Saturday, June 25, 2016

No Small Potato

Potatoes grow fast and huge, here. The frame can hardly contain them.

A couple of days back I went out in the morning to find one third of the potatoes flattened. Raccoon? Deer? Owl flapping its wings? Coyote maybe? Don't know, but I had to string them up to get them off the surrounding plant beds.

We hardly, if ever, consider potato flowers. These are light, light purple. Most of the others are white. They're nice to see, and appreciate, floating above the dense bed of green.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer Solace

One of the benefits of getting to one's vegetable garden first, before summer's work begins in earnest, is not having to think about the garden at all when you are knee deep in summer's work. It grows itself, mostly, with an intensity only paralleled by the solstice's long day. 

One of the beauties of growing garlic is that it's harvest hardly coincides with any garden task other than weeding. By now, the first of the garlic is near completely exhumed (briefly hesitated to dredge up this word), and like any darkling, it mustn't be cast into the bright light. The first pulling is in the shade of the porch, but the full harvest is likely to be dispatched to the cellar. Here, in the midst of harvest, is Xian, a Turban strain, and one of the best for flavor and earliness. Turban's lodge, or fall over, as a way of telling unsuspecting gardeners that they need help -getting out of the ground.

At about the same time sizeable beaks are swirling above the Asiatic strains -here Asian Tempest and Japanese. These will be harvested next, not long after the Turban strains, and sometimes before.

Meanwhile the Porcelain strains have had their scapes (flowering stalk) cut, ready to be pickled or grilled or sauteed or...just don't leave them in the fridge too long before doing something with them. Behind the Porcelain are the Rocambole (shorter in the middle) and Purple Stripe. 

The French Grey shallots have also been pulled. I find that the height of the crabgrass is a useful indicator for timing the shallot harvest. Left behind are the Artichoke and Silverskin strains, those hardy bulbs that we use through next winter and deep into the following spring. 

When the the crabgrass first sprouts, it's the best time to get your peppers in, but I didn't heed the crabgrass this season. No, I put the peppers in a couple of weeks early -listening to the lambsquarters maybe. They're doing fine anyways, although I do think they are showing a little too soon.

Broccoli? Yes! And from seed no less. In spring? Yes! And no cabbage moths to boot. A quick, small-headed variety seed-started on May one and hardly two months later boom -broccoli. Go figure. I've got some of those very same starts in their deep cells holding back growth inside the greenhouse. They'll be put into the garlic beds as they clear.

Green beans? Not so fast. I seed-started these in the greenhouse on May one and planted them out a two or three weeks later. Nice flowers, no beans yet.

Cucumbers before June 21? Why, yes. I purchased a cell pack of four Spacemaster cukes from Shady Acres and planted them in pots raised well off the ground.

They won't ever reach the ground, that's why they're called spacemaster. They do put on an impressive display of cucumbers and have produced a handful of medium sized eaters before the solstice. I've seeded my own, too, to replace these after they give up.

Tomatoes, well that's asking a lot, isn't it? But among our six strains (of three varieties -plum, grape, and, uh, heirloom beefsteak?) these grape tomatoes, called Red Pearl, are way good producers.

In fact the deer are warming up for BBQ season by snacking on our Speckled Roman plum tomatoes. I grew these at the Beach Farm, and deer aside, expect them to do really well here.

Dill, cilantro, basil, and at the very bottom, cutting lettuce. In the background -common milkweed that has grown in this spot for eons, or at least since this house was built, so maybe the late nineties. Infringing on their bed are the potatoes. They are so big they require their own post. Look for that.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


In distress? I hope not. We love our dragonflies, a larger relative of the damselfly. They fly around eating all kinds of insects, sometimes landing on our shoulder, and sun themselves in the morning on the side of the house. Since damselflies are diminutive compared to their larger cousins they can easily go unnoticed. Because they are particularly fond of the arching leaves of our garlic, I see them quite readily. Today I took a close look and found that they came in three colors.



 And pink.

There are roughly 5000 species in the insect order Odonata of which Damselflies and Dragonflies belong. A good way to tell the difference between the two, other than size is the way they rest. Dragonflies rest with their wings spread while damselflies rest with wings together and parallel to their body. Each has incredible visual acuity -80% of their brain is used for visual analysis (the giant eyes). They are also incredible fliers able to fly quickly forward, backward, and hover. Few insects that can make you feel like you live in a magical environment, but these do (butterflies being another), especially when they arrive by the hundreds.

Having plenty of Odonata species means that your wetland habitat is relatively unpolluted. This year we have had an unusually late start to the mosquito season, not having seen any until about two weeks ago. The control agent who tests our wetland found no mosquito larva in middle May -again, highly unusual. What this means is less pesticide spraying in the area that undoubtedly kills Dragons and Damsels as well as mosquitoes and what else. I do not know if the Bt drops, made by helicopter, kill Odonata species as well as mosquitoes in the larval stages. Quick searches suggest no, but maybe inconclusively.