Mother Nature’s mood swings

100 degrees in the hoop house on April 10 – I put the divorcer in the window so it would cool down. Today there are piles of snow along both sides that slid off after yesterday’s snow dump.  At least it’s starting to look like spring inside. The onions are up; little beets are sprouting; and last night we enjoyed a big spinach salad from the wintered-over crop.

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Take that, Old Man Winter

It was 70 degrees in the hoophouse yesterday!  (and 30-something outside). I planted onions, direct-seeded some beets and began working up the dirt on the east side to plant spinach and lettuce. The soil on that side has a section with a lot of big, hard chunks of what’s probably dried clay. It’s ugly and not very nice to work in, so I’m trying to get it broken up.

Meanwhile, we’re now getting a little wintered-over spinach, which is especially yummy in a “Nyaaahhh nyaaaaahhh, this came from my backyard” kind of way.

And that reminds me – I have to go water stuff. Still too cold to hook up the irrigation system.

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First ones in, last ones out

Looks like we’re back where we started. I pulled the remaining tomato and pepper plants out of the hoophouse last weekend. The tomatoes were totally dead, the peppers were droopy – time to call it a growing season for those guys and move on. I’d hoped to winter-over a big bed of spinach and lettuce in the middle of the hoop house, but never got around to planting it, so that will have to wait until next year.

On the brighter side (literally – the west gets more sun) that late planting of greens from August is still producing a salad or two a week. Looking back, I would have to say the greens were the hoop house’s biggest success. Now I’m just riding out the last of them, and dreaming of February and seed catalogs…

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I thought I was raising tomatoes – turns out I was incubating tomato hornworms… It’s kind of a unique sense of horror to notice one of these big ‘ol caterpillars scarfing on your tomato plants, then move in for a closer look and see another, and another, and another. Kind of like suddenly realizing you’re surrounded by zombies…

The two groups of tomato plants on the west side of the hoophouse were loaded with these things, and since they were the least-producing plants anyway, it was pretty easy to decide what to do. I now have half as many tomato plants in the hoop house and a whole lot more sunlight.

The beans and cukes came out in the same purge to clear the way for a winter planting of greens in the middle box, and while I was at it I went after some bugs on other plants, too – mainly aphids and some beetle things on the peppers. I finally went to the hardware story and found some bug spray stuff – suppose I should record here what the stuff was, but the bottle is in the garage, so I’ll have to do that later. I have a feeling it’s kind of late in the game for this, but if it keeps some produce coming farther into the fall, I think it’s worth it.

So yesterday I was hanging out in my once-again sunny hoophouse, looking for bugs to defeat when I noticed a tree frog hanging out in the peppers. Frankly I wouldn’t even care (much) if he were a garden pest (Though I don’t think he is). I love tree frogs. It made me happy.

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Confession time

The most prolific plant in my garden is not in the hoophouse, but in a 4×4 box just beyond my back porch – a single yellow squash plant that has Little Shop of Horrors written all over it. I am sick of thinking of ways to cook yellow squash, sick of eating it, sick of looking at it. And still this plant  keeps happily kicking it out. The one benefit I’ve found is that in sharing the stuff, I have an excuse to get out and visit friends. (I’m careful to limit the amount I leave with them so they remain my friends).

So here’s where the confession comes in: Yesterday, as I was poking around the plant, picking another three or four squash I began fantasizing about what would happen when we got a nice, hard frost and humming “Ding, dong, the witch is dead,”- mentally substituting the “yellow squash” for “wicked witch.”

I think it’s kinda catchy…

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Dog days

Whoa, no posts since the 14th…That’s not good.

The most momentous thing that happened in my backyard in the last two weeks was, hands down, the Chelsea Fair.  The fair is always a fun/exhausting week. We eat a lot of bratwurst, spend a too much money on carnival rides and see a lot of friends all week long. They have a barn where, if you’re lucky, you can see a calf or a lamb being born – two years ago they had twin calves, one breech, and I got it on video. It’s gotten more hits than anything I’ve posted, except for a video of a bunch of third graders singing “Can’t spell hippopotamus.”

But I digress…

Every year, a few nights before the fair starts, someone from the fair board drives back and forth across the field that borders our property, spraying nasty smelling stuff that magically makes all the mosquitoes disappear.

I wish I could convince myself that they disappear because they don’t like the smell, but usually when we hear the sprayer tractor we close all the windows and try to hold our breath. For two days. This year I was pretty happy to see the sprayer (although  still closed the windows.) Predictably, the mosquito menace in the hoophouse dropped off pretty hard.

The peppers and basil in particular seem to have gotten a second wind, maybe because the general bug population took a hit. Meanwhile,  my beleaguered beans keep on keepin’ on, even though I’m constantly plucking dead leaves off the trellis. It’s pretty obvious they’ve been getting chowed on all summer, which makes me wonder what the bean harvest would have looked like if they weren’t around. Whatever got the beans also beat down most of my cucumbers. I think I have one or two healthy plants left. Lesson learned: pay attention to all bugs and moths immediately, and never, ever cut them any slack.

I have a tomato dilemma – about four plants in one corner that have grown huge and bushy and produced exactly one (1) tomato. Weird. There are no flowers, just lots of  leaves. My tomatoes should keep going for a couple of months yet, so should I let the slackers be and see if anything changes, or yank them out and let the sun shine on other plants?

Is there anything I can do to encourage the tomatoes to produce fruit? (maybe some wine and romantic music?)

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Bug trouble

Yaaagh! I have bugs. Specifically, creeping bugs, flying bugs and biting bugs. It has become apparent that I need some poison for them, and soon. The only problem is, I’m really kind of afraid to go into the hoophouse right now without dipping myself in DEET (I didn’t plan on poisoning myself). I’ve never seen such ambitious mosquitos. Right now I roam around outside the garden, peeking through the door and through the plastic, looking for anything that might be ready to pick (Thank God tomatoes are red). When I spot something I dash in, grab it, and dash out, slapping at my head and any other exposed skin. Last week I went in for 30 seconds and came out with a mosquito bite on my lip and two more on my face. Those suckers mean business.

Anyway, all this makes it hard to diagnose what’s going on, hard to pick out dead/diseased leaves, although I’m going to have to go in there soon.

Despite the bloodthirsty terrorists, I also have a fridge overflowing with cukes, beans and squash (someday I will learn to make pickles) and tomatoes coming at a nice pace – enough for salads, BLTs and tomato sandwiches, but not so many that they go bad before we an use them.

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