? This:

They're thriving--in fact, I spotted the first blooms today.

In the same bed with the peas (and with a couple of basil plants that I need to snip because they're going to bloom soon if I don't) are my Roma tomatoes (except the volunteer who is in a cage next to the eggplants). I'm trellising them using a combo of techniques I read about in The Vegetable Gardener's Bible and in Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I haven't written about this book yet, but I think that everybody who...eats needs to read it. Seriously. It's that wonderful and important. Anyway, the deal is that I tied sisal rope to the bottom of each plant and sort of wrapped them in order to stake them up. Holding the rope tight, I passed it through a hole in the trellis and wound the remainder around a stick. The rope can be wound tighter or let out as the plant needs. I have no idea if this is going to work. It seems to be: the plants are pretty well covered with fruit and seem sturdy. I worry what will happen in the storm, and getting the spool of sisal to not unwind is a pain in the butt,'s working, so far.

This is actually not the best photo of a trellised tomato, but whatever. Look how green it is.

My Boston Pickling cucumbers are growing insanely. I'm actually afraid they're going to tear the trellis down, they're so lush and crazy. The trellis itself is a bit taller than five feet two inches...and the plants are now a few inches taller than that. I guess I'll have to start whacking the tops of them off. I'm not sure what else to do with these lovely monsters.

Now, ask me if I've gone crazy with the watering of these guys. Nope. I spray them in the evenings if needed and have used the soaker hose a few times while the other system gets in place. Fertilizer? Not unless you count tossing the peels of our bananas on the beds. (I actually am going to start a load of compost tomorrow in the used composter Will bought off of the guy who sharpens our tools. Now THAT was an awesome Mother's Day present.) The only thing I've done is kept the soil fluffy and planted with the signs. (More or less.)

I'm actually a little SCARED to start composting. I'm afraid I'll wake up one morning to find that the cucumbers have grown over the house!