Wednesday, June 22, 2011

the dreaded....

powdery mildew.  How can we get PM on our pumpkin plants already?  It feels like summer just started.  We don't usually get PM until August or September.  I even took extra precaution and sprayed diluted milk a couple a weeks ago (ok, I only sprayed once.  I think you are supposed to spray them once every 3 days or something, but I "forgot").

powdery mildew on pumpkin

On Sunday, when I was trying to determine if our first pumpkin is ready for picking, I saw this.  I called Randy over, and he cried out "NOoooooo, powdery mideeeeeeew." (with hands next to his ears, waving back and forth).  We have both been dreading this moment.  This usually means the plants will stop producing new fruits then soon die, and PM might spread to other plants.

We immediately cut off and disposed affected leaves.  On Monday, I sprayed diluted milk again (I just had to try).  Then on Tuesday, I gave them a drink of liquid seaweed extract.  Maybe I'll try Daphne's worm compost tea.  I'm desperately trying to slow down PM.  Good thing that the weather is warm this week.  That should help, too.

pumpkin stem corking

As I mentioned, I was checking my pumpkins to see if they are ready for harvest.  I had planned for this post to be about how to determine if they are ripe.

The Kitazawa website (where I got the seeds) says to "harvest when fruit reaches 6"-8" in diameter".

The UC Davis Postharvest Technology gives a good explanation of indicators of fruit maturity:
Maturity Indices
Corking of the stem and subtle changes in rind color (bright green to dull green in ‘Kabocha’ for example) are the main external indications of maturity. Immature fruit have a fleshy stem, maturing fruit will have some stem corking, and well mature fruit will have a well corked stem. Internal color should be intense and typical of the cultivar. The concentrations of the yellow and orange carotenoids generally increase only slightly during storage. Maturity at harvest is the major determinant of internal color. Immature fruit will be of inferior eating quality because they contain less stored carbohydrates. Immature fruit will have more decay and weight loss during storage than mature fruits.
So, how do you tell if the stem is "well corked"?  This website has a few photos that show the progression of stem corking.

Our biggest pumpkin is about 7.5" in diameter, and as you can see in the photo the stem is not "well corked" yet.  I left the pumpkin on the plant.  I just hope the plants can hang on and don't give in to PM!

Monday, June 20, 2011

weekend harvest - lunch and dessert


This basket of goodies went into our lunch for Saturday.  In (and outside of) the basket, there are - peaches, mizuna, red and green salad bowl lettuces, a-choy lettuce, cucumber, and lemon.  It might not look like a lot of veggies from this angle, but it made a big bowl of salad which Randy and I devoured.  Here's a sample of what we had...

baked chicken nuggets and peach salad

I made baked chicken nuggets with peach and toasted almond salad.  The baked chicken nuggets were loosely based on this recipe.  I say loosely because I used whatever ingredients on hand and made adjustments based on the reviews.  I also cut the cucumber into small cubes and mix in with some couscous (not pictured here).  That was a good lunch!

peach cobbler

We picked some more peaches to make peach cobbler with this recipe.  I used more peaches,  half the sugar for the batter, and about 1/4 of the amount of sugar for the peach slices.  The weather was gloomy so this dessert was perfect.

basketful of harvest
summerfest komatsuna, a-choy, red and green salad bowl lettuces, mizuna,
spinach, blackberries, and strawberries
On Sunday, we picked this big basketful of greens and berries.  It's a repeat of greens that we have been seeing, but it might be the last for some of them until the fall.  The weather is warming up this week.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

how's it growin'? (mid-june 2011 part 2)

Japanese pumpkin, Delica

Japanese pumpkin, Delica

These are our four pumpkin plants.  The variety is a Japanese hybrid called Delica.  They are growing very well and taking over the neighboring beds.  We are considering growing pumpkins on trellis next year.

These pumpkins were set out early this year (early April).  The weather has been cooler and wetter than usual.  As a precaution, I sprayed diluted milk on the plants last week to prevent powdery mildew.  It was my first time doing it.  We'll see how well it works.

Japanese pumpkin, Delica

This is the biggest pumpkin on the plants right now.  I need to look up when to pick pumpkins.  We grew acorn squash last year, and we planted them pretty late.  We just harvested all the acorn squashes when the plants were killed by powdery mildew.


These are the three tomato plants I transplanted in mid-April.  We are only growing four heirloom varieties this year (black krim, beefsteak, green zebra, and aunt Ruby's German green), two plants each.

zebra green tomato
zebra green

aunt Ruby's German green tomato
aunt ruby's german green

black krim tomato
black krim

beefsteak tomato
There are plenty of green tomatoes right now.  The plants will provide us with a lot more than we can eat.  I can't wait to pick our first ripe tomato.

edamame, butterbean

Edamame (soybean) is not  an "economical" crop in terms of the space and time they take and the output they give.  I insist on growing them every year because they are so much better than the frozen ones at stores.  We never grow enough to freeze.  Most of the time, we cook them right after they are picked.

These are butterbean edamame.  They are grown from seeds we saved last year.  We also sowed another variety, beer friend, in another bed.  The germination rate for beer friend was really low (4 out of 21 seeds).  The seeds were purchased from Kitazawa.  All of the other seeds we purchased from Kitazawa germinated well, though.  We re-sowed some more butterbean seeds instead.


Of course not everything is dainty and sweet in the garden.  Meet the potatoes.  They are sad looking and full of holes.  Some of them are yellowing and dying.  They didn't get enough water for a period of time and where they are doesn't get full sun.  Perhaps these are the reasons they are not growing well.  They don't look like they have blight.

Potatoes weren't part of the plan this year.  We planted them because we had a bag of sprouted supermarket potatoes.  The way I look at it is that any potatoes we get out of them are bonuses (or so I tell myself).

I won't make my "report" any lengthier.  I'll try to show our other plants next time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

how's it growin'? (mid-june 2011 part 1)

I have been bad this season.  Last spring/summer season I took pictures of the plants every week as a journal to note their progresses.  This season I haven't been doing so.  I also haven't done any "garden update" posts.  I was going to do one about a month ago when my dad asked me how the garden was doing.  I took some pictures, but never sat down to write a post.  Oh well, better late than never.

So, here are some of the plants (pictures were taken last week)...

Japanese cucumber (tasty queen 10)

First up are the cukes.  These are hybrid Japanese cucumbers (tasty queen 10).  They are supposedly extra early and high yielding.  I don't know about extra early, but it does look like they will produce well.  I picked my first cucumber on Saturday, then four more on Monday.

They are not great climbers though.  As you can see, we are trying to train them up the trellis/arbor.  The idea is for them to climb up using the (neon pink!) strings.  On the top, there are criss-crossed bamboo sticks and wooden bars so they can climb and grow across the beds.  The arbor they create will provide shades for the veggies growing under it on those hot summer days.  The arbor will cover 2 beds.  The edible luffa gourds and bitter melons in the next two beds will climb up the same arbor.

Japanese cucumber (tasty queen 10)

Here's a picture of that first cucumber.  It was harvested after this picture was taken.

spinach, red and green salad bowl lettuces, tung ho, a-choy lettuce

These are the greens growing in the same bed with the cucumbers.  There are spinach, red and green salad bowl lettuces, tung ho (edible chrysanthemum), a-choy lettuces, and New Zealand spinach (you can't see them as they are still small).  I sowed these greens and the brassicas in the next bed really late (a little more than a month ago).  I'm sure glad I did.  The weather's been cool and they are loving it.

edible luffa gourd

The edible luffa gourds are growing slowly.  It enjoys hot weather, so it's one of the veggies that's not happy about the cooler temperature.

mizuna, southern giant curled India mustard, summerfest komatsuna

These are some of the brassicas growing in the same bed with the luffa gourds (mizuna, southern giant curled India mustard, summerfest komatsuna).

bean trellis

Here are our pole beans (Kentucky Wonder, frosty lima, yard long).  Kentucky Wonder is the healthiest of the bunch at the moment.  Frosty lima is still recovering from the slug attack earlier.  Yard long seems to be the choice for the aphids.  The yard long beans on the north side (righthand side of the picture) of the bed are infested with aphids.  Last week I wiped aphids off the stems and cut off some heavily infested leaves and tips.  We'll see if they recover and produce beans.  I did see some ladybugs having feasts.  I hope they'll bring over some family and friends.

I prefer our "V" shaped trellis over the "A" shaped trellis.  It makes harvesting much easier.  We built an "A" shaped trellis two years ago.  I had a really hard time picking beans.

Sun gold tomato, peppers, eggplant

This is one of our nightshade beds (we have 6).  The five plants you see in this picture were purchased.  We did start some peppers and eggplants from seeds, but they were growing wayyyyyyy too slowly, so we had to buy most of our eggplants and pepper plants.  The sun gold cherry tomato in the front was the only purchased tomato plant this year.  All of our other tomato plants were started from seeds.  This one is a bit behind the other tomatoes.

eggplant flower

There are a few flowers on the eggplants.  I hope I'll see some baby eggplants soon!

Monday, June 13, 2011

harvest - 'tis the season of summer fruits

fruits and chives harvest
saturn peaches, blackberries, ume plums, garlic chives

The peaches started ripping last week.  This signals the start of summer even though the weather doesn't feel like it at all.  The temperature has been a lot cooler than usual and gardening-perfect.  We are trying to enjoy the weather before those 90-some or 100-some degree hot summer days come.

Back to my basket of goodies.  These tree-ripened peaches are mouth-wateringly delicious.  They have a light sweet scent and the skin peels right off.  They are very juicy and not overly sweet.  Just the right sweetness.  Just peachy.

We also harvested a couple of our first blackberries.  We should be getting loads of them in a few weeks.  The two apricot-looking things are ume plums.  They are used to make Japanese pickled plums (umeboshi) when the fruits are still green and sour.  The ripe fruits are rather tasteless.  The tree only bore about 5 fruits this year.  Maybe we'll try making some umeboshi if there's ever a good amount of harvest.

veggie harvest

The cooler-than-usual temperature also means happy greens.  In this box there are - tung ho (edible/garland chrysanthemum), curled Indian mustard, a-choy lettuce, spinach, mizuna, summerfest komatsuna... oh ya, and our first cucumber!

garlic scapes

Our garlics are pathetic this year.  We didn't notice that our irrigation system wasn't working right for a little while. Their growth is stunted and the leaves are burnt.  For now, they are hanging on.  Earlier during the week, I harvested our garlic scapes.  I was excited to see the garlics producing scapes since I had never grown hardnecks before.  The scapes are a little tougher than I would like (probably because of the lack of water) but still good.

baby preying mantis

baby preying mantis
baby preying mantis

When I was working in the garden, this little guy came along and wanted to play.  I asked it to pose for a few pictures, then it left to get some aphids for dinner.


I saw this caterpillar on my pumpkin plant.  Good bug or bad bug?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

harvest - greens and herbs

We finally started to get some greens from the garden last week, and we are really enjoying them.  Some of them are varieties that we grow every year, and some of them are new this year.

thinnings of a-choy lettuce, rosemary, baby onion, stalks of celery with flowers
A- choy is a Taiwanese lettuce.  It's tender and has a very unique flavor that I don't really know how to describe.  I quickly cooked these in boiling water for less than a minute.  Then mixed in some olive oil, salt, and chopped garlic.  Simple and delicious!  The rest of the harvest in this bowl were used to make a soup base for a chicken stew.

herbs - rosemary, thyme, oregano
rosemary, thyme, oregano

Most of our perennial herbs grow almost all year round here.  I prune them at least twice a year (except the rosemary) to make sure they grow well (and they do.  They don't disappoint me).  I normally just compost the trimmings.  I hate to see our bounty going to waste, so I decided to try my hands in drying herbs.

I tried drying the oregano in the oven with the door open at 140 degrees.  They turned brown and crumbly really fast.  The result was tasteless.  I will have to find another way to dry the oregano.

For the thyme, I placed them loosely in a big paper shopping bag, and the shopping bag is kept out of direct sunlight and in a dry place.  For the rosemary, I tied the branches into bundles.  Each of the bundles are hung upside down with a brown lunch bag over it (I poked holes in the bags).  We'll see how they turn out in a couple of weeks.

harvest - mizuna, hon tsai tai, dwarf choy sum
mizuna, hon tsai tai, dwarf choy sum 

This is not our first time growing hon tsai tai and dwarf choy sum, but this was our first time tasting them.  We grew them last year, but the bugs ate all the seedlings and didn't leave us any.

I don't think I'll grow the dwarf choy sum again after I use up all the seeds.  They don't grow any faster than the other greens that I seeded at the same time, but the harvest is much... uh... dwarfed.  I haven't decided how I feel about hon tsai tai.  I'll grow them again in the fall to see if it's a keeper.

harvest - baby lettuce, rosemary, oregano, mizuna, thyme, komatsuna, garlic chives
baby lettuce, rosemary, oregano, mizuna, thyme, summerfest komatsuna, garlic chive
Sunday was my birthday, so we picked a bunch of things to make my birthday lunch.  The lettuce, mizuna, and summerfest komatsuna went into the salad.  This is our first time growing the summerfest komatsuna, and I'm really impressed with it.  It's very fast growing and tastes superb in a salad.  Too bad it's a hybrid, so I can't save the seeds.  I'll have to keep buying them.

The rest of the herbs were used to make the crust for the lamb...

birthday lunch - garden salad and lambs

Yum~ happy birthday to me!