Container Garden Update — August 12, 2018

-A.J.

The warm, sunny, 80ish degree weather is continuing. Fall is just around the corner and the garden is showing signs of wrapping it up. The tomatillos in particular need to be harvested since the plants are going downhill fast. We also found one “bad” leaf on the basil plant. By now we’ve come to realize that means it’s time to really start harvesting basil like there’s no tomorrow.

Here’s the basil box after we cut out about 1/3 of it and spread the bounty around the neighborhood:

180812 basil

Both of the pepper boxes fell over this week — onto the basil. They’re both really leaning, so we just spun one of the boxes around so that they could lean on each other for support:

180812 peppers

I think maybe something more substantial than Ultimato cages may be required in the future.

The Rattlesnake pole beans have basically taken over the trellis intended for tomatillos:

180812 beans

Some of the tomato vines are breaking under their own weight:

180812 tomato

We did get three “harvests” this week, plus about 10 pounds of pole (Fortex) beans. Here are Oregon Spring tomatoes, tomatillos, and a relatively photogenic cucumber:

180812 harvest1

5 pounds of tomatillos:

180812 harvest2

We should be able to fill another 3-4 sheet trays with tomatillos in the next few days.

Finally, some of the weeks’ tomatoes.

180812 harvest3

(L-R) Taxi, Black Krim, Oregon Spring, Roma, more Fortex beans.

We should see a deluge of ripening fruit the next couple of weeks. It’s definitely going to keep us busy.

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Update — July 29, 2018

-A.J.

The last week has all been days over 80 – sometimes well over 80. This is one of those nights. If you squint you can actually see the heat hanging in the air. In some respects it’s gone from too cool to too hot without any “nice” weather in between.

This week’s lesson:   Next year we’re growing the pole beans on the north side of the trellises. Here a picture of the pole beans “competing” with the cucumbers (left) and tomatillos (right):

180729 beans and cukes

This week’s other lesson:  Growing pole beans on the 8′ trellis is a good idea… if you’re 8′ tall (The pole beans are on the far left of the picture sharing the trellis with the Tromboncino. The Black Krims in the center container are dwarfed by everything going on, and they’re over 7′ tall):

180729 beans and zucchini

I pruned the tomato plants on Saturday and found a couple of ripe Oregon Spring tomatoes. It feels really late, but checking the spreadsheets shows that somewhere between the last week of July and the first week of August is usually when we get the first tomato harvests. You can see the build-up to big harvests coming:

180729 tomato

The peppers are ripening too. (Jimmy Nardellos in the foreground, Carmens on the right.):

180729 peppers

The basil. No matter how much we harvest it bounces back:

180729 basil

This picture probably represents the last overview of the garden before it starts looking ragged. (Tomatoes left and in the front 3 left boxes, two pepper boxes in the center front, then the basil on the right. In the rear (L-R) are the beans, Tromboncino, tomatillos, beans, and cucumbers:

180729 overview

A harvest picture — bush “Maxibel” beans on the left, tromboncino in the center, pole “Fortex” beans on the right:

180729 harvest

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Update — July 14, 2018

-A.J.

The highs have been near 80 for the past few days. I did a little bit of pruning just so that we could move around in the garden. That, and I pruned a fair amount of dead and yellow stuff out of the Violet Jasper tomato plant. The Violet Jasper is going to need to turn it around fast to not be considered a washout, and I have my doubts.

Overall though — it’s been sunny and warm. The garden hasn’t required any real maintenance other than watering. The plants (with one exception) still look great. We’ve harvested a few zucchini and the cucumbers and beans will be soon to follow. In a lot of ways it’s the nicest time of the year in the garden.

The transplanted strawberries. All of the lighter green growth on the plant in the foreground is new growth. Pictured with the 2nd-year garlic chives and thyme:

180714 strawberries

The 1st-year asparagus is (are?) exceeding my top-end expectations. Even the few transplants are sending up new growth:

180714 asparagus

The front-yard salad table has three levels and is protected by shade cloth. The top level has basically fried off for the summer anyway. There are still lettuce and parsley on the bottom two levels, the pictured lettuce are on the north side of the middle level. The brown “growth” is the end of the peas:

180714 salad table

Taxis:

180714 tomato

Carmen peppers:

180714 carmen pepper

The Fortex and Rattlesnake pole beans. Cucumbers on the left, tomatillos on the right, Tromboncino in the right background. Note the Tromboncino vine growing up and out of the 8′ trellis. On the far side of the Tromboncino are more Fortex beans which are popping up over the top of the trellis as well:

180714 beans

The cucumbers are ready tomorrow or the next day:

180714 cucumber

The Tromboncino trellis:

180714 tomboncino overview

We harvested a few of these today — we’ll be more likely to get more big fruits if there’s a little less competition:

180714 tromboncino

An overview from the “front”, facing the house:

180714 overview

 

We’ve been making a point to harvest the basil a little more aggressively and frequently and the plants have responded well. And we get more dinners like this — two flatbreads, the one on the right is topped with a small amount of melted manchego and is about to be finished with basil pesto:

180714 pesto

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Update — July 1, 2018

-A.J.

The weather continues to sort-of-but-not-exactly cooperate. The forecast has called for a little rain the last few days, and it’s misting at the moment.

The raspberries haven’t gotten very tall, but there’s still a good amount of fruit:

180701 raspberries

There are two boxes (4 plants) of tomatillos. All of the plants started leaning strongly to the south about two weeks ago. Still, that’s why they’re trellised. I’m guessing the yield is going to be good:

180701 tomatillo

The Tromboncino plants are now well over 6′ tall. We should start seeing big fruits soon:

180701 tromboncino

The Taxis:

180701 taxi

The pole bean plants are going crazy though we haven’t seen any actual beans yet. There are two boxes of 20 plants each in the foreground. The box on the left (Fortex) got a one week head start on the right box (Rattlesnake):

180701 pole beans

An overview picture directly facing the photo above:

180701 overview2

An overview from the “front”:

180701 overview1

Last picture, the asparagus boxes. It’s year 1 and I feel like they’re doing well. They’re still sending up lots of new shoots:

180701 asparagus

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Update — June 17, 2018

-A.J.

Nights continue to be cool and the basil is hating it. It’s supposed to be warming into the 70’s and 80’s this week, and the lows should be in the mid-50’s. Hopefully it’s full speed ahead the rest of the summer.

The transplanted strawberries are looking happier. The damaged leaf on the left is old. The growth in the center is new:

180617 strawberries

The cucumbers have tiny proto-cucumbers (bottom flower):

180617 cucumber

The Tromboncino have finally reached the trellis. There are some small fruits at the bottom of the plants:

180617 tromboncino

The tomatillos have many blooms and a few fruit. The bees love the blooms:

180617 tomatillo

Four of the five tomato boxes. The two boxes on the right contain indeterminates. The white pvc supports are intended to discourage blowovers:

180617 tomatoes

 

A “reverse-angle” overview:

180617 overview

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

GNOIF: My Dad Says GNOIF is Lazy

-A.J.

GNOIF #32 recap — GNOIF: My Dad Says GNOIF’s Lazy  (Worker placement games, though we didn’t really offer many games in that genre. The title is a riff on the Airplane line:  “I think you’re the greatest, but my dad says you don’t work hard enough on defense.” (spoken by the kid in the cockpit to Kareem.))

Games That Got Played:  Deadwood Studios, King Domino, Sagrada, Ultimate Werewolf – One Night, Viticulture

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Castles of Burgundy, Darkrock Ventures, Kill Dr Lucky, Rocketville

Much of the crowd broke into two big groups. One group played a marathon game of Viticulture. The other played Deadwood Studios. The rest of us started with Sagrada, then moved on to a few games of King Domino. Once everyone was good and tired of thinking it was time for the social Ultimate Werewolf.

It was the biggest turnout in over two years. Thanks to everyone who played!

Container Garden Update — June 10, 2018

-A.J.

The weather continues to be cool, cloudy, and wet. Everything is growing slowly. Today it’s partly cloudy/partly sunny and fairly windy, which makes the photography a little hit and miss.

The raspberries between gusts:

180610 raspberries

This whiskey barrel hosts bush-filet-type Maxibel beans, some Marigolds, and other flowers. Interestingly, the bugs have mostly left the beans alone this year. Could it at least partly be due to the Marigolds helping out and repelling whatever it was that ate the beans last year?

180610 whiskey barrel beans

When we moved into the house the raised beds were a neglected mess. They were mostly overgrown with mint. There was a rosemary plant that has since frozen off and some strawberries that were constantly under attack from weeds, mint, and bugs. We tried moving the strawberries to another location, but we recently re-planted them right back where they started, only this time they have mulch to help combat the weeds and mint.  (Eliminating the mint in the raised beds has been a years-long project and it appears that we’re finally mostly rid of it. We used thick layers of newspaper for starters.)

The south bed now holds strawberries, thyme, chives, garlic chives, and a big sage plant that needs constant pruning so as not to take over. Everything is a little bedraggled right now with all of the mulching and transplanting but they should perk up soon:

180610 raised bed 1

The middle raised bed contains thyme, rosemary which needs pruning, oregano, and lavender. The lavender has been here since the beginning. The rosemary was a spindly $3 mother plant that we purchased at the Seattle Master Gardeners plant sale three years ago. This box still needs some work, but it’s miles ahead of where it was when we moved in.

180610 raised bed 2

And the new asparagus raised bed. Two more plants popped up under the oak tree and were moved to these beds. We added fencing yesterday to try to keep the dog from trooping through the beds:

180610 raised bed 3

The zucchini seem to have responded well to being thinned to one plant per hole. On the left are Fortex (pole) beans. We added more trellis netting to try to discourage them from wrapping around the zucchini. (Which might be fine anyway, I have no idea. No sense making it “interesting”.)

180610 zucchini and beans

The cucumbers were thinned to about two plants per hole. We may try one plant per hole next year, but that seems potentially dicey. Fortex beans are on the right:

180610 cucumber

The cucumber-adjacent planting of Fortex beans (foreground), and Rattlesnake beans (background). The Fortex beans had a head start. They’re very cooperatively wrapping themselves in the trellis netting and around the 2×2 trellis poles:

180610 pole beans

The Fortex are also getting a new leaf shape, which I assume is what they produce the rest of the way (compare the center of the next picture with the bottom of the previous picture). You can also see how the beans are wrapping through the netting:

180610 bean leaf closeup

The more robust of the two tomatillo boxes:

180610 tomatillo

 

An overview picture — here’s an example of why I usually try to get all the photography done in the morning, before the sun peeks over the house. The picture is facing mostly NorthEast. [L-R] along the grass:  box of two Romas, box of two Oregon Spring tomatoes, box of Taxi and Paisano, pepper box, pepper box, basil. In the background to the right side are the cucumbers, with the tomatillos behind that and the big zucchini trellis all the way in the back. There are also two tomato boxes along the north-center side of the patio — one box of two Black Krim and one box with Violet Jasper and Cherry Bomb tomatoes.:

180610 overview

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

Container Garden Update — May 27, 2018

-A.J.

It was cloudy and cool for much of this week, and it got down into the high 40’s at night. The weather slowed growth for sure.

Before a couple of the cold nights we attached a plastic hoop house over the basil to be on the safe side:

180527 basil

There are supposed to be a few more nights in the 40’s between now and June 1, so I left the metal hoops on that box for now. We’ve used mini hoop houses like this one in the past for winter gardening. (The original “hoop house” post called for dowels and pvc for the support. Now we’re using wire bent to shape, with clothespins to hold the plastic in place. Much simpler and cheaper. The idea works great with shade cloth or row covers too.)

The Fortex beans might have benefitted from a hoop house as well, but they seem to be ok with the fringy-cold weather so far:

180527 fortex beans

The Fortex beans went from “nothing” to “that” in two weeks. If you look closely behind the Fortex there are Rattlesnake beans that were planted a week ago. They’re just starting to poke out of the soil after the cool week. We hung two pieces of scrap trellis netting up to the tops of the cucumber box (left) and tomatillo box (rear). We’ll see how that works out.

The cucumbers are off to a good start. It’s hard to believe we’ll get ~50 pounds of produce from these:

180527 cucumber

The tomatillos were getting floppy, and the forecast called for gusty 30 mph winds, so I stuck a dowel into the soil next to each of the tomatillos and used velcro plant ties to hold them up:

180527 tomatillo

The Tromboncino zucchini. I over-planted last year, so this year I figured I’d over-correct and leave just one plant per hole. The new leaves look great, so hopefully the strategy will pay off. (Note the holes for the Fortex beans to the far side (north) of the zucchini. They were planted last week at the same time as the Rattlesnake beans in the earlier picture):

180527 tromboncino zucchini

The new asparagus received mulch around Mother’s Day and continue to do well. (Compare to two weeks ago.) There are 3 more asparagus from the batch from 3 years ago that are under the shade of our oak tree. I’ll likely try to rescue/transplant them to the box soon. As it turns out, under an oak tree is not an ideal location for asparagus. (Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like the shade of the oak tree is especially dark this year. It’s a wonder grass does passably well under the oak.)  Looking at the picture — it seems like a lot of the larger plants are female, which I guess is less than ideal, but should be fine anyway:

180527 asparagus

A view from the back garage door looking out to the yard:

180527 back view

 

We now have some pea flowers happening, and the salad table is finally ready to start harvesting!:

180527 salad table

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

(Trans)Planting Day, And Other Pictures From Around The Yard

-A.J.

Last Saturday was the Seattle Tilth vegetable sale. The weather is supposed to be warm this coming week, so Saturday became Transplant Day:

180513 overview

The 2018 Plant List:

1 Box Black Krim tomatoes (2 plants. 75 day indeterminate)

1 Box Oregon Spring tomatoes (2 plants. 60 day determinate.)

1 Box – Violet Jasper & Cherry Bomb tomato (Both are cherry/small indeterminates. 75 and 64 days respectively.)

1 Box – Taxi & Paisano (Taxi’s are yellow 65 day determinate. The Paisano are a 68 day determinate “San Marzano type sauce tomato”.)

1 Box – Roma (2 plants. 75 day determinate.)

That’s 3 boxes of determinates and 2 boxes of indeterminates.  I think that’s about as many indeterminates as will comfortably fit on the patio.

1 Box Tromboncino zucchini (2 plants)

1 Box Marketmore 76 cucumbers (4 plants)

2 Boxes Verde Tomatillo (4 plants total.) We’ll use roasted tomatillos either in salsas or as a marinade. We’ve found we’re using them up faster than peppers, so this year we’ve taken one of the pepper boxes and turned it into a tomatillo box.

2 Boxes peppers (12 plants total.  10 Carmen and 2 Jimmy Nardello.) We have plenty of hot peppers in the freezer and dried in the pantry. Skipping a year of hot peppers won’t be the worst thing. The Carmen’s are consistently a super producer for us. We’re going to give the Nardellos another try — last year they sort of got out-competed.

1 Box set aside for basil. (6 plants, about early June)

I think overall the quality of the plants at the sale was pretty good this year. Hopefully that will translate into good yields.

We purchased a few City Pickers. They were purchased specifically for pole beans. The City Pickers are a little wider and shallower than the EarthBoxes, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to squeeze them in at the ends of the trellises. According to the instructions you can do 20 pole beans. This box just got planted with Fortex, which is a stringless Haricot Vert variety:

180513 new container

Continuing with the “container” theme, the raspberries are looking happy this year:

180513 raspberry

The salad table is slowly coming around. It’s been a cool spring and I think it set everything back a couple of weeks. Pictured are romaine, Tom Thumb lettuce, frilly cilantro, dill, and spinach:

180513 salad table

It’s year 1 for the asparagus and we’re babying the heck out of it. This picture was taken right before I added the last of the soil. We’ll give it another 7-10 days and top it with mulch. I think almost every crown has come up:

180513 asparagus

We try to make a point to use NW native plants as ornamentals. This is a Pacific Bleeding Heart:

180513 bleeding heart

A cheerful blue weed that volunteers every year. I don’t believe we purchased it:

180513 blue weed

Bluebells in poor light — I don’t know if they’re native but I’ve seen them around quite a bit in odd places. There are maybe half a dozen of them in shady spots in the back yard:

180513 bluebells

The Shooting Star that is native to the Northwest. I believe it’s “Henderson’s”, or “Pacific”:

180513 shooting star

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

And Happy Mother’s Day.

Initial Impressions Of Three New Hand Tools For Gardening

-A.J.

We have enough whiskey barrels and raised beds now that I thought it might be helpful to purchase some hand tools specifically designed for small weeding tasks. I went with a Hori Hori knife, a Japanese sickle, and a CobraHead weeder.  Three tools was probably overkill, but I’ve wanted to try a Hori Hori knife and a Japanese sickle for quite a while. The CobraHead looked interesting too, and I thought it might work best on the dandelions and similar weeds with a long taproot.

What follows are my initial impressions of each tool.

First up:  The CobraHead

180428 cobrahead

The CobraHead worked well specifically on dandelions. To use, just smack down behind the root and pull back towards yourself. For big weeds you pull the weed with your off hand while you’re pulling on the CobraHead. It seemed to get all of the taproot about half the time, and I’d say it got most of the taproot most of the rest of the time. The instructions say not to use the tool as a pry bar, but the shape almost begs for it to be used that way. I’m not going to be shocked if I get a little too enthusiastic at some point and wind up breaking off the tip.

My feeling is that we’ll mostly be using the CobraHead in the yard on dandelions and maybe on weeds that live in cracks in the cement. We may use it to help with seeds and transplants, but I think the next tool will get that call…

The Hori Hori knife:

180428 hori hori

Sharp! Sharp! Sharp! And it comes with a sharpening tool. The Hori Hori knife slides into the soil like butter. It makes a regular trowel feel clunky by comparison. It will remove weeds, but I didn’t feel like it was super efficient at removing weeds with a large tap root. I think we’ll be using it for assorted small digging tasks, breaking up/sawing off small roots, and transplanting seedlings. It may wind up taking most or all of the tasks from the dibbler. The dibbler has proven to be good for making holes for transplants, but I’m guessing the Hori Hori knife can do that too, and it has a built-in measuring stick for plant spacing/ planting depth.

I’ll probably buy some Class 5 cut resistant gloves for the Hori Hori knife and the final new toy…

The Japanese sickle:

180428 japanese sickle

I selected this variety of Japanese sickle because it has no welding weak point. It has good heft and it’s sharp as heck. To use it swing down behind the weed and pull. If you twist your wrist a little at the same time it will drop the point directly down into the soil, giving the sickle a function similar to the CobraHead. It also functions as a very small hoe, and it’s easy to control around established plants. I was able to quickly and easily clean up the raised herb beds. At one point I was able to pop a weed out of the center of a chive plant by aiming the tip straight down and then twisting — I was totally surprised it was that easy. This tool was by far the most fun and versatile to use — I filled two 5-gallon buckets with weeds very quickly, then went looking for more “trouble” in the yard.

Three new toys. I think they’ll all see use. Hopefully these purchases will fix my desire for garden shopping for a while.