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Gardens, Bananas and Other Stuff

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The bees and some consulting work have occupied my time, keeping me from blogging about my sparse gardening activities. I am still getting dirt on my hands, planting a little for the fall winter garden as well as prepping the bees for winter.

The garden activities have also included photographing and marveling at the growth of my banana clusters. Three clusters of the Manzano and two of the Burro(chunky banana), both Mexican varieties. I suspect the weather will cooperate and allow them to mature before the threat of a freeze heads our way. They do tolerate some cold weather but the freeze this past January was both long enough and cold enough to damage the plants.

A project on my loooooooong hunny do list is/was to clean/organize my garage, a three car garage that does house a single vehicle. Lots of bicycles, hive bodies, beer making equipment, tools(multiples of the same type), camping gear and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff left behind when our children moved out. Why am I telling you this in a gardening blog? Well, I started the cleaning process and I am easily distracted, “Look a butterfly”,…..I found some dried bean pods gathered from several seasons back and rather than toss them I wandered out to the garden and planted them. Three days later they are sprouting! A check with google on the time to maturity for the Blue Lake pole bean variety, 60 days or so, and I might get lucky and have fresh green beans by Thanksgiving….

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Wow, in just three days this bean is leaping up. Looking around the base of the tepee towers, I see several others peeking through the leaf and compost mulch.

More gardening, I have several late summer plantings, a volunteer Matt’s Wild Cherry, a volunteer English cucumber in a pot(producing nicely and an heirloom Brandywine growing nicely. Beets and Swiss Chard are also in the ground hoping to get a good start before it does get cold. The asparagus ferns are starting to die back allowing me time to clear them off and add compost before next spring.

Our neighborhood is having its annual yard sale this coming weekend. I have been drafted to help! Yes Dear! I will help…..and have a table set up to sell my honey and jams. I have 40+ pounds of honey and about 40 jars of jams, strawberry, blueberry and blackberry, taking up shelf space. I will report out soon!

TTFN

Bishop

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Gobs and Gobs of Green Beans

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Even with good friends to share with, I am overrun with green beans. I built two 6-pole tepees for my green beams and a set of vertical poles at the entrance to my hide-away garden. I prefer pole beans vs. the bush beans…..why? – The bush beans ripen pretty much all at once and I used to be 6’3″ tall…..too much bending over to pick! Two varieties seem to do so very well in the Houston area, Kentucky Wonder pole bean and the Blue Lake variety.

I had a long weekend over to the New Braunfels  area of Texas over this past weekend. My “Goo” friend John picked enough for his wife and made a bee run to feed my bees in my absence. When I returned, I picked over 3 pounds of green beans on Tuesday…..Gobs and gobs. I had instructions from my wife to deal with them ASAP…..I negotiated a reprieve until this morning….I am an early riser and would have them dealt with long before she awoke….I even managed to prepare 8 quarts of sugar water for the bees.

Unfortunately – most of the green beans were on the larger side of what I prefer, so, add, bacon, onions, garlic and a long slow simmer……Yum!

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Just beginning to simmer.

The color of the fresh green beans alone is appetizing and the aroma as they simmer, so tantalizing!

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A six-pole tepee with two bean stalks per pole. I soak the bean seeds in water overnight to help with germination before planting.

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At the entrance to the garden…..at 6’3″ I still need assistance when picking the tall vines….lends credence to the “Jack and The Bean Stalk” story….

Now to brag a little. It is April 26th and the tomato harvest has begun. I believe that it is the first time time in many, many years that i have had ripe tomatoes before May 1st! Not complaining…..! Another good surprise is the health and productivity of my Brandywine heirloom tomato plant. I have half a dozen large fruits developing….If you have never taste a Brandywine….find one and try it. It is the very best I have ever tasted.  I have been diligent with my buzz pollination, electric toothbrush technique this spring and it appears to be paying off. Expect some more bragging and photos when I harvest!!!!!

juliet tomato

A bunch of Juliet tomatoes ripening on the vine!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Green Beans Anyone? 

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A few days ago I wrote about enjoying late November strawberries. Today, November 29th, I cruised through the the garden and snacked on the only ripe strawberry as I picked a handful of green beans, a pole bean variety that I planted in early fall. They keep blossoming and they keep producing! 

  
In another two days, barring a freeze – not likely- I will have enough to share with my wife… Although, She would rather have Del Monte canned green beans but I will continue to expose her to fresh green beans. Don’t tell her, but I sneak a handful every now and then into the canned green beans….. I do have to overcook  them to disguise them! 

I will have to plant more beets. It seems like every time the seedlings have emerged, still fragile, we get a heavy rain and they get pounded flat! 

  
Poor little guy! They should look more like this! 

  
Replanting tomorrow. Not a bad approach, staggered planting a will spread the harvest out a little more through the spring and early summer. 

PS- the sugar snap peas are about a month away from producing. 

Honey. 

  
This was the remaining comb honey still taking up space in the freezer. We sold about half of the harvest leaving me 9 squares to squeeze. Too bad I waited so long. Between the low honey temperature and the fact that our house is mid 60’s in temperature….. The honey flows very slowly. 

  Dump a square in the pan and mash up with a potato masher. Hands work well but I decided to take a less messy approach……my bride tells me that my less messy approach is still messy! I am guessing almost 4 pounds of honey will be captured. 
  
Sitting in the sieve and waiting and waiting and waiting. It will be at least an overnight weight and if push comes to shove I could crank up the central heat to 70 or more! 

TTFN 

Bishop

All photos from my iPhone

14.68 Inches in 12 Days

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It is actually a little more impressive than that. It was pretty much all concentrated during the past two weekends! The garden is very soggy. The beet seedlings have been beat down but I think they will survive.

I took a cruise through the garden around 7:45 this morning after meeting my daughter at the gym….. She ran a 5 mile race in the rain yesterday morning, I drank coffee and tried to stay dry.  The green bean vines are healthy and green but not much to pick. I snacked on the few pods ready to pick while checking things out – they were sweet, if that makes sense for green bean pods!

There are stil over 20 full sized green bananas hanging on the plant, waiting to be cut off and ripened inside. The miniature, teeny, tiny Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes are still setting and producing. I brought in a handful to have with my morning eggs.

Cherry tomatoes and a few ripened bananas. Time to cut a few more! Very sweet and very tiny.

Cherry tomatoes and a few ripened bananas. Time to cut a few more bananas today! Very sweet and very tiny tomatoes and sweet and creamy bananas!

TTFN

Bishop

Going Bananas in the Garden

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The surprise success with plantings this year has been the banana “plant”….. Not really a tree but most folks refer to them as trees. This was the second year after panting the first corms. I was given one that should have produced “Manzano” bananas but has yet to fruit. The other was a mystery….If Marcelino’s father told me I must have not understood or heard. The unknown variety has produced a very nice large bunch and along the way I learned a lot about the growth habits of bananas. An internet search leads me to believe that the bananas  are “Pera”.

Once the plant matures a stem growing inside the pseudostem (trunk for lack of a better term) emerges from the top. As it curls downward it has what looks like a purplish heart looking bulb, an “inflorescence”. Looks like tightly wrapped paired leaves.

Female flowers beginning to expand.

Female flowers beginning to expand.

“A stem develops which grows up inside the pseudostem, carrying the immature inflorescence until eventually it emerges at the top. Each pseudostem normally produces a single inflorescence, also known as the “banana heart”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana#CITEREFStoverSimmonds1987.

It was interesting watching the top two leaves open up and expose the flowers. The first that are exposed are the female flowers that develop into fruit. Each time the purple leaves open it exposes another tier of flower bracts. As the bananas fill in, maybe 8 to as many as 20 tiers the heart now begins to produce male flowers that appear to be useless….once they appear, they dry up and drop off. At first I thought I had a problem but learned that was normal.

My hanging banana storage in the garden.

My hanging banana storage in the garden.

Once the banana has plumped up nicely and doesn’t seem to be enlarging I have been whacking off three or four at a time and allowing them to ripen indoors. They will stay nicely on the plant until the weather turns cold. After that I will cut the entire stalk and hang it in the garage to ripen slowly.

Several ripe ones with the most recently cut.

Several ripe ones with the most recently cut.

.Indoor hanging storage

Indoor hanging storage

Gardening activities have included building up a raised bed by adding more compost and mounding it up for planting strawberries. The cucumbers are done but the dang asparagus keeps sending up new shoots, not many but enough to snack on while weeding. The Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato plant has begun producing again….they are small but tasty….pea sized to a little less than cherry sized. My Poblano pepper plant is churning out tons of dark green peppers.

The beginnings of my fall strawberry planting's. I will ad at least 50 more plants.

The beginnings of my fall strawberry planting’s. I will ad at least 50 more plants.

Teeny tiny Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes.

Teeny tiny Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes.

Hmmm - the beginning of some green beans....they better hurry - the air is cooling.

Hmmm – the beginning of some green beans….they better hurry – the air is cooling.

My bees are now residing elsewhere but I am making more local contacts that are willing to host hives for me. I have a home for the top bar hives about 5 minutes from my house – Yee Haw. The productive Langstroth is too far away but it is in a good home. I am aiming for 10-12 hives next year and possibly 20 the year following. The new Texas regulations allow me to sell at Farmers Markets now….as long as I do not exceed 2500 pounds per year….that is a lot of honey!

This will give you an idea how big the slabs of comb are. This one had an ear on the left hand side broke off.

This will give you an idea how big the slabs of comb are. This one had an ear on the left hand side broke off.

Side note; I bottled the Honey Blonde Ale a   few nights ago…..made with MY honey. It will be awesome! The color was perfect, a hint of honey flavor but not too sweet.

 

TTFN

Bishop

Foliar Feeding with Vermicomposting Leachate

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That is a bunch of technical gobble-di-goop that means I made a liquid feed sprayed on the leaves of my plants using the liquid that comes off the bottom of my new composting bins. I am now using “Worm Factory Tray Worm Composter”. It has a spigot on the bottom that allows me to collect the liquid leachate or as some call it “Worm Tea” off of the bottom. Many of the gardening forums are kind of split on the value of collecting the leachate and some say it is an indication a system that is too damp. The design of the “Worm Factory” lets the liquid to drop to the bottom and out of harms way and I am good with that.

My recipe, not exact science, about a pint or so of leachate(liquid off the bottom), a couple of tablespoons of agri molasses and two gallons of water. I ran an aerator for 24 hours before filling the sprayer and applying the mixture as a foliar spray. An online reference says – “Foliar feeding is a technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to their leaves. It has been known for many years that plants are able to absorb essential elements through their leaves. The absorption takes place through the stomata of the leaves and also through the epidermis. Movement of elements is usually faster through the stomata, but the total absorption may be as great through the epidermis. Plants are also able to absorb nutrients through their bark.”

I used an old beer fermenter that had some deep gouges on the inside…good place for bad critters to hide that can give your beer off flavors …. or worse! A small aerator with a small air stone I have used in my bait buckets provided the tiny bubbles. The molasses provides some food for bacteria to grow….the web has lots of don’t use molasses and some say use molasses and I just do what I want….sprayed the plants two days ago and none of them appear to be complaining today. In Houston….avoid spraying your tomato plants….it could increase the chance of disease. I just poured a litle on the soil beneath the plants.

Mixing bucket and my litle sprayer.

Mixing bucket and my litle sprayer.

Gate to may Garden

Gate to may Garden

Gate to my garden with the pole bean arches seen behind the gate.

Gate to my garden with the pole bean arches seen behind the gate.

A look back toward my compost bins and strawberry towers

A look back toward my compost bins and strawberry towers

The second round of the strawberry harvest is under way now. They tend to be a little smaller bur I think sweeter. The blackberries are ready to start picking. I should have enough blackberries to make some jam if the the birds and my wife don’t eat too may fresh of the vine! Tomatoes, yes, homegrown and vine ripe tomatoes are finding their way into the kitchen now. Life would so empty without “real” tomatoes, not the gassed store bought varieies! My peppers, Serrano, Poblano and Bell type are all doing well. I had higher hopes for my asparagus this year!!!! Not sure what is up with that harvest. Last year was outstanding. The pole beans are climbing and producing very well. I still have Swiss Chard that looks good even in the Houston heat.

Yesterday was a light day in the garden in terms of labor. I only soaked through two T-shirts! I am always pulling weeds, that is a given. I added some soil to a couple of the potato bins, i.e., grown above ground in containers. I will get a harvest in another 20-30 days it appears. I added some grass cuttings to my compost bin and then layered in some brown material from the other bin. I will check temperatures of the pile today. The addition of grass clippings really heats the pile up.

Heading out in a few minutes to pick before it gets “way too hot”.
TTFN
Bishop
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My Second Mistake of the Year

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Well, maybe that is an exaggeration…… I really just lost count and started over. Sometimes a mistake or an error can lead to a learning. I set up the poles in my garden for my pole beans just a few weeks ago. I  planted both a purple variety and what I thought were the Blue Lake pole variety. The purple variety are up to the 8 foot level and setting blossoms. My green pole beans acted like they were stunted. Guess what, those stunted beans are just 12 inches tall and loaded with blossoms…. You probably figured out my error….I planted bush beans!

It will be OK though. The bush beans will be done shortly and the poles are still there waiting to be wrapped up with the vines of the pole beans –  so into the ground went the “real” pole beans.  I should get an extended harvest…may have to remember to do it again in the late summer for a fall harvest. If CRS doesn’t overwhelm me I will plan it for next spring…seems like a good idea! – CRS is “Can’t Remember Shtuff” I run into it on an increasing frequency now… When it gets real bad it won’t bother me because I won’t recall that I have forgot whatever it was….

The example below is one of my pole bean teepees from a couple of seasons ago….prolific is an understatement!

This is an example of pole beans doing what pole beans do best! Obviously much more than a 12 inch bush bean plant!

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