Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Produce Harvested from Garden as of July 30

I have been keeping track of all the produce harvested from my raised bed square foot garden, with the exception of lettuce. Following are the vegetable varieties and their weights harvested since the first planting/transplanting into the garden on 20 April 2013. 
Clockwise from the top - Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter and Rutgers

Starting with the most total weight to the least:

  1. Mortgage Lifter Tomato - Heirloom 4.291kg/9.46lbs
  2. Cherokee Purple Tomato - Heirloom 3.334kg/6.82lbs
  3. Tami G Grape Tomato - 1.088kg/2.23lbs
  4. Rutgers Tomato - Heirloom - 0.589kg/1.21lbs
  5. Anaheim Pepper - 0.305kg/0.62lbs
  6. Sweet Red Bell Pepper - 0.274kg/0.56lbs
  7. Sweet 100 Grape Tomato - 0.267kg/0.55lbs
  8. Mucho Nacho Jalapeño Peppers - 0.255kg/0.52lbs
  9. Carmen Pepper - 0.09kg/0.18lbs
  10. Kaleidoscope Carrots - 0.067kg/0.14lbs
Total weight of all produce through July 29 2013 from two 4' x 4'/ 1.219m x 1.219m raised beds was 11.034kg/23.26lbs.

That is an amazing amount of produce for July here in USDA zone 6B. It must be a combination of the raised bed, non-soil planting mixture, red plastic mulch, ambient temperatures and earlier than normal planting/transplanting. No matter what the reasons I am happy with production. I have the tomato seeds running down my chin to prove it.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Teenage Cuke

Baby Cucumber 11July2013

Two weeks have passed since the first baby cucumber arrived.

Toddler Cucumber 18July2013

Last week it had grown to the toddler stage.


This week it's hanging out, a fresh teenager. It will be a legal adult before you know it.

I sneaked a peek at its calendar. I believe it has a lunch meeting at the beginning of next week with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and radishes.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Made on a Mac

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Veggie Magic in a Bottle

Have you ever seen the cucumber in the bottle magic trick?

I was a child when my dad showed me a cucumber in an old glass milk bottle. I was dumbstruck. How did that thick cucumber get through that narrow neck? I never did figure it out on my own.

It is time to pass on that mysterious veggie in a bottle trick. I will show you how it is done. If you prepare now you, too, can accomplish this before the end of the growing season.

You will need a few items before you begin. If you are growing cucumbers vertically you will need a bottle(s), wire and wire cutters. If growing on the ground just a bottle.

Choose a tiny to small size cucumber as a target. As it grows, the cuke will need to be directed into the opening of the bottle.

Cut some lengths of wire. Each length needs to be long enough to circumvent the bottle, the support structure and still have enough to twist the ends together. Once you have that length calculated, add more for later fine adjustments.

As you can see from the photograph above the cuke is a small distance from the bottle. Adjustments in bottle position will be made as the cuke grows. That is were the extra wire will be needed.

Don't limit yourself to one size and shape bottle. I will also be using a 1.75l gin bottle. I am sure the results of one or the other will be to my liking.

Don't limit yourself to one vegetable either. This can be done with any growing fruit or vegetable. Think of the possibilities- apples, pears, peaches, tomatoes, squash, watermelons, pumpkins. Get out and have some old fashion fun in your garden.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Made on a Mac

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mortgage Lifter Production

By far, the tallest tomato plant in the raised bed square foot garden is the indeterminate Mortgage Lifter. The trellis is 8'/2.4m tall and the plant bests that by another 1'/30.5cm.

It is not just all vegetation either. It was the first to produce a large ripe tomato. On July 6 a 13.7oz/388g tomato was harvested. Up to and including July 19, the total production of this variety has been 5.46lbs./2.5k.

The other tomato to produce anywhere near that weight in red deliciousness was Cherokee Purple. The first Cherokee Purple was harvested July 10 and has produced a total of 3.9lbs/1.785k in the same period. I have to say this tomato has the best taste of all those harvested to date.

At this time the one Mortgage Lifter is out producing all the other tomato varieties in my raised bed square foot garden beds. I like every bite of it.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Friday, July 19, 2013

Cute Cuke Growing Fast

What a difference a week makes.

July 11, 2013 baby cucumber. Cute little bugger.

July 18, 2013 toddler cucumber. My cute little bugger.

Its body will catch up to it's head. Won't it?

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ripe Tomatoes - Slicing, Snacking or Salads

Two varieties of tomatoes were ripe on Sat., 13July.

Tami G, grape tomato and Mortgage Lifter.

I am weighing all the produce, as I did last year, and keeping a spreadsheet of dates and weights.

This handful weighed in at 14oz/397g. One slice covered a hamburger completely.

The total weight of Tami Gs was 11.28oz/320g. These babies are good just popped into the mouth as a snack with some cheese and fresh bread, kind of like a raw pizza.

Of course, both varieties would be good in salads.

A good harvest for this early in the growing season in USDA zone 6B.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cute Cukes Destined To Be Eaten

Cucumber seeds were directly planted on 27 May. I saw the first baby cuke starting on 11 July. At my age, if my math skills are any good at all, it has taken 35 days from seed to cute little cuke. 

I may sound a little like Kronos, but I can't wait to eat my babies.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Waited Nine Months for Homegrown Tomato

The first two full size tomatoes ripened 6 July. Both were the Mortgage Lifter variety. Transplanted commercially started plants on April 20, the earliest I have ever placed tomatoes outdoors.

Not quite a handful, this tomato weighed in at 209g/.46lb. 

The shoulders still had a touch of green in them. It was firm. Could have used a bit more ripening. I was impatient. No surprise there.

Sliced they appear dense with very few seeds. There won't be much dribbling down the chin with this tomato on top of a sandwich or burger.

I have waited almost 9 months for any kind of home grown tomato. I really appreciate them. Those pale or tasteless store bought cannot compare to any homegrown tomatoes. I will miss them when they are gone. The time to savor them is now.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Get Into Your Garden For An Hour Everyday

I have heard it said that if you have a garden, it should be visited once each day for and hour. Although I try, I don't always spend the hour a day in my garden. Woe to those who don't.

I cut the lawn this morning starting at 10am. The temperature was 80ºF/27ºC and the relative humidity was 92%. My property is just under 1/2 acre/2023 sq meters and can be cut in approximately one hour with a self-propelled mower. Although I wanted to stop between cutting the front lawn and the back I persevered and finished cutting without stopping. With the mower back in the garage I entered the air conditioned house. My shirt and pants clinging to my skin. I changed into dry pants and shirt, flopped onto the sofa and turned on the TV. While watching reruns of the BBC version of the Antiques Roadshow, I fell asleep. Not to say the show had anything to do with it. That is what happens when you get old and out of shape. 

During the time I was indoors, the temperature rose to 88ºF/31ºC however the relative humidity dropped to 63%. As long as I didn't exert myself I could bear being outdoors. Awake and recovered I strolled outdoors to check the progress of the raised square foot vegetable garden beds. Here is what I found.

Bed# 2
The Mortgage Lifter tomato plant is almost as tall as the trellis. Which I believe measures 8'/2.4m.

The Mortgage Lifters are large and almost completely pink. I might have my first large tomato by Saturday, July 6. There are a fair number of them, too.

The grape tomato, Tami G, is full of flowers and green fruit. I harvested a couple of handfuls of them this last week. Their skins aren't as thin as I like but they have good taste.

The lettuce is bolting (growing tall and going to flower). I will harvest them in the next few days. The carrots aren't ready to harvest. I know because I pushed my finger down into the soil and felt the carrot wasn't very thick. The radishes are putting out their second set of leaves, their true leaves. They were planted Sunday, June 23. I expect to harvest them in two weeks or so.

Those two yellow tomatoes are on the Mr. Stripey vine from which I removed the leader stem. The number of leaves on that vine are negligible. I still wonder where the tomatoes are getting their energy. Once those tomatoes are ripe I will seed that square with cabbage or cauliflower.

Bed# 1

The other bed doesn't have tomatoes as tall as Mortgage Lifter, but the Sweet 100 is getting there. Six pepper plants are all doing well down in the front of the bed.

The Sangria ornamental is very prolific. Even though sold as an ornamental, they are eatable. I tasted one of the first to ripen. It wasn't very spicy. I will give them a second taste soon.

On the right in this photograph are Anaheim peppers. The other pepper varieties are Carmen, Mucho Nacho, Red and Orange Bell peppers which are going strong. No peppers have ripened to red or orange.

As I made my way around the raised bed I arrived at the Sweet 100 grape tomato plant in square #9. This is my favorite small tomato. It is sweet and I pop them into my mouth like candy. I started looking over the tomato with the display of flowers and fruit at the base of the vine. I was eager to find a ripe tomato to eat right off the vine. There weren't any. Then I found something that made me shiver. Something lovely, colorful and destructive as hell.

A tomato hornworm - Manduca quinquemaculata, and it was going to town on the tender young leaves and stems of my beloved Sweet 100. It was the size of my pinky finger. Remember I have big fat hands. We're talking 3"/76mm long and near 1/2"/13mm thick. I was horrified. I was repulsed. I was not going to let it get away with eating my beloved.

Let me explain something before I continue. This insect is a plant eater. Not a meat eater. There is no danger of being eaten by this soft bodied, beautifully nature designed despised devouring demon. Nonetheless, I didn't want to touch the thing. It had to be removed from the vine and I was the only one there. I had to remove it.

I reluctantly outstretched my right hand with my index finger and thumb forming a pincer. I didn't want to put an excessive amount of my body in harms way. Two fingers was enough. Even though there was very little chance I would be harmed. Claw-like, my digits hovered over it, having second thoughts. Fight or flight went through my mind.
Adult Manduca quinquemaculata


I grabbed the thing and pulled. It had a strong grip. The feeling was like splitting the loop section of velcro from the hooks. I exerted more effort. It was fighting back by holding on. I broke its grip from the plant. Immediately, it began to wiggle and twist. Except for the absence of squealing, I acted like a little girl. I tossed it onto the concrete patio towards the shallow cast iron bird bath. I strode to it. Picked it up again in my pincer. Again, wiggle, twist and I tossed it towards the bird bath.

Being friendly to birds, I was wondering if one of my feathered friends might like to eat this juicy bugger. Thinking there was a strong possibility of that, I placed the worm on the concrete patio heated by the noonday sun, equidistant from anything or anywhere I thought the devouring demon might find cover. However, because the concrete hot or despite the hot concrete, that hornworm was like a speed demon as it scurried towards the day lilies. Again I grabbed the gooey green gobbler, this time I plunked it into the bird bath. I thought, maybe it would drown and then the birds would find it and make a meal of it. Feeling confident it wasn't going anywhere, I returned to bed #1 to continue my observations and look for more of its kin.

I looked thoroughly. I saw no more. What I did see was the damage one worm did in one morning. Several leaves and stems were gone. More, lots more, would have been gone had I not spent some time checking over the garden. 

Tomato hornworm doing its business. The term pretty ugly comes to mind when I see it at work.
I returned to the bird bath to see if the worm drowned. It was gone. I did it again. Another bad judgement. I searched all around the bird bath looking for a fried worm. No sight of it. Either it was camouflaged amongst the day lilies or possibly eaten by a bird. I wasn't sure. I hoped for the latter.

I stepped back into the house for an hour or so. When I returned outdoors the tomato hormworm was doing breast strokes in the bird bath. I had a second chance. I definitely didn't want it to return to my tomato plants. I pulled a utility knife out of my back pocket, extended the razor blade. Using the knife blade I flipped the hormworm out of the water onto the hot patio concrete. I held the knife firmly and slit the green beauty in two. Masses of dark green oozed from the wound. Bitter ooze from the eaten stems and leaves. A bitter end to the lovely colorful camouflaged critter.

Although I don't visit my garden an hour everyday, if I hadn't caught this bugger when I did I might have lost another tomato plant. I already damaged two tomato plants, this juicy guy would have devoured another because of my lack of diligence.

A word of advise, if I may. Get out into your garden for an hour everyday.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Raised Bed Square Foot Garden End of June USDA 6b

Below are photographs captured in late June of one raised bed square foot vegetable garden, bed 2.

Lettuce and carrots in squares #1, #2, #5 and #6.

Lettuce and bush beans in squares #3, #4, #7 and #8.
I have been picking the outside leaves from all the lettuce plants leaving the centers to continue to grow.

A close-up of a lettuce in square #3.

These bush bean seeds were planted on Sunday, 23 June in square #8. This photograph was captured Friday, 28 June. The ambient temperature and sunshine have kicked their sprouting into high gear.

Likewise, these Easter Egg Radish seeds were planted on Sunday, 23 June in square# 5. This photo was captured on Friday 28 June. They were planted in the same square that carrots were growing for the last two months.

This is bed 2 from the ESE side at 09:52am EDT. The nearest tomato is a Tami G grape variety. The tallest is adjacent to the Tami G, a Mortgage Lifter and was at least 5'/1.5m tall. Behind the tomato trellis squares #13 and #14 were planted with small watermelons. Squares #15 and #16 were planted with cucumbers. The plants in all four squares may be suffering from diminished sunlight because of the dense foliage of the tomatoes. They are not growing as fast as I think they should.

On the whole, I am satisfied with the progress.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved