Wednesday, June 29, 2005

a Chesnok Red a purple stripe Posted by Hello

a German Brown rocambole Posted by Hello

Garden Milestones

I harvested my first zucchini yesterday. It is the first June zucchini I can remember. I sautéed it in garlic scapes and mint with a little “salt by the sea.” I also ate my first snap pea right in the garden.

The scapes are just getting ready to unwind, so I harvested ½ of them. To a trained eye you can tell a Killarney Red scape from a Spanish Roja even though they are both rocamboles. The KR’s make almost a triple curl while the SR’s do a gentle “figure 8” kind of dip. The porcelains, like my Chesnok Reds dip their heads like shy swans.

The potatoes flowered on Monday and I hilled them up some more with straw today. They are Yellow Finns and they are in the best shape of any potato crop I can remember. It is linked to the vigilance on the CPB’s.

I have never grown onions before, so when they started sending up a bud top, I paid it no mind. Not a good idea it turns out. They should not do that. I cut them all off. I may or may not see bulb development.

The rattlesnake pole beans have figured out how to climb their bamboo. They are tenacious. It is my first year growing pole beans.

And finally the speckled swan gourds are putting out these amazing little flowers. Can't wait for them to bloom.

Compost Doesn’t Just Happen

I’ve been having some “issues” with my composter. First I am running three sites. One is for household scraps. The other two are for the majority of the yard waste. The yard waste is cooking along nicely at 160 degrees. But the household black plastic bin has barely reached 90 degrees. So I decided it was time to shake things up. I took out nearly half of the half composted garbage and put it in the wheelbarrow. Then I added newly mown grass … 12 inches worth … then a “green matter” compost activator and wet it all down with a hose. Then I added back the garbage adding in “brown matter” activator as I went along. I watered it well and closed it up. That was two days ago. When I checked it just now it was humming along at 130 degrees. Yes!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Hummingbird Moth Posted by Hello

When you can't see the deer, it's time to hay the field

It is a day that reached the 90’s inland and I am bundled in a sweatshirt here on the back deck awaiting Hunter’s arrival.

I thought I was going to get to add a new hummingbird to my Life List today, but it turns out to have been a moth, a sphinx moth, known as a hummingbird moth. It was attracted to the purple flowers now out on my sage. I watched carefully and realized that it had two little antennae. It looked a little like a flying “cootie bug.”

The spinach has been disappointing. It just sat there for the longest time and then decided to bolt on the only really hot day we’ve had. So I have pulled up the last of it and will stir fry it tonight after a quick dunk in boiling water.

I shall also throw a few garlic scapes on the grill tonight. It is fun watching them curl up on the plants. The rocamboles are gathering into a tight curl. The porcelains are dipping their heads like graceful swans. In only a few days I will remove the scapes to facilitate bulb growth.

I was able to hand fertilize a few of the zucchini this morning. I haven’t seen any bees. There are bees in the clover, but they don’t seem to want to venture into the garden. By the way the mystery “Amazon” zucchini is solved. Those unfertilized females never took off.

The hayfield is rippling with the same beguiling rhythms as the ocean. I can see a fawn’s head emerge from the tops of the grasses, but when she puts her head down to feed she disappear like a cormorant looking for an underwater supper.

Time to put on pants.

Friday, June 24, 2005

It's a Boy! A Better Boy ... my first tomato! Posted by Hello

snap pea blossom Posted by Hello

In between crops

I’m in between crops right now. The asparagus is feathering out and the spinach is bolting. The snap peas have flowers, but it will be days before I eat my first pea. Surely there must be a satisfying late June crop … something more than radishes.

I know ! It’s strawberries. I just didn’t have room for them, I thought. But next year they will get their own space.

The mornings are getting quite colorful out there with wide open squash blossoms and blooming anemones. At first it’s just fun to see green instead of brown … but now there are yellows and reds.

The final garden plan is at the end of this entry. There should be 30 red dots representing tomatoes in the ground. 4 Long Keepers are on (the) deck.

The scapes on the Ophios have started to curl. They will be ready for harvest soon

I hear it is pretty hot on the mainland, but there has been a steady 20 mph breeze all day keeping us cool. The smell of wild roses is carried on the breezes. Summer is coming into its own.

the final garden layout Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005

 Posted by Hello

Random Garden Observations

Well here we are on the verge of the solstice and the planting is complete. I put spinach seeds in the ground the very last of March. I started the artichokes on February 25. This planting and planning business can take a very long time. I admit to one hold out. I have four “Long-keeper” tomatoes in pots that I intend to put in the garlic bed after the garlic is harvested. That will bring to 34 the number of tomato plants out there.

When I arrived in March there was snow still melting in shadowy pockets of the yard and everything was brown. I went from noticing the first wisps of green in the field to a hayfield this morning that is filled with white daisies that are almost past peak. The yellows of spring have given way to the deep greens of summer.

I’ve thought often this spring about when will the day come when we are no longer unfolding and opening up to the glories of spring and summer and instead heading toward fall. When is peak? Is there a plateau of summer? Will I know it when I see it, or will it only be obvious in retrospect? I love the yin and yang of solstice. In that darkest day of winter was the seed and the promise of longer days. And so too this Tuesday will carry with it the opposite promise.

The Tomatoes

Sunday night is my night to “fuss” over the tomatoes. I return from the gallery openings and work on suckers and do tie ups. It’s a good way to keep track of the progress and to watch for hornworms. I am a little disappointed that my blossoms are not offering much in the way of fruit yet. So far I spy a few cherry tomatoes, but they are really tiny. Perhaps it hasn’t been warm enough. Here is the tomato inventory. Unless otherwise indicated they were grown from seed. (* = Cherry)

Big Early (purchased as plants at Longdale Nursery) – 3
German Johnson (potato leaf) – 4
Belgian Giant – 4
Prairie Fire – 2
Better Boy – 3
Old German (Longdale) – 1
Sweet Italian (Longdale) – 3
Boxcar Willie (Longdale) – 3
Sweet 100’s* (Arlington Market) -4
Sugary Sweet* – 3
Long Keeper – 4

I appear to have been a little too vigorous in my pruning of one Belgian Giant and one German Johnson and have turned them into determinates unintentionally. I think they will find a new route to fulfill their destinies. Sorry guys.

The Zucchini

Strange things are happening. The variety is Raven. ALWAYS the male flowers precede the female flowers. Not THIS year. I have three fruit without a single male blossom. Perhaps the fruit will wither, but if they prosper, I will need to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The Apple Trees

Matt Tobin dropped by yesterday to check on his “children.” He pointed put that on the year old whips, I should be sure to pinch the leaves on the bottom third of the tree as they appear and then higher up later in July. His wisdom on watering was 1st week every day, 1st month every week, thereafter every month. He was also careful to reiterate that next year if there is a hot spell I should be very attentive to their water needs. Second year trees need special attention in heat waves. I saw two munchers out there this morning. One was like a small ladybug and the other was an actual caterpillar.

I have blossoms on two trees. Is fruit possible?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

perfect birthday dinner Posted by Hello

"from Mother's Day to Father's Day"

What does a gardener most want for her birthday? The answer is -- help weeding. So early this morning on a day that promised record high temperatures, I dragged Hunter out into the asparagus bed to finish the weeding and fertilizing and mulching of the asparagus. It took two bags of manure (in which I found a lobster claw) and two bales of straw to get the job done.

Casual inquiries to my friends about when to stop picking asparagus came to a definitive answer in a phone call from Annie last night. “Michel says you pick from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day.” By 9:00 AM as the sun made it through the clouds, we had completed the task and took the first shower of what would surely be a four shower day.

The second most desired gift is of course gardening equipment. I have received my new watering wand which we purchased at Lowe’s when we were off last week. It has made watering the garden a whole lot easier.

When Hunter asked what special dining arrangements I would like for the day, I had my choice picked out. I’ve been eyeing a Lobster Tarragon recipe all spring. Yesterday while he was off island, I picked up three culls with crusher claws at Larsen’s, cooked and chilled them and extracted the meat. Then today we went off in search of the suitable “good white Burgundy” suggested in the recipe. A 2000 Mersault is chilling in the fridge.

Now the tarragon is healthy and abundant. Abundant also is the last of the asparagus crop. The added touch tonight will be the fresh spinach. I have it in a shady spot in the garden and hope it won’t bolt too soon.


For four servings:

One pound lobster meat, slightly undercooked (if orderingfrom a fish market request the lobsters be cooked 3 minutesless than for done; do the same if cooking at home – themeat finishes cooking as the dish is finished)
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped shallots
3 tablespoons butter
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried
1 ½ cups drained and chopped tomatoes. In summer choose the most flavorful heirloom tomatoes.
½ cup heavy cream - do not substitute light cream which will curdle in the acid sauce
¾ cup fish, lobster or chicken stock – do not use bottledclam juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Chop the lobster into 1 -2 inch pieces, leaving claws intact. Heat a medium saut̩ pan over medium heat and meltbutter until it foams. Add shallots and cook, stirring until softened Р2 or 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and tarragon,increasing the heat to high so that the tomatoes boil, losing some of their moisture. Add the stock, cream and wine and continue boiling until the sauce has thickened andreduced. Add salt and several grinds of pepper to taste. If serving immediately, reduce heat until the sauce is just simmering, stir in the lobster and cook for 1 Р2 minutes until the meat is hot. It will continue to cook as you serve it. Serve on warmed plates with your choice of vegetable and starch. The sauce can be made ahead, in which case I suggest the boiling and reduction be done just before adding the meat and serving.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Clockwise from upper left: Colorado Potato Beetle, Mexican Bean Beetle, clearwing moth, Tomato Hornworm Posted by Hello

The Old Testament

For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.

Exodus 10:15

Know thy enemy. I have been reading up on the most damaging of garden pests recently and have learned much. The pictures of the major 4 offenders are published above.

The Colorado potato beetle

I never gave much thought to where the CPB came from. I think I thought it flew here from Colorado each spring just as my potatoes were emerging. Only yesterday did I learn that in fact they over winter in the ground. I had no idea! It turns out they emerge from the ground about now as full adults and begin mating and laying those little orange eggs on potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes… this year it was tomatoes because tomatoes are in the bed where I had eggplants last year. Moreover, it is the larvae that do the eating, not the adults. So the trick is to catch the parents and scrape off the eggs. I am in the market for good CPB caviar recipes.

So right now I am into squishing and scraping. And I have put summer weight cloth over the potatoes

The Squash Borer

Knowing the life cycle of critters is helpful. The eggs of the squash borer are laid by a clearwing moth that resembles a wasp. It lays brown eggs on the stem in late June and early July. These eggs then grow into the dreaded squash borer that can end zucchini production (some seasons mercifully) overnight in mid-July.

I am planning my attack. One thought is to wrap the base of the vine in aluminum foil. Another is to use Bull’s Eye on the base of the plant starting June 20. The third is to cover with summer weight cloth. The problem with covering is the bees can’t find the blossoms. Hand pollination just seems … well let’s just say Gregor Mendel I am not.

The Mexican bean beetle

I saw thousands of these when I ended the green bean season last year. It didn’t slow the production of beans … or so I thought. Row covers might be the answer for this little devil.

The (dreaded) Tomato Hornworm

My first memory of these as a child was when my father gave me one to play with off of a tomato plant. I didn’t know I was supposed to be afraid. Now I always wear gloves when performing the unpleasant task of removal. The trick is to spot the guy who looks ever so much like a tomato leaf curled in the sun.

I never have been lucky enough to see a sphinx moth, but apparently they are in the ground now waiting to emerge and display their 5 inch wingspan before laying the eggs on my tomato plants. Last year I only saw one hornworm, so maybe I have broken the cycle.

Those pests that attack corn are worthy of their own chapter. I was able to keep them at bay last year by doing two things. #1 planting corn earlier #2 spraying the foliage with an insecti

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Rocambole Posted by Hello

Allium Sativuum

There are over 600 varieties of garlic in the world. But to make it simpler, and to paraphrase Julius Caesar:

Allium Sativuum est omnis divisa in partes duo, quarum unam incolunt Ophioscorodan.

The Ophios are the most fun, I think. Their partner, the soft-necked sativuums, have their own charms, but I prefer the mysteries of the stiff necked Ophios.

The Ophios (capitalization my preference) are closer to the wild. They send up a scape in late June or early July which if left alone would flower and send out seeds. I choose to cut off my scapes and use them in stir-frys and for grilling. There is nothing quite like harpooned swordfish infused with garlic scapes on the grill.

Not all growers cut off their scapes. They let them uncurl and flower and then they cure them with the woody scapes intact. The thought is that it helps to harden off the garlic and helps it to store longer. Most Ophios go bad by Christmas.

The scape will steal from the size of your bulb, and at the Ag Fair “size matters.” After many years of red ribbons, I finally won the coveted blue ribbon at last year’s fair. As I survey my garlic beds, I can already tell by the girth of the collective leaf sheath which my contenders might be. They are all Spanish Rojas. The German Browns were supposed to be even larger, but so far I am not impressed by their performance.

Ophios are divided into sub-classes. The Rocambole is my favorite. While the garlic itself doesn’t last very long, the scapes put on quite a show curling around on themselves almost three times. The other two subclasses are Porcelains and Purple Stripes.

Here’s what I have in the ground this year.


- Spanish Roja, Killarney Red, German Brown

Purple Striped
- Chesnok Red, Persian Star

- Music Pink, Romanian Red

Soft Necked

- Nootka Rose

- Inchellium Red, Susanville, Lukak, Oregon Blue, Chet's Italian Red

This is my eighth season of planting garlic (is that possible?) I have relied on Filaree Farm in Okanogan, Washington as my supplier of new seed garlic, though I have built my own “sire stock” over the years. I have relied heavily on the book they publish called Growing Great Garlic. By far the best performer for my climate is Spanish Roja.

Well, there will be more to report about garlic later during the Great S-Scape season.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

"I found them mating on a tomato plant"

I am sitting on the back deck semi-intoxicated from the ripe smell of autumn olives in bloom. It is a smell I associate with Memorial Day, but this is yet further evidence of our late spring. The field has lost its dots of yellow flowers and is now spotted white with daisies. And it looks like beach weekend for rabbits out there tonight. I’ve lost count

The big event this week was the installation of the apple “orchard.” The retirement gift of an apple tree has been transformed into a 6 whip “orchard.” Because the island is a red cedar tree haven, apple trees do not do very well here due to the dreaded “cedar rust blight.” If only I were starting my orchard in Virginia, I could rely on a law brought to my attention by Jim Fechner known as The Cedar Rust Act of 1914 which in part reads as follows:

It shall hereafter be unlawful within this State for any person, firm or corporation to own, plant or keep alive and standing upon his or its premises, any red cedar tree, or trees (which are or may be) the source, harbor or host plant for the communicable plant disease commonly known as 'orange' or 'cedar rust' of the apple, and any such cedar trees, when growing within a radius of one mile of any apple orchard in this State, are hereby declared a public nuisance and shall be destroyed as hereinafter provided, and it shall be the duty of the owner or owners of any such cedar trees to destroy the same as soon as they are directed to do so by the State entomologist, as hereinafter provided.

So much for “sic semper tyrannis.”

So lacking the long arm of the law, I have had to rely on rust free or rust resistant varieties. I have two “Jonafree” , two “Liberty”, one “Freedom” and an experimental “Arkansas Black.” Tea Lane Nursery put them in and they agreed to add a handful of Azomite to the planting medium. It will be 3-5 years before I see fruit. Right now I’ll be happy just to see leaves.

Then, of course, there are the deer. I learned that deer do not like to walk on chicken wire. I also learned that in the fall when the deer are growing antlers they like to rub them on the base of saplings. So the trees are in little antler cages for now and when the fall comes I will have to build a fence around the orchard. But it’s great to have begun this adventure that I have wanted to embark on for over a decade.

The first Potato Beetle reared its ugly self today. I found them mating on a tomato plant. Luckily I had harvested some bamboo yesterday morning, so I hooped in the potatoes after carefully checking that no beetles had arrived there yet and covered the bed with summer weight cloth. It’s not terribly attractive, but it gets the job done.

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planting the apple trees
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