Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Kitchen Garden In Late August

There's very little bare dirt in the kitchen garden these days. The Winter Squash have claimed every last open space, making my daily watering routine a challenge.

All of the tomatoes, with the exception of the "Bloody Butcher" plant, have reached the top of the two-tier towers and are still growing. The "Heavenly Blue" morning glory has also reached the top of its tower and is happily rambling throughout the tomato plants. Instead of "out of control", I will call this the cottage garden look.

The "Indigo" Amethyst Jewel Cherry tomatoes have started to turn a lovely shade of purple/black on top. This is the first year that I have grown this variety, so I have no idea what they are suppose to look like when they are fully ripe. My best guess is that the whole cherry will turn that pretty purple color. Some of them are getting pretty close.

I was able to harvest the first eight "Bumblebee" Sunrise Cherry tomatoes this weekend. Their stripes certainly are reminiscent of a bee and the colors look like a sunrise. My co-worker thought these were the best tasting cherry tomato she has ever had. Hard to beat that review!

The "Black Plum" tomatoes are beginning to ripen at a fast pace.

Although I have harvested three "Moonglow" tomatoes, the plants is still loaded with large green fruit.

   Further down the row, the "Poletschka" pole bean has made a credible comeback from the bunny damage. The tower is now lightly covered with climbing vines. The "Bumblebee" tomato next to it is leaning away, trying to catch a bit of extra light. Between the two tomato towers are my four "Minnesota Midget" cantaloupe plants.

Between those four plants, they only managed to produce two cantaloupe. Looking at pictures online, I think mine should be a bit larger and have more defined ribbing before they are fully ready to harvest. Mine are now baseball size and are suppose to reach softball size when ready.

The "Poletschka" bean is getting covered with soft pink blossoms.

There are now beans beginning to lengthen on the vines. Since they got off to such a delayed start due to the rabbits, I am afraid that I hold out little hope for harvesting mature dried beans this year.

The Winter Squash are doing really well this year. I have four "Queensland Blue" squash that are nearing the end of their time on the vine. Two are quite large, like the one pictured above, and the other two are a little smaller.

My two "Delicata" plants have gone crazy this year. Everywhere I look under the squash leaves, there are "Delicata" fruit. I liked how this group is growing in one big, happy pile. It's a good thing I love "Delicata"!

The "Butternut" are usually my last Winter Squash to ripen each year, and this year is no different. I think I have at least three nice size fruit. But at this time, they are still mostly green, with just a touch of the golden yellow that they will turn when fully ripe. I definitely need a few more weeks of good weather to help them along.

As is normal, my pepper plants are mostly a big fat failure this year. My "Creme Brule" plant set exactly one pepper and I see that it has a small hole in it. The "Lunchbox Yellow" mini sweet pepper plant did a little better, setting four peppers. It was certainly hot enough this Summer, so I will have to spend the Winter doing more research on growing successful pepper in the Willamette Valley.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Blackberry Deluge

I spent a good deal of Saturday morning walking up and down the driveway, picking wild blackberries. I thought there were a lot of ripe berries last week. Little did I know even more were to follow this week! The berry size continues to be good which really surprises me. I am not sure where the plants are finding all of the moisture to grow berries of that size. After I finished picking, I weighed and washed them - 10 lbs. 4.5 oz. total!

Twenty-four hours later the black berries were turned into two cobblers ( one delivered to an Aunt & Uncle, the other staying right here), 14 more pints of blackberry jam, and the rest frozen and bagged.

I was also able to harvest a few things that I was growing on purpose around here this past week - Mother Nature doesn't get all of the kudos. The first three "Moonglow" tomatoes turned a striking yellow and were happily consumed by two co-workers. They are a nice "larger" size tomato for growing in this part of the world. It is difficult to ripen big beefsteaks here but this variety, at 4-5 oz. is a good bigger sized option. I was also excited to pick my first eight "Bumble Bee" Sunrise cherry tomatoes. I now understand how they attained their name. They are a bright yellow, with red stripes running vertically. These should be the first of many that I harvest over the next 4-6 weeks.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Dahlia Parade Marches On

New dahlias continue to bloom each day, including this "Alden Snowlodge". One of the benefits of gardening organically is seeing all the interesting and beneficial insects in the garden. 

I don't know that you could call this grasshopper beneficial, but since he wasn't eating the dahlias or the foliage he's a keeper in my book. He could be munching on another bug that might cause damage to my plants or blooms. I have seen this grasshopper, or one of his friends, off and on for the past two weeks. They are always resting in open blooms. I have also seen a fair number of ladybugs too.

I finally got to see my first "Hollyhill Tigress" bloom of year. It is such a neat variegated color. I  planted two tubers of it this year. Interestingly enough, the other plant reverted back to its original parent stock and is solid red. But I am ok with that because it is a lovely shade of velvet red. The two blooms would look terrific together in a bouquet.

"Pooh", a Bi-colored collarette in yellow and orange.

I can't forget my Poms. This little one is "Valda" a purple pom. The photo doesn't do it justice. The blooms a rich, deep purple and and just stunning this year. I am sure hoping that the my two plants will continue to pump out the perfect blooms for the next month. I would love to enter a triple of this one in a show.

"Lakeview Illusion" a B sized incurve cactus in purple. To my eye, the blooms is actually an amazing neon violet color.

My "Camano Cloud" blooms have been awesome so far this year. This is at least the fifth perfect bloom.

This is the first flush on my two "Pee Gee" plants. I do love laciniated dahlias and this is a good one.

"Camano Susan", a BB sized Semi-cactus in orange. This is a beautiful dahlia in Fall arrangements.

"Fidalgo Julie" a stellar form in red and yellow.

"Verrone's DF", a pink stellar. This is a new one in my garden this year. And below, another "Odyssey". Such a sweet lavender and white miniature ball. It's been blooming for a few weeks now.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Raspberry Sorbet Zinnia

Today I have the first open bloom on any of my 5 "Raspberry Sorbet" zinnia plants. It was definitely worth the wait. The bloom size is large, over 2" across. The stems are long, perfect for cutting for bouquets. The bloom itself is a hot pink/raspberry color. It certainly lights up the slightly shaded corner in which it is planted.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Watermelon Weigh-in Week #3

I am a day late this week with my weekly watermelon weigh-in. Life happens. So here are this weeks totals and the net gain of each melon in the past eight days:

  • Watermelon #1  1 lbs .3oz , a gain of 4.23 oz
  • Watermelon #2  12.4 oz.,a gain of 2.9 oz
  • Watermelon #3  1 lbs. 3.2 oz, a gain of 8.4 oz., this one gained 1/2 a pound this week
  • Watermelon #4  6.2 oz , a gain of 3.1 oz, so it doubled in size this week
So, the good news is, I now have two melons that have broken the one pound mark. The bad news, only one melon had any substantial weight gain this past week. It was a cooler week, with a bit of rainfall on two mornings. The heat is suppose to return this next week, so hopefully the melons will respond. They have a ways to go to hit 5+ pounds.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hedge Marigolds

Down in the big garden, I have a few rows set aside for cut flowers that I started from seed. One of these rows is planted with marigolds.

And not just any marigolds, but hedge marigolds. The first variety that I planted is "Red Metamorph". This marigold grows to 2-3' in height. It branches easily and is covered with beautiful lacy foliage. The plants quickly grow together to form a thick hedge.

Each bloom is a velvety dark red, with the underside of the each petal a burnt orange. As the weather heats up, the blooms become more striped. They return to solid red as the temperature drops once again.

Here are two "Red Metemorph" blooms growing side by side displaying some of the variation that occurs.

My marigolds are planted in a fairly shady spot. At best they only receive half a day of sunshine. While I am sure they would be closer to the 3' mark with better conditions, my plants are still healthy, dense, and covered with blooms.

The second hedge marigold that I started from seed this spring is "Frances' Choice". This amazing variety will reach heights of 4-5' . Once again, mine are shorter due to the growing conditions but they are still pushing 3' right now. The blooms on this plant are red with golden yellow edges. It is a prolific bloomer and would be amazing in full sun. Mine are just started to bloom, but will soon be covered in color. I purchased the seeds for both plants from Seeds of Change. For just $3.50 a packet you can have an amazing, vibrant living hedge in your garden.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Canning Season Begins

The Wild Blackberries are nearing their peak season right now. Two weeks ago, I had to struggle to pick a pound and a half of berries. This weekend, it was a completely different story. Somehow, with only .10" of rain, the latest round of berries had tripled in size. It was so much easier to fill and bucket and they were still sweet and juicy. So much for a "bad" berry year!

I ended up picking on a cool, overcast Saturday morning. In about an hour and a half, I had filled up both of my containers to overflowing. I weighed the harvest back at the house; 7 lbs. 11.9 oz. And there were still areas on the property that I hadn't yet picked.

Some of the berries went into a container for fresh eating this week. Other will be frozen for use over the Winter. And one bucket of berries was transformed into 7 pints of Blackberry jam on Sunday. I hope to process another batch later this week.

I also harvested some of the "Camelot" shallots. These 5 weighted in at 9.2 oz. They certainly are large shallots but have such a pretty pink and purple skin. This group is going into a bean & corn salad.

I also was able to harvest a few more tomatoes. Once again the "Bloody Butcher" plant had ripe tomatoes to harvest. These five weighted in at 5.7 oz. I have now harvested 14 tomatoes off of that one plant. But the exciting news is I  finally had another tomato variety to pick. The first two "Black Plum" fruit were ready. Each black shouldered tomato weighted exactly 1.0 oz. This variety was a favorite of my Aunt a few years back, so I was excited to grow it once again this year.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Powdery Mildew

It was only 5 days ago that I was thanking the gardening gods that powdery mildew still hadn't reared its ugly head in my squash patch. Apparently I didn't thank them hard enough. It only took one humid, 100 degree day on Monday, followed by two overcast days with .17" of rain, for powdery mildew to take hold in the squash patch. So far, it is limited to 1/3 of the "Delicata" leaves. Because of where the two "Delicata" plants are situated, they are the last two squash to receive the sun each morning. So, their leaves  stay cool and moist a bit longer than the other two varieties. At this point I am not too concerned. One of the "Delicata" plants was the first squash to set fruit. I think in one more week I can harvest all of its squash and pull out the plant. The other "Delicata" is a replacement plant, so it is two weeks or more behind the first. I will keep a close eye on it and its fruits. I am most concerned that the powdery mildew doesn't attack the "Butternut" plants. Those squash have many more weeks of maturing before I can even think about harvesting them.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Each time I go down to the big garden to water or to weed, I am pleasantly surprised to find that another two or three new dahlias have opened. I think easily 90% of the plants have bloomed now, some of them for many weeks. This is the first bloom of the year for "Haley's Dream', a miniature bi-colored cactus bloom in pink and white. I really love this one.

"Parkland Moonmist" a soft yellow collarette.

"Colwood Hope" a B sized laciniated white dahlia.

As I started to plant the dahlias this year, the rabbits attacked. They really hit both of my pink waterlily form "Carmen Bunky" plants hard, chewing off both of the growing tips. I wasn't sure what would become of the plants. Both recovered nicely, branching out from the base. The plants are shorter than normal, and the stems are a little smaller. But the blooms are still lovely and I am so glad both plants survived the bunny attack.

Another favorite of mine; "Belred Sunset". This BB sized incurved cactus isn't as red-violet as the picture shows. It's a very true color-crayon red.

"April Dawn", introduced in 1984 and still a winner. I will always have room for this variety in my garden.

"Tahoma Eldean, a single form dahlia in dark pink, yellow, and white. It was introduced by the same gentleman as "April Dawn". Pictured below, "Tahoma Hope" a white orchid dahlia. Yet another Les Connell introduction, this one from 2004.