Thursday, June 9, 2011

Early June

I'm back.  It's been almost 2 months since my last post.  Too long. Figured I'd do a big pictures post from the yard.  It's been an interesting and productive Spring, with a few setbacks as well. Generally speaking the garden is doing great.  Let's start with the good then I'll move on to the bad and ugly.  I successfully saved seed from my Vates kale and two varieties of Swiss chard.  They get tall when they bloom.  I'm talking 6-feet tall!  I added about 4" of fresh compost to each bed and built a small extension designated for herbs. Cucumber production has been nothing short of amazing.  I've got 5 Burpless plants in the ground and I'm pulling about 8 cukes/day.  I planted borage as a companion plant to my tomatoes, and it  is growing very well.  Beautiful flowers and they are edible too.  Peaches are hanging from the tree, the pomegranate is still in bloom. Raspberries were a tasty treat for about 3 weeks and are slowing now, but the blackberries are starting to kick in.  Figs have also put on new growth and, more importantly, many figs.  Not as many as I hoped for, but I pruned them back in early spring to encourage more branching for larger future harvests.  The fig espalier is developing fairly well.  I also just finished harvesting approximately 50 heads of Inchelium Red garlic and they are drying in my shed.  That's a short version of the good.

Now for the bad.  My precious, beloved, sacred, and coveted heirloom tomatoes are taking a beating.  They grew well for the first 6 weeks after I transplanted them into the garden, and they grew large.  I'm talking appx. 4-5 feet tall.  Then I started noticing what I believe to be blight.   It first appeared on a few leaves, then a stem, a truss of tomatoes, an entire stalks.  I quickly pruned those areas, sterilized my pruners, and then moved to the next plant.  But it kept moving.  So this past weekend and evening I ripped out 5 of my 7 in-ground tomatoes.  2 German Johnson, 1 Black from Tula, 1 Bull's Heart, and 1 Marvel Striped. I don't know why it hit so hard.  I immediately tossed them in the garbage bin.  I've been careful about watering, 2 doses of organic foliar feed (spaced 4 weeks apart) in the early morning, etc. etc., but I guess a large harvest like last year wasn't meant to be.  I'm planning on purchasing a few more plants and probably dropping in a few seeds as well, but I'm flat out bummed.

And the ugly.  Despite my best attempt at smothering the grass, it's back.  And lots of it.  Multiple layers of cardboard, 4-5 inches of mulch, periodic hand weeding of the errant shoot of grass, all for nothing.

Alright, enough gibberish!  Let's do the photos, shall we?
This is a mix of the good and the ugly.  Figs down the left, raised beds front and center, berries/peach/pomegranate on the right.  Oh yeah, and grass everywhere...son of a...
Row of figs down the left wall of the yard.  They are all fairly small, but are adapting well to their permanent location.  I grow a mix of brown, purple, and green figs.   If you look closely, you can spot Scout.  She's the hairless wonder dog.
Peter's Honey fig.  In some areas this plant is putting out 2 figs per leaf, and I don't think that's very common. I'm not complaining.
Violet de Bordeaux figs.  I will pick individual ants off the tree to protect these, partly because I'm crazy but mostly because these things are heavenly.
The Red Haven peach tree is getting very large.  I pruned it heavily this winter and again about 3 weeks ago, and it keeps on growing.  I also thinned the fruits a while ago, but it's still hanging about 25 peaches.
Overhead view of the Red Haven peach tree showing the main scaffold limbs.  I'm trying to maintain an open center to allow light in and air to circulate.
I haven't sprayed this tree with a single thing this year and it still looks healthy.  I hope that holds up for the rest of the year.
The Russian Pomegranate also likes its sunny but sheltered location.  It's approximately 7' x 7' and was covered in blooms for 3 weeks.
A tiny pomegranate and a few blooms in the background.
This is a young Haku-Botan pomegranate tree, courtesy of Sybil Mays.  It will eventually produce yellow/gold pomegranates.  Sybil, this is the little plant you dug up from your side yard.  It has recovered and grown ALOT!
It's a cucumber jungle out there.  By now they've established very deep roots and don't show much wilting during the hottest (98 degrees) driest weather this year.
These beasts make a mean cucumber salad.
Ouachita blackberries beginning to ripen.  I'm not sure exactly what happened (or didn't happen), but I think poor or incomplete pollination led to irregularly shaped berries.  Look closely in the picture and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Almost ready.
All the literature says that borage flowers have a cucumber taste.  I disagree.  They taste like borage flowers.  Not really cucumbery, but just a general leafy green pleasant flavor.  I grew these as a companion plant for the tomatoes, but it clearly hasn't helped this season.  
Don't ask me how this partially ripened black cherry tomato tasted.  I wouldn't know.  My dog Diego ate it so you'll have to ask him.  
When most people draw a picture of the devil, they draw a red devil.  The devil is NOT red.  The devil is green.  Check out this mix of Bermuda grass and some other green beasts that are growing well despite Operation Smother.
Bermuda grass a-creepin'.  This is the aforementioned ugly.  I plan on pulling everything I can by hand rather than using some ineffective organic herbicide or crazy poisonous herbicide.  I do not want to mow this back yard ever again.  
I'll post again soon with pictures of the garlic harvest as well as the fig espalier.  How are things growing in your gardens?  If you are fortunate enough to have a bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes later in the summer, I'll likely be begging at your front door. That's a promise.


Katrina said...

Your garden and plants are looking good!!! I especially like all your fruit trees/bushes. Sorry about your tomtatoes. :(

Mark Willis said...

I sympathise on the blight problem. Once it strikes there's not a lot you can do. Such a shame when your plants had been doing so well. Have you come across a tomato variety called "Ferline"? This one has a lot more blight-resistance than most, and will survive all but the most severe attacks, and will still produce a harvest - albeit a reduced one.

Veggie PAK said...

I'm really sorry about your tomatoes. Really sorry. Several of mine are going through the same thing! Stunted growth and browning shrivelled leaves. What can be done to prevent that? Anything? It's a big investment in time and energy and it seems like it's just lost.

.09 Acres said...

Thanks Katrina! Mark, I haven't heard of Ferline, but at this point I'd be willing to try just about any variety that will hold up well. Veggie PAK, I sympathize with your tomato situation as well. Not sure if other tomato growers in the Hampton Roads are also suffering. I don't honestly know the best strategies for battling blight or wilt that has already shown aggressive signs.

Anonymous said...

Dave, your garden is amazing. Figs galore. The tomato situation is rather sad. There is nothing like a fresh summer tomato! Did you use tomato cages to hold up your remarkable cukes?

We are looking forward to harvesting some of the "fruits of our(and your)labor." It looks like the Violet de Bordeaux, which was a stick when we planted it in late April, has a little bitty baby fig on it. We won't have any berries, other than the blueberries till next year. Had to net those bushes as the mockingbird and brown thrasher LOVE them. But, then, the raspberries and blackberries were only planted in May this year.

Gardening is addictive. Weeding is a bit like eating potato can't stop at just one.

What Pigs Don't Know said...

Glad you're back! I missed your posts! The tomatoes/rogue grass are big bummers. So jealous of your cucumbers. My plants look just like yours, are about 6-8 feet tall, just COVERED in blooms, and not.a.single cucumber. I am so bummed about it. I mean there aren't even any 1cm baby cukes. Nothing. Just flowers. And I probably have about 30 plants. :( I wish I lived close enough for a consultation! -Carrie

Erin said...

I found your blog through a search trying to find others with the same issues as me - bingo! My tomatoes are suffering the same, and I know 2 others here on the southside as well. None of the followers on my blog have reported anything, but they aren't local, either! I'm doing much the same, trying some store-bought seedlings, I'm going to try and preventatively spray those to see if it makes a difference, mostly for next year since the spores will still be there. Hoping for no late blight at least! Going to go read some of your other posts now, nice to see another Tidewater gardener against lawns!

.09 Acres said...

Erin, thanks for chiming in. Sorry to hear about your tomatoes as well. I've managed to keep 2 alive, and have provided them with recent foliar sprays (fish and kelp). They seem to be holding the line, but one of the plants is showing some more stress... Good luck, I hope you manage to salvage at least a few tasty tomatoes.

Caukee said...

Could not agree more about Bermuda grass - the curse of Tidewater. The only thing I've found that blocks it is a mulch fabric called Pro Weed Mat from Gardener's Supply Company, which I use for paths, and place my containers on. I only have containers at the moment. I've bought a few 4X4 container garden kits as an experiment - I hope to have a fall/winter garden if my health and Bermuda grass allow.

In Tidewater, most tomato varieties without disease resistance are doomed to a short life. If you have lots of room to gamble on the others, go for it. But all tomatoes seem to get some disease here; it's just figuring out which ones will stay alive and produce enough for you, that have a flavor you enjoy. I've had excellent results with Floramerica, a determinate. Beefmaster and Jubilee seem to hang in there very well and have great flavor, too. Everyone has their own taste, of course.

I'm just getting back into gardening again, since illness dragged me down, so I just try to enjoy every little thing I get. I got a very late start. I have 4 plants my sister gave me that are 2' tall and flowering - probably won't set, with the weather, but I'm hoping shade cloth will help. And I have some tiny tomato plants I started from seed when I couldn't find any decent seedlings - Floramerica, Lemon Boy, Yellow Pear, Juliet, San marzano - odds and ends of seeds I had. Better late than never.

No blueberries ? They are easy and have a long season, freeze and dry well.

Wow, you like figs. I'm impressed with your propagation set-up. Do you sell your extra plants ?

.09 Acres said...

Caukee, sorry for responding to your comment SO LATE!! Somehow I missed it. I did add 3 blueberry plants to the garden this year. Hope to have a small harvest next summer. I do sell extra plants, any time of the year. Right now I only have figs for sale.