Sunday, October 31, 2010

Let the digging begin..almost

Ready or not ( Not!), it is time for me to start thinking about digging up all of my dahlia tubers - all 198 of them. Every year my goal is to have them dug, divided and put away before Thanksgiving weekend. That way I can just eat and generally be lazy that whole extended weekend with no guilt involved. This year though, it is unlikely that I will get to meet that goal. To begin with, we haven't had a hard, killing frost yet. The closest that we have gotten was last Wednesday morning. The thermometer read 34 degrees when I left for work. The grass was covered in white frost but all the plants survived just fine. Because we haven't had a killing frost to this point, I haven't been very motivated to start digging dahlias. While the main bloom show has been over for a week or two, I still have some pretty blooms here and there.

My orchid form dahlias are still going strong. Both "Tahoma Hope" & "Golden Star" are covered in top quality blooms.

Even sweet "Chilsons Pride" is going strong despite all of the rain and cooler temperatures.

But, if I have any hope of getting them all out by Thanksgiving, I needed to start working on them this weekend - frost or no frost. Because I haven't had a hard frost yet, I am starting out a bit differently this Fall. When the dahlia foliage is killed by a frost, it in turn signals to the tubers that the growing year is over. The tubers begin to harden off and cure underground and the eyes on the tubers begin to swell. Without a frost this year, I didn't want to start digging my tubers without giving them some time to begin "shutting down" for the year. So today I cut off all of the plants in my first two rows. I left about 4-6 inches of stalk above the ground and covered the stalks with tin foil. Since dahlia stalks are hollow, I didn't want them to be left unprotected and exposed to the elements. A hard rain or two this week would fill the exposed stalks with water and possible lead to crown rot of the tubers. Now I will let the tuber clumps rest in the ground for a week. Next Saturday I can safely dig these two rows and I will cut down some new rows to dig the following week.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


October by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if the were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

October Color in the Garden & All Around

I took a walk around the property today. It was was a grey, overcast day in Oregon but I was out to capture the Fall color. The first thing that caught my eye was this Big Leaf Maple. Its yellow color really stood out against the steel grey sky. 

The leaves on the Sweet Gums are about 2/3 changed in color. It will still be a while before they have all changed to crimson and the trees are at "peak color".

One of the two yellow leaved maples that we planted, glowing in the forest.

The damp leaves of Vine Maple.

My garden has sprouted weeds badly now, but the dahlias are still blooming away.

I was able to pick 2 large bunches of blooms to make into bouquets at home.

And last, some wild berries hanging from a vine entangled in a small Douglas Fir.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Harvest Day 2010

Today was finally Harvest Day in the vegetable bed ! With our incredibly cool and wet Summer this year, I have been very concerned about the Winter Squash reaching full maturity. Last year, I was able to Harvest the Winter Squash September 27th - but that was a hot, dry Summer. So I waited 3 weeks longer this year. It has been fairly dry, with some sun the past few weeks but the weather looks like it is changing back to rain. I felt like I have taken all the extra time I had and this weekend it was now-or-never. As you can see, the garden is definitely on a downhill slide. About half the squash leaves have powdery mildew and the tomato vines are turning brown.

But, on the other hand, I was able to get an additional 21 days of ripening time. As you can see in the above picture, the Winter Squash have pretty much taken over 2/3 of the garden. The Zinnias have been swallowed and you can't even make out the onions. I know they are there somewhere! So I began by pulling up the "Delicate" & "Butternut" Squash plants. After they were removed... suddenly it was much easier to see my lovely row of onions!

Pictured above, my half row of "Prince" a yellow storage onion.

And "Mars" the red onion planted in the other half of the row. I have so say, the onions have done really well in this challenging Summer. They have definitely been one of my success stories this year. In reading about onions, I have learned that you are suppose to knock over the onion tops a few weeks before harvest to encourage the stems to heal-over at the top of the bulbs. Of coarse, I never got around to doing this, but most of onions thankfully did it on their own. So all I had to do is give them a gentle "tug" out of their home of the last 6 months.

Look at the length of those root systems!

Ta-da! My onion harvest of 2010! Not bad for one row.

So here is the numbers for "Prince". I harvested 15 onions with an average weight of 7.68 oz.  My largest onion was 11.6 oz and the smallest was 4.8 oz. The total "Prince" harvest was 7 lbs. 3.3 oz.

The "Mars" onions were larger. I harvested 17 onions with an average weight of 11.47 oz. The largest onion weighted in at 1 lb 5.2 oz. and the smallest was 6.3 oz. The total "Mars" harvest was 10 lbs. 2.7 oz.

Here is my Winter Squash harvest curing in the sunshine. Considering the weather that we experienced this Summer, I am pleased. My only concern is that there are still some squash, of both varieties, that haven't fully matured. You can see in the picture above, the top right three "Butternut" that have a pale green color. I also have about half of my "Delicata" that are still light green in color and not creamy white. I will just have to watch them in storage and see if they continue to mature.

Here are the numbers for the "Butternut" harvest. I harvested a total of 16 squash with an average weight of 3 lb 1.5 oz. The largest fruit was 5 lbs. 2.3 oz. The smallest was 1 lbs. 2.8 oz. The total "Butternut" harvest was 49 lbs. 10.7 oz.

Here are the final numbers for the "Delicata". I harvested a total of 18 fruit with an average weight of 1 lbs. 5.6 oz. The largest fruit weighed 2 lbs. 7.5 oz and the smallest was 12.9 oz. The total "Delicata" harvest weighted 24 lbs. 4.7 oz.

Here is the "after" picture. What a difference. My final numbers for today's harvest:
  • 73 lbs. 15.34 oz of Winter Squash grown this year
  • 17 lbs. 6 oz of Onions grown this year
  • Total harvest today- 91 lbs. 5.3 oz

Saturday, October 16, 2010

October - Symbols of the Season

This morning we made it down to the Lane County Farmer's Market. There were pumpkins and winter squash available at almost every stand and stall. I was in heaven! I particularly loved this massive display at the Sweet Leaf stand. They went all out and it was beautiful.

A display of varied Winter Squash varieties.

Stacks of Cinderella pumpkins.

More large, colorful Winter Squash and below, a pile of Pumpkins.
It is our favorite time of the year here at 4 Hills of Squash!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Look who's finally ripening!

I must admit that I have been ignoring my vegetable bed lately. What with a busy weekly schedule and a very rainy weekend, I bet it has been a full week since I walked through the bed and really took note of what was happening. Tonight I finally made it over there and to my surprise - and delight - noticed red emanating from the "Rose" tomato plant. As you might remember, "Rose" was my last tomato to begin setting fruit. Once it finally got going it has produced pounds and pounds of tomatoes. And these big, rippled beauties have remained green all through September and into the first week of October. So it was a thrill to see some red on the vines and realize, with the sunny forecast for the upcoming week, that I may yet harvest some ripe tomatoes from this enormous plant.

In the above picture, look at the tomato on the right, all the way in the back. Yes, that is the "Rose" plant. It is actually taller than it looks, but the recent rains have knocked its highest branches downward. It was over six feet tall and still growing. This picture was taken on September 29th and you can see clearly that there was not any red to be found on the tomatoes at that point.

I am also getting some really nice ripening on the "Seattle's Best" tomatoes. They are about 1 1/2" inches in diameter and are growing in clusters of six to a truss.

And I can't leave out the "Momotaro". They have really started to come on strong too in the last week. I am excited to get them in the hands of my tomato testers and see what they think of this new-to-me variety.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October in the dahlia garden

Although Friday was a stunningly perfect Fall day, the weekend forecast called for rain. By the time I made it home Friday evening the clouds had started to roll in. I decided I had time to make it down to the garden before dark fell and do some serious dahlia bloom cutting. I thought that it would be a shame to have all those beautiful blooms get wet, have their stems snap under that weight and be ruined. So with buckets in hand I headed down and picked. And picked. And picked. The garden was loaded with what will probably be the last really nice blooms of the year. When I got back to the house I created one bouquet with pink/white/purple colors and another large bouquet with yellows/reds/oranges. The second was my favorite and I placed it on our kitchen island next to another sign of the season. My decision to pick was a good one. Saturday brought rain showers but today it rained heavily from 9-2. Afterwards the rain gauge showed 1.1 inches had fallen.

I also realized that I took some nice pictures of the dahlia garden on October 1st and never got around to posting them. So here we go! One way to approach my garden is on the "secret path". After crossing the creek, the path goes by the back of the garden before winding around to the front side and the blue entry gate. I like this back view. It really gives me a different perspective on the garden.

Inside the garden it is all about color! The dahlias are really at their peak right now. The blooms are getting a bit smaller then they were a month ago, but there are many more blooms. It is frustrating to have all of the weed seeds sprouting. If you look back at photos 6 weeks ago, the garden was perfectly- not a weed in sight. But then the rains came and the germinating took place- darn it!

"Dagmar" an A sized incurved cactus form in orange. A new variety for me this year and I just love it.

"Vassio Meggos" an A sized Formal Decorative in lavender. Shaped like an enormous lavender basketball.

"Sorbet". I didn't get many blooms off of this plant this year, but those that I did get were incredible. This dahlia really has benefited from all of the rain and overcast days that we have had this Summer and Fall. The color has been so much crisper and sharper than it normally is for me in warm, sunny weather. I guess the rain has been good for something!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October Color

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Harvest Festival

Today, the Farmer's Market at our local grange held a Harvest Festival. We arrived pretty early in the day and they already had a nice sized crowd. As always, farmers and families in the area had booths with bounty from their gardens for sale.

Of coarse, you know me. I was immediately drawn to all the interesting Winter Squash that were there.

I was also excited to meet the friendly alpacas. There were two adults and a baby present. They contentedly hummed and let all the visitors pet them. Such wonderful faces and personalities.

There was also an excellent variety of alpaca wool products for sale, from dyed yarns to finished gloves and scarves.

One unique twist was the opportunity to bring your own harvest of apples to the festival.

They had a professional cider press on hand and would press your apples for free. Lots of folks were taking them up on this offer. If you look careful at the picture below, you can see the fresh cider pouring off the wooden collection ramp into the white 5-gallon pail.

And here is some of the finished product.

Happy October Everyone!