War!

Jul. 11th, 2016 09:06 pm
clarentine: (cavalier)
Hornworms to the left of me, hornworms to the right--the carnage was everywhere. Tomato plants raised denuded stumps to the sky, crying out for help. Frass littered the scene.

I surveyed the terrain and struck! One hornworm. Two. Three, four, in quick succession. Then, employing an old scout's trick, I crouched and moved in closer.

The enemy thus revealed was appalling. Well-hidden, they had only to wait silently, they thought, for their natural predators to retreat once more, convinced that all was as it should be.

Woe betide those overconfident in their camouflage! I inched nearer, poised just so, and then snapped off a series of fast assaults. Eight-ten-twelve rapidly added to my coup. Fourteen. Sixteen. Eighteen!

At the end of that morning, under the pitiless bowl of cloudless July sky, I tallied my feat: four and twenty they numbered, brilliant in their sleek, striped skins, their lacquered horns raised uselessly against an unexpected foe. Dripping in gore, I escorted my prisoners to their ultimate fate.

And the chickens loved every one.

clarentine: (cavalier)
The garden's doing just fine, growing quickly now that the heat's arrived...wait, I didn't say what I'd planted, did I? Okay, for the record, this year we have:

Last fall's Rocambole garlics and the potato onions which are sharing a bed because they're both all-season crops. I decided to see if the voles, which have yet to bother the garlic, could be kept away from the onions by planting garlic in rings around them, and thus far the experiment has proven successful. I also put my spring-planted shallots in the gaps between plants. They're also doing well.

(Pam Dawling recommends digging garlic three weeks after the scapes show up, which is a lot earlier than I've done it in the past. I noticed scapes today, so that means the weekend of June 14, the garlic should come up. I'm curious to see the difference if they're pulled this early. I think the onions will have a while yet. Fortunately, I don't have to disturb them.)

Purple Peacock broccoli. It's a hybrid with one of the kales, I think, something with purplish, frilly leaves (like Red Russian kale, actually). Looks nice when I pull off the insect cover to weed that bed. This one's not to be harvested until some time in the fall. I think I planted it way, way too early. This is the first time I've planted broccoli, though, so it's all a learning experience.

The spring-planted Premier kale has long since bolted, but the leaves are still nice and tender. I cooked up a mess of the greens last weekend, and will pick and cook more this coming week, before I pull all the plants. The late corn should be in there afterward, but I think it's going to see buckwheat first for some green manure.

Speaking of corn...again this year I've tried Augusta early sweet corn. Last year, in a different bed, I got poor germination. This year, I got none. Too wet and cold? Probably. So, this weekend, I've planted the first batch of midseason corn (new variety Tuxana, as a replacement for the Silver Queen I'd been planting) where I'd planted Augusta. We'll see how it comes along. It certainly doesn't have the same excuse of cold and wet!

And, at the end of this bed, the tomatillos and peppers are doing fine. They all got off to a slow start - tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos - in the seed flats. Part of that was damping off fungus, I think, but the rest...I just don't know. Not warm enough?

In the next bed is even later-planted Premier kale, doing just fine (if besieged by weeds). The cilantro and tatsoi both bolted quick when the spring warmed up; I'm waiting to collect seed for both before turning them under.

The tomatoes I planted two weeks ago are really starting to hit their stride. This year we have Pink Princess cherries, paste tomatoes Illini Gold and Black Plum, and slicers Illini Star, German Johnson, and a Virginia variety of Brandywine. I need to get the first row of Florida weave trellising up, but it's been wicked hot today. Maybe tomorrow evening.

The cucumber trellis is up and I planted out the cucumbers yesterday: Garden Oasis (a beit alpha type) and Chelsea Pride (an English-style cuke), both old seed and showing poor germination after a couple of years, and new cukes Suyo Long (an Asian) and Empereur Alexandre. I really like the beit alphas for their tender skin and juicy, sweet, never-bitter flavor, but they just don't germinate well. We'll see how the new cuke varieties handle our heat and humidity.

I'm planning on seeding out some Senposai for summer greens - it was indeed durable last year - but that hasn't happened yet. Too many weeds to clear and not enough good-weather hours in which to do so. When I finally got down to it yesterday morning, I cleared half the bed before the heat and the sun sent me indoors.

I still need to plant out beans, both my favorite green snap Grady Bailly and the limas I grow for a customer at work, but that hasn't happened yet, either.

Yesterday I also planted out my summer and winter squash: old reliables Butternut and Seminole winter squashes, and summer squashes Costata di Romanesco, Dark Green, Black Beauty, and Greyzini. Both Dark Green and Black Beauty are new varieties; one of the two is a trap crop for squash bugs, a practice recommended by Pam Dawling. I could cover the plants, but that's a pain and they'd still need to be uncovered for pollination. If the trap crop idea works out, I will be pleased. I planted a lot, deliberately; I promised the woman who coordinates the local food pantry that they'd get my extras, so this is my attempt at planting an extra row (I should also have cukes, Senposai, chard, peppers, and tomatillos, and maybe tomatoes).

(I had two more of the volunteer winter squashes turn up where they'd been grown last year. My two varieties had cross-pollinated two years before; they gave me something we were calling Butternoles last year, a nice, tasty, bell-shaped squash. I'm hoping the two volunteers are both Butternoles and have put them in the row with the deliberately sown ones. I want to save seed from them this year.)

Last year, I modified my rotation plan and planted Lemon Queen sunflowers in the middle of the winter squash bed. I thought the birds had cleaned up all the seeds, since when I pulled the plants down there was nothing left on the discs. Ha! The bed that has corn and summer squash this year bore a beautiful crop of self-sown sunflowers first. I transplanted as many of those as I could to the far side of the new winter squash bed.

Still to plant out, though I have them in pots, ready to go (or nearly): Swiss chard, both Scarlet Charlotte and Gator (which is supposed to be perennial but froze over the awful winter); tithonia, the Mexican sunflower, which turned out to be a favorite of the Monarchs headed south last fall and which are great markers for the ends of rows; Sweet Genovese basil; and borage. I sowed marigold seed, but none of it came up. Fortunately, I do have some self-sown stuff coming up where I grew them last year. Those need to be transplanted.

And that, in a long nutshell, is my garden this year.
clarentine: (cavalier)
…to the water hose, that is. One of the (many) things we brought back from my parents' farm last week was a large quantity of soaker hoses. Four lengths of hose are now repaired and deployed in our garden in the beds holding tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs, and tomatillos. It was so wonderful to turn on the water this morning and then go about the rest of my mid-day, not having to stand over the beds and drag 100 feet of hose behind me. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
clarentine: (cavalier)
It feels like this whole winter has been a huge blur of cold, wet, snow, and more wet. Can't get into the garden to plant early spring stuff because it's too cold and wet. Severe cold (three nights of temperatures at 4 degrees F!) killed off almost all the kale and collards I had planted with the expectation of harvesting for the chickens over the winter and early this spring. Snow collapsed the low tunnels I'd erected over my winter greens-for-people beds not once, but twice, tearing holes in the cover. The wet killed off a lot of the winter lettuce and all of the beets. We have burned through so much wood keeping the house warm; it's a good thing we had extra stockpiled.

I rescued the low tunnels by laying plastic netting - the kind I use over the sweet potatoes to keep the deer off - over the hoops, then putting the second layer of frost blanket over top of the netting. Thus far, that's worked; where the frost blanket tore more, or tore in different places, the second layer seems to have stayed intact, and the netting kept further snows' weight from tearing more holes between the hoops.

I'm harvesting greens from the tunnels now and have replanted the tatsoi, which has already bolted, and the beets, and have reseeded the chicken kale and collards in the exposed beds. It's been so cold in the past couple of weeks, though, that I'm seeing no growth at all from the seeds.

Supposedly next week (well, beginning today, really, with yet another rain event) the weather's expected to give us temperatures more like what we should be seeing at this time of year - lows in the 40s, highs in the mid 60s. Maybe next weekend - barring more damned rain! - I might finally get to till the beds to remove the mole tunnels riddling them, and then I can get a late start on spring-plated things. Maybe.
clarentine: (cavalier)
Contrast this:

squash, sweet corn, cosmos

with this:

robust growth

That's two weeks' worth of growth on the winter squash vines and the cosmos. In those two weeks, we've received ten-plus inches of rain, and solidly warm (and occasionally hot) temperatures, and sun when it wasn't raining. Not too much wind, either; the corn is mostly vertical still.

I went out and took some new snaps of the garden and the current crop of wildflowers; check out my Flickr page for those - http://www.flickr.com/photos/8556491@N07/. Some great new cosmos shots!
clarentine: (Default)
With Tocara off to my agent, I’m freed to begin working on the next book. I have in mind something involving coal mines and railroads, Serpents and dragons, and the folklore of the southern Appalachians. I have a very tentative outline to help frame the research and an even more uncertain setting: the mining community of Switchback, WV. So: working title, Switchback. I’m sure that will change once I figure out what the story’s really about.

The research itself is off to a good start. I have three books waiting for me via InterLibrary Loan, to be picked up on Friday, and two more on my table at home. All are pretty much cultural grounding; as I told the librarians helping me round the books up, I need to understand what’s already there before I change it. I need to do justice to the stories already on that ground and to the people whose stories they are.

Time to break in a new research notebook.

***

My radish and collard and kale seedlings are coming up very nicely, but something seems to think the beets taste good already. I’ll have to plant more seeds and this time put a barrier up over the seedbed.

The seed garlic arrived in the mail yesterday! I’d ordered from Filaree Farm (http://www.filareefarm.com/) years ago and been very satisfied with the quality of the product. The garden I’d been planting them in finally got too shady, however, and I’ve been resorting to store-bought garlic for the better part of a decade. Now I have space and sunshine, and next year I’ll have my own garlic crop again!

This weekend I have a lot more planting in mind. Beets, maybe carrots, the garlic. Prep for the new raspberry bushes my dad will be bringing our way in October. Spinach, as much as I can fit in the two rows which are not going to be reworked this fall. Up by the house, I have mint in pots which need to be sunk into the ground, pots and all, so I don’t have to worry about them this winter (or water them next year).

***

I got the most lovely surprise harvest this week: braconid wasp cocoons on three of the massive tomato/tobacco hornworms I’ve been noticing lately on my tomatoes! Take that, Monsanto; I don’t need your help eliminating pests in my garden. The cosmos planted in the garden and the wild Queen Anne’s Lace at the wood’s edges have done their work, drawing and feeding the adult wasps which parasitize the hornworms. Next year, there will be more hornworms...and even more wasps. Huzzah!

(This is a great site talking about the war between worm and wasp: http://www.gardengrapevine.com/TomatoWorm.html. Great photos.)
clarentine: (Default)
Sempervivums are smallish succulent plants with really spectacular flowers. They look like cacti, but have no spines. I've long been interested in these plants, and this spring when I found myself working the spring garden show one booth over from Stone Crop Nursery, specialists in sempervivums, I bought five different varieties.

With my son's help - he works construction, and has brought me several loads of rocks of various sizes - I've been able to get the plants into the ground (along with the cacti that are part of his collection) and the rocks placed so that we have landing pads for feet interspersed with the planting pockets. I built in some elevation change, too, since a garden ought not be a flat plane.

As if to say how pleased it is with its new home, one of the sempervivums promptly flowered:
Sempervivum 'Rococo' flower macro

You can see the rest at my Flickr page.

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