Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tomato Jungle!

The tomatoes have transformed from a backyard garden crop into a tropical jungle with an ecosystem all of their own. I'm not sure what might be living in the underbrush of the branches and leaves, but I'm not making any efforts to disturb whatever it might be.

Here the dog and I are posing with the tomatoes to show their height. The Marcellino plants are all about 6' tall and full of plump green cherry tomatoes.


This is the first Celebrity tomato that will be ready for eating.


And his tomato brothers and sisters will follow soon behind.


We outlined the tomato bed with basil plants. I heard that basil helps deter aphids, and also that the tomatoes may take on a basil flavor when planted in close proximity. There are four kinds of basil in the tomato bed, so I am looking forward to some exciting tomato flavors! I have seen very few aphids among the 14 tomato plants, so there may be some truth to this companion planting technique.


The plants are getting so heavy that some of them are pulling their bamboo stakes down toward the ground. We will have to come up with a better method of staking next year. We attended the CFSA garden tour this past weekend, and I got some good ideas from the farmers on the tour for alternative staking plans.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Life and Times of the Sugar Snap Peas

The sugar snap peas have come and gone, and they were incredibly delicious! I didn't realize when I planted them that these are not shelling peas but that the entire pea pod is edible. I was pleasantly surprised by their incredibly SWEET and CRISP taste! I'm only sorry I didn't plant more of them, because they went TOO FAST! I had planned on freezing some for Winter use, but there were only about three meals in the 4' row I sowed.

Here are some peas ripening on the vine.



And here are some meals we cooked with them...

Red curry with chicken, sugar snap peas, red pepper, onions and potatoes. We usually add pineapple to this dish to cool it off, but the sugar snap peas did the job even better!


Nothing beats a nice sautee with butter and sugar! Don't cook them too long though, or you'll lose the crispness.


I will plant these again in the Fall when it cools off, because they don't like the hot Summer sun. I am going to go for a full 9' row this time though so they last longer! If you have space, I highly recommend them. You can order them here from Park's Seeds.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Garden Fornication

OK, so this blog isn't going to be as juicy as the title sounds, but you might learn a thing or two about how baby squash are made. And no, it doesn't have to do with a mama squash and a daddy squash being in love, getting married and going on their honeymoon.

About three weeks ago, I was excited to find that my crookneck squash had started to form fruit!


I was sure we would be eating squash within the next week or so. However, several weeks later when I was expecting to be harvesting my bounty, I saw that instead the fruit had all fallen to the ground. So, I consulted the Internet to find out what was going wrong. In fact, I consulted President Bush's favorite search engine, "The Google." The Google told me that my squash are probably not being pollinated. You see, female squash require pollen from male squash to make their fruit grow. Sure, a small squash will start out on the vine, but if the pollen doesn't make it to the mama, it gets aborted and falls off. Since squash pollen is very sticky, it must be carried from one flower to another manually. This is usually done by bees, but since we are killing off the bee population with pesticides and pollution, there are no bees to do the job. That leaves me ...

This is a male squash flower.


You can tell the male flower from the female flower in two ways. First, the male flower does not have a miniature squash growing behind it. And second, the male flower has only one "finger" poking out, whereas a female flower has three. Yes, this is technical jargon :)

In order to transfer the pollen from the male flower to the female, you can either use an implement such as a paintbrush to pick up pollen from the male and "paint" it onto the female, or you can pluck the male flower from the bush and rub the pollen onto the female stigma. This is the method I chose. I was excited today to find three female flowers and one male flower open, awaiting their love connection! I'll report in a couple weeks as to my success in squash fornication.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Great Plant for New Gardeners

If I had to give just one easy care plant recommendation for new gardeners, it would be Yarrow (ie, Achillea). Yarrow is great in any soil, does not require much water and multiplies very rapidly. It thrives in the heat of the Summer, rarely ever wilting! The average height is 2', and it is available in various colors (except blue).

This group of Rose Yarrow was planted last Fall and has multiplied from two small plants purchased from Lowes.


It hasn't started blooming very heavily yet, but when it does, there will be masses of these lovely pink flowers on the tops of all the stems.


Bluestone Perennials has a nice Yarrow offering showcasing the different shapes and sizes of Yarrow available on the market.

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