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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

Too Much Sweat – Will it be Worth it?

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I lost count of the T-shirt changes to get my garden make into some sort of change, but, it is well above 25. I went a little beyond but it will be worth it down the road. I pulled out the old 2X4’s used for the raised beds and went with 5/4X6 corral board to give me a little extra depth.

Rented a roto-tiller to speed the process up and sweated like a big dog. I worked some aged compost in both beds while I was at it. The right hand bed was the worst of the worst of the 4 for Bermuda grass invasion. I pulled out a huge pile of Bermuda grass and roots. Unbelievable how the roots run. Next week I will tightly cover this bed with clear plastic and “solarize” the weeds – i.e., kill them without toxins….. I like a chemical free garden for my veggies.

I have planted two tomato plants visible in the far left bed. They have been in for 4 days and seem to be handling the heat pretty well. I will add some fall potatoes in the day or so to this same bed. I have wanted to experiment with trying to grow some fall potatoes. I have about a pound of fingerling potatoes, cut and scabbed – ready to go in the ground. All of the commercial sellers look to be sold out so I am using store bought….. Not the best choice but it is just a $3.00 experiment.

I you look to the far back right in the photo you can see the dense growth of asparagus ferns. It appears that I should have a great harvest next year. I added a handful of 2 year old crowns the the existing bed in an effort to create a long term asparagus bed. If managed well this bed should produce for 20 years or more.

I also planted two mounds of zucchini squash. I have never had any luck but heard that if started in the heat of summer I may avoid the dreaded squash beetles. The other tip I heard was to plant hundreds with the likelihood the beetles will get some but not all of the vines. Well, my beautiful and loving wife has not approved the land purchase so I will be forced into plan C, D of F as I try my squash growing skills. The poles you see on the left will support my Kentucky Wonder pole beans. I love fresh green beans and they seem to produce well here in the Hoston area.

TTFN

Bishop

Too many green Beans!

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Too many green beans.

I returned home to my garden, my refuge, my place of calm and inner peace after two weeks in California. My wife took very good care of the veggies and berries in my absence, save for the green beans. The beans went wild.

I had planted poles in such a way as to lean forward from the fence to the front of the raised bed. I had hoped it would make picking a lot easier. In theory it looked like a success in the days before I left. I had lots of blossoms, a good number of early beans and many more on the way. In my absence the growing conditions must have been ideal. The vines hit the end of the 7  foot poles and still wanted to reach for the sky. The result was a mass of twisting and twining vines that drug the support poles down and snapped several off.

I picked a load of beans my first day back, had tons that went well beyond the stage to eat or can. I also had some bush beans planted in the area. They too were loaded. I have more beans than I can possibly eat fresh. I hope my worms can process large tough bean pods.

 I was thinking back to what my gardening friend Jane had told me about fresh green beans…….she got $8.00 per pound for them. I probably had 8-10 pounds, excluding those that were no longer tender eating size. I can see how a market grower could have a great cash crop with beans…….as long as they manage them well.

So, why the picture of my son Joe holding a nice fresh caught Speckled Trout? Last night I grilled the trout after marinating in a mixture of olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, fish rub with garlic and some sea salt. We had the grilled filets with my wonderfull fresh green beans and broccoli. A simple yet an elegant meal. I paired my meal with the Imperial Stout Ale I recently brewed.. I was joined for dinner by my daughter Lisa. We had a nice visit and spent the evening watching the Mavericks put the Lakers into a deep hole. Kathy was off to New York City and Joe won’t eat what he catches.

I am planning a new technique for a bean tower. Last year I made a teepee structure and it worked well. So, why mess with success? I guess I have a need to know firsthand what doesn’t work so well! Hmmmmmmm, what can I come up with next? Maybe I need to consider the concept of “design of experiments” and use a control to test against…..the teepee? No that would take the fun of failure away!

TTFN Folks

Bishop

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I think my wife really does love me. I was out of town on a job in the Midland and Lubbock areas of West Texas and unable to tend to my gardening chores. I flew home early last Saturday morning and she surprised me with a big basket of my home grown strawberries. Wow, what a gal!!!! I finished filling one of the 1 gallon freezer bags already partially filled in the freezer and started a new bag. I need to make another batch of jam this week and may fill the next bag by the end of the week….. I will be swimming in my heavenly strawberry jam – Yum!!!!

Today was a partial day in the garden and I only sweated through one T-shirt. I weeded, watered and finished pulling up the last of my Detroit Red beets. I still have a very beautifully leafed beet variety that I forgot the name of yet to harvest. Very nice looking tops and we will see about the beet taste soon. I made a pickled beet recipe today to eat like a cold salad – it is pretty tasty.

 I used about 3 + cups of skinned and sliced up roasted beets. FYI – drop the hot roasted beets in ice water and the skins nearly remove themselves. I boiled ¾ cup of cider vinegar and ¾ cup of beet juice….. I poured almost a cup of hot water over the beets in a bowl to make the beet juice. Once that mixture was boiling I added 2 tbs. sugar, 2 whole cloves, 3 whole black peppercorns, a bay leaf, about ¾ tsp. of sea salt and about a cup of chopped red onion. Brought it back to a boil and poured over the beets. Refrigerated for a couple of hours and man, they are pretty darned good! Recipe is almost exactly like one I found in allrecipes.com. Great recipe resource!

Updates;

The Mason Bees. They are rapidly depositing eggs and filling the tubes. I have about 11 of the tubes filled and sealed. Should have quite a few more next season.

The worms. I checked on the poor guys Saturday when I returned and they were trying to escape. I had neglected both the food they need and the bedding necessary for their comfort. I was able to feed them a big a big batch of strawberry parts and tops – see the comments about my lovely wife above, some old bread, beet cuttings and other veggie scraps….. They seem to be back to work and not complaining now.

My Green Beans. The Kentucky Pole beans are leaping and now blossoming. The bush beans look to be on the same time table.

Asparagus. Slowing down and will let them fern out. I put some Martha Washington in a few weeks ago and they are sprouting.

Tomatoes. Slow but setting fruit….except my Brandywine – I do have a few blossoms on one but I have my fingers crossed. The Juliet tomatoes and Creole tomatoes are doing well.

Cucumbers. I put up twine to let them climb this morning….part of the sweaty shirt stuff. My cucumbers in my friends backyard ( I put a 4×4 patch in his yard) are blossoming and way ahead of mine! Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Enough for now, hopefully blackberry news soon!

Bishop

The Harvest is Ramping Up!

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Well the harvest is ramping up and it appears I may have some competition. My wife snapped a picture of a night raider hanging out by our backdoor. We have seen him, or a relative, making regular treks out from the garden area near the midnight hour on several occasions. I see the tracks but no evidence of thievery yet.

I have had some brussel sprouts off the crowns and now the side shoots are plumping up, yummy  beets and beet greens, asparagus for the first time, the strawberries are really producing and vey sweet and my dwarf Meyer lemon is blossoming and producing.

The green beans are really starting to crawl up the poles and the bush beans are 4-6 inches tall. My swiss chard is a little slow this year but 2 or 3 plants will overwhelm us (really just me… Kathy won’t eat it) Cucumbers are really slow this year…. may have to replant the armenian variety as well as the pickling variety. It is still pretty early in the season so I am not worried. My tomatoes are in the ground –  the Brandywine tomatoes are absolutley the best tasting but they do not seem to be responding well. Fed them some fish emulsion today to help them along.  The Roma, Creole, Mortgage Lifter and Juliet are doing well as are the peppers and eggplants.

I made a cold pasta salad with roasted beets, beet greens and penne pasta last week and it was pretty good. It was my made up  recipe but lacked a little for seasoning/complimentary flavors so I will experiment again. Just picked some very nice beets this morning while bringing in the morning’s strawberries and asparagus harvest. I will try again over the weekend if I just don’t eat the roasted beets as they come out of the oven.

Kathy took excellent care of my green babies while I slaved away in Dallas this week. She won’t pull weeds but she does a nice job of watering and picking….. even froze a bunch of berries so I can make jam a little late this springr. My blackerries are beginning to leaf out so the May harvest may be a very good one.

The worms were fed today and they said hi to all y’all!  ; )

TTFN

Bishop

Back in Blogosphere – And Sweating in my Kingwood Garden

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Cleaning up the Garden
Fresh Beans for Tonight

After neglecting my garden for quite awhile and suffering through the closing of my previous site. Found this one that allowed me to archive my old site.

So, today, October 11, I was out chopping weeds, clearing the old vines from the Armenian cucumbers and pulling out the torch to incinerate the stubborn weeds. The torch worked awfully well! Salvaged 4 of the brussel srout plants and relocated them to a clean plot.
The recently planted tomatoes have blossoms but I am not sure they will produce by the end of the month. The shining stars are the Pole Bean tepee, the asparagus ferns, the Serrano peppers (too hot to eat but a beautiful plant) and if lucky a few Straight 8 cucumbers.
As always a bit warm and humid – it was a two shirt effort along with two quarts of water. I began pulling some of the rotted compost out and will unload the bin over the next few days. Then comes the hard work – turning it into the soil. I had such good luch last year with leaf mulch that I will triple that effort this fall/winter. By spring I hope to have the compost neatly tucked under with a smothering layer of leaf mulch to strangle the weeds!!!!!
I will not flood you with my ramblings but should be a little more regular (not due to my fiber intake!!!!!) with the new site and the  
cooler weather should be more conducive totending the patch and seeing my plants grow. Next blog may feature my worm farm – the little guys are working in the dark and being fed waste……hmmmmmm  sounds a bit like a mushroom…….mushrooms  could be my next venture.
TTFN
Bishop

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