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Returning Home From Midland

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The Right Side is the Sunnier Side
Left side gets winter shade.

I returned Friday morning from a week in Midland Texas. Kathy kept the thirsty guys and gals in the beds well watered. We finally got some rain Thursday – not nearly enough to put a dent into the drought but it was a good soaking rain. I used my iPhone to shoot the two pictures shown. Not bad for an early generation iPhone…. I havent upgraded yet.

At the entrance on the left side my “volunteer” cucumber plants have been rewarding me nicely. I picked two very nice cukes for my salads and another 6 or so are maturing nicely. The green beans are doing well and I gathered about 3 handfuls. As you can see on the front right… the sugar snap peas are just reaching up to grab the twine. The bush cucumbers, back right, are beginning to produce little cukes but the weather may not let them become full-sized. Also in the right side beds are some radishes – I picked a few yesterday to go with the salads.
The butter crunch lettuce doesn’t seem to want to germinate so I reseeded two rows Friday AM…. hopefully the cool temperatures will help out. The kale has really taken off and the white onion sets put out a week ago are reaching skyward. I need to share a few  sets with my buddy John this week along with some of the extra garlic.  I also transplanted some broccoli today. The plants looked really healthy and they should do well.
I should be getting my strawberry plants week after next. I have 150 coming. 48 of them will be used to fill my vertical PVC towers, 24 per tower.  I am anxious to see how well they do in the towers. I will feature the strawberry plantings in a future rambling.
I am still waiting to see if the tomatoes will break color before the temperatures put a halt to their ripening.  It will be sunny and slightly warmer for the next 7 days and beyond!!!! So, fingers crossed, I will get some home-grown fall tomatoes.
TTFN
Bishop
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A Hint of Fall in the Air

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It is so nice to be back in the garden again. My daughters and wife do a very nice job in maintaining the garden in my absence. I like to get some dirt under the nails, pull some weeds – a never-ending task here , stagger plant a few more so everything doesn’t ripen all at once and thin out some of the new seedlings. I always tell myself that I will thin the rows so they are spaced appropriately but I seem to fall down on that task with great regularity.

As I worked through the  beds today I did my thinning, pulled my weeds, pinched off the terminal ends of a few blackberry vines and snacked on some very fresh veggies. The asparagus ferns are huge, heavy and falling forward. The lean exposed some new shoots that begged to be picked and sampled. Asparagus snapped off and enjoyed in its ultimate fresh state is incredible. It is sweet and very tender. I found some blossoms ready to pick on my squash….not my favorite to snack on but not enough to add to a salad. I picked a few handfuls of the pole beans and enjoyed a few alfresco as well. I will steam some to go with the BBQ chicken tonight. (Kathy already had asparagus planned – not as fresh as mine but still good)

The Carmelo tomato plant looks like it will ripen up a dozen or so tomatoes before it gets too cold. In the past week the grape tomato has sent forth many dozen blossoms but I am afraid time is running short for them to mature. They may behave like me, flirt with maturity and stay in the vicinity for appearance sake. I may have to age but I can choose whether to behave or misbehave – it is my choice. PS – The right answer is always – “Yes Dear!”

The Meyer Lemons are turning yellow… I will have to quiz my urban farming friends, Jane and John, on how to determine the time to pick them. I saw them down at Starbucks this morning. We chatted about all things growing except for the lemon talk….

The Kale has really taken off and so many articles I’ve read say that it is so good to eat and a healthy choice. I sampled some way back in the days when I worked the docks for Anglen Produce in Bakersfield. My memory says that the flavor was quite unremarkable. But then again that was commercially grown kale and not the homegrown, naturally raised plants – mine must be better……. we’ll see. Did I ever tell you the story about packing up bags of Serrano and Jalepeno peppersat  the produce warehouse and absent mindedly going off to the men’s room – Kathy says I can’t tell that story….sorry.

Pulled some radishes for tonight’s salad and added another two dozen seeds to the row. Staggered in two more rows of beets for spring harvest. The volunteer cucumbers look to be doing well and I should have some to pick soon. I am also feeling like a neglectful farmer…. I have not checked in on my worms nor fed them for nearly two weeks…. Not good! They have consumed everything in the bin and needed some attention. I prepped the new bin and placed it over the well worked mass of worm poop. They should now start the upward migration into the new clean home…..Sorry little guys!

Less gardening on my list for this Tuesday – On my list to do is boiling the wort for a new batch of beer. I am trying a clone recipe for a Northwest US brew called Dick’s Danger Ale. http://www.dicksbeer.com/brews/brew_1.php?key=1 Dark but not nearly a heavy as a Porter of a Stout. Should be yummy – is yummy a robust enough word for a beer? Hmmmm. Maybe- “hearty and satisfying!” – yes that sounds better.

TTFN

Bishop

Fall Harvest is Getting Closer

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The start of a homegrown tomato!

I wasn’t sure if the tomatoes I planted in late summer would give me any “maters” before the so-called winter chill hit. I was out this morning watering, looking and planning for what I want to put out next when I spotted this tomato. I had been brutally hot for September, too hot for blossoms to set so I had almost given up. Well, we may have homegrown tomatoes at Thanksgiving and probably earlier this fall. I looked a little closer and saw that I have a dozen or so that have appear to have set and lots of blossoms that are healthy.

I will pick probably a serving or so of green beans this weekend and I’m getting some good help from one of my green buddies wearing blue eye shadow. It is a don’t ask don’t tell issue…. as long as he does his job protecting my green beans I am a happy camper. Just an FYI…. sometimes they change colors and blend very well with the bricks. It seems that the blue eye shadow disappears when patrolling the bricks. They are called green anole lizards, Anolis Carolinensis. read more here; http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-19_lizard_green_anole.htm

One of the volunteer cucumbers.

My experiments continue…. I had spread some compost from my bins in early August and have found a pleasant surprise… I have some volunteer cucumber plants. Just for grins and giggles I let them grow and now I have some cucumbers beginning to mature. Time will tell which variety made it through the composting process, obviously my heap did not generate much heat.

Temperatures are still touching the low 90’s and lows in the high 60’s for the next week or so. We did have a few sub 60 degree mornings but they were fleeting.

On a last note, I am chastising myself for being so naive and trusting. I went down to Lowes and purchased some Miracle Grow brand “organic” soil for one of the beds that I reworked at the end of summer. I spread the “organic soil” and it looked a lot like sawdust. As I sorted through it I saw what looked to be saw dust and wood chips, and little else of the possible ingredients listed on the bag. A closer examination of the bag has a disclaimer for bags purchased in Texas and California…. it says the contents are “regionally formulated forest products – that is the first ingredient listed. I could not tell if any of the remaining ingredients were present – but to the naked eye I saw nothing but sawdust and wood chips…. The label says organic and I guess it is true but it won’t add any benefit to the soil until it breaks down in a year or more. Caveat emptor….. read the labels before you buy!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

A Little Rain – Finally

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A week or so away from a fresh green bean

Today we had a nice line of storms come through and bless us with about a half of an inch of rain. Now we are only about 21.5 inches behind. Even better is the fact that a front hits tomorrow and our temperatures will drop significantly! The stress from the heat has been a real pain in the butt! Some of my attempts to direct seed have worked and others are not doing so well. Most of the lettuces are not showing up. I will reseed them over the weekend. The old reliable, the radishes are flourishing as are the beets, turnips, carrots and peas – well most of the peas….

The previously planted pole beans are climbing and now blossoming. I have zucchini beginning to develop and the bush cucumbers may actually produce before it gets too cold. I munched on some late sprouting asparagus shoots this week. Wow, so sweet straight from the garden.

Rain, rain come and stay!

Seeing the water gushing down and out the drain is a good thing. Haven’t seen much of that since early spring. Forecast is for another chance tomorrow. Fingers are crossed, prayers made and maybe, just maybe we will put a small dent into this lingering drought. I will do my part and gather the neighbor’s leaves and shred them for leaf mulch/mold. They must think I am nuts when I go up and down the street gathering leaves……Am I nuts? – Don’t answer that!

Nice Time of Year to be Out in the Garden – Quick Update

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The yard is zooming with these little guys

Yard work and gardening chores are a bit more enjoyable now …. several reasons;
The break from the brutally hot summer we have been having. It is the worst we’ve experienced since our arrival in 2004 and apparently one of the worst on record.
The plus side – the hummingbirds are heading south and passing through. They seem to be lingering a little longer than last year. It has been so dry that they are reluctant to leave the feeders in the yard.
It is a joy to see these guys zooming all over the yard. The bigger bullies are always chasing away the less aggressive hummers and while chasing others sneak in for a drink. I have to duck on a occasion as they zoom past my head.

Now for the garden update. I was off in Covington,Louisiana this past week working for Chevron….I sometimes miss the old company and friends. Good bunch of rain early in the week so the plants were happy. Kathy kept the plants well-tended in my absence. My experiment with home-made seed strips appears to be working. I will keep up the staggered plantings to see if I can extend the harvest.
The pole beans are acting like Jack’s magic beans and don’t seem to know when to stop going vertical. I added extensions to my tepees and they have gone beyond the 10 foot height. I hope they start flowering soon. My sugar snap peas have popped up this past week and will be climbing soon.
Looking good. A longer post soon.
TTFN
Bishop

Before and After – Ready for the Fall Season

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Well it has been brutal working in the garden, adding the extra touches and prepping for my fall growing season. As always I will be experimenting a little – it is all about learning.

When we returned from vacation the gourds and the indeterminate tomatoes had gone wild. There was not a clear and easy path down through the middle of my two biggest beds. Then there was the ankle biting Bermuda grass. You know, Bermuda grass is not so bad when you want it for your lawn, but in a vegetable bed…. it is insidious! I had tried to mulch the Bermuda out but it is just amazing how it can find a little light and burst out. I promise, scouts honor, to not let it get ahead of me this year. Yes, I was a Boy Scout…..not like my nephews that made Eagle Scout – congratulations Wesley and Wade, but I did make about 12 merit badges.

I recently scared off a potential convert. I had been negotiating with my friend John to add a 4X4 bed to his existing 4X4 raised bed. Once he saw my jungle at the end of July and followed my efforts to reclaim/re-tame my plot he backed off. I think we can get him to do another 4X4 – walk before we run.

So, the experiments; I planted tomatoes in August in order to get another bountiful blessing before first frost. The Carmello variety is setting some nice big flowers that may bear fruit. The jury is out on the others. The pole beans are climbing like crazy so I am optimistic for them. The Serrano Pepper plant is loaded with blossoms – 100’s. They just need to set. After solarizing my problem bed for 5+ weeks, I pulled the plastic off a couple of days ago and have begun planting it. I am trying Bush Cucumbers, Swiss Chard (always does well), the first of some staggered lantings for my beet rows, sugar snap peas and I will get some carrots going this weekend. I will continue to stagger plant beets and carrots about every 3 weeks. I have a couple of recently planted squash plants that have not shown signs of distress so I am hopeful. Lettuce will come in another few weeks. I have 150 strawberry plants being shipped the first week of November. I had very few survive this brutal summer.

I also poured a walkway down through the middle of my large beds. I used one of those forms that looks like irregular stones .Kathy wondered why I was pouring during the 105 deg weather and not waiting until December. I didn’t have a good answer other than I just wanted to get it done!  I think it looks good and should keep the mud away…..if it ever rains again. We are over 20 inches behind.

Here is a link to a cool site for backyard farming;

http://www.homefarming.com/

Look for another installment in a couple of weeks.

TTFN

Bishop

An August Update

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Compare the garden beds from the “Too Much Sweat” post to now. A lot is going on. On the right hand side I am about 3 weeks into the solarizing effort to eradicate the Bermuda grass….. I hope! The left side is beginning to show signs of life. I have a nice Serrano Pepper Plant with lots of blossoms. A squash plant is emerging, the pole beans are beginning to climb and I have
three fall tomato plants struggling against the heat. In the background my asparagus ferns are cranking a ton of energy back into the roots for storage. I am so looking forward to the bounty of spears for next year;

“From these “ferns”, the mature plant manufactures food and stores it in “storage roots.” This reserve supplies the energy necessary to produce spears the following year.”

Click on the photos to see them in larger size.

I am mulching like crazy. I have been using the grassclippings and a big pile of leaves left over from the fall collection to conserve moisture. We are on mandatory water restriction here in Kingwood now. We are over 20” of rain behind for the year.

I am still sweating though. Between the beds I am poring 2’X2’ squares of rock looking concrete. The mold handles about all of an 80# sack of cement. I am adding a buff color for grins and have to say that it should look nice when done. The pouring and finishing of the squares sucks the water out of the body! I sweat through one T-shirt per square.

I am always amazed at how the beans always twist the same direction when they climb. Yesterday I swear that the two climbing now grew 6 inches overnight. My guess is that I will pick beans before the end of September. That will be the second crop for the year. I love fresh green beans. We sure could use some help for rain……please, dance, chant or pray for rain……even nice thoughts will be appreciated!

TTFN

Bishop

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