overgrown and out of control

Having a hoophouse, it turns out, does not make July any less busy. Nor does it corral overgrowing plants that make it hard to even get in the door. We’re getting beans, cukes, tomatoes, banana peppers. We don’t have a ton of any of them – I guess that’s good, but I kind of thought we’d be swimming in beans by now. The leafy stuff – lettuce, spinach, arugula and cilantro – are done now, although i will probably plant more for a fall crop in a couple weeks.

Lessons learned thus far:

  • plant no more than 6 tomato plants; keep them mercilessly in check with something stronger than plastic tape
  • Tack netting down the middle in a tent shape to give climbing stuff more room to grab on
  • plant spinach and lettuce on the east side, where there seems to be more shade (who am I kidding, it’s all shade with the doggone tomatoes gone wild out there)
  • reconsider going on vacation??
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Shhh, don’t tell

Ate the first two tomatoes from the hoophouse today  and they were DE-vine (i’m serious, that’s not even a tomato joke). Brought in three cukes and  banana pepper. I tried to pick beans but the mosquitoes were fierce and I couldn’t be very thorough. Steve says the beans and cukes haven’t been as flavorful as he expected and wonders if it’s the result of the plastic bending the sun’s rays. (not that they tasted bad, they just didn’t “wow”  him)  I say “fresh beans! fresh cukes! more for me!”

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Support your local tomatoes

Holy crap! it’s a jungle in there.

A couple of weeks ago I built what I thought were some tomato containment thingmajigs with the help of a bunch of stakes and about a mile of that green plastic tape stuff. I can see I’ve got a lot to learn about tomato wrangling, because they’re now pushing against the ceiling, crowding out peppers, creeping across the carrots, spilling into the aisles and trying to sneak out the window.

We’re just starting to harvest vortex beans – there are lots of little beans on the vine, but only a few big enough to pick (and since there weren’t enough to make anything with, you might as well eat them on the spot, right?) I saw lots of cucumber flowers, too, and several little teeny baby cukes.  Carrots have been coming for a couple of weeks, and they are as goofy-looking as advertised – little squat things that look like radishes. We have little peppers starting on what I think is a chili plant.

I’m letting the spinach and cilantro go to seed, still cutting lettuce every couple of days, and chopping out a couple of arugula plants every time I’m out there. Elsewhere in the yard, the little wild blackberries are at their peak, but they’re also guarded by a legion of mosquitoes. You can pick a handful in a couple of minutes, but you have to. As soon as word gets back to mosquito headquarters that there’s a blood donor in the yard you’re running back to the house, swatting yourself in the face as mosquitoes try to fly up your nose.

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Information, please

The next best thing to finding a check in the mailbox is finding the latest issue of Wired.  I think I’ve read the June issue from cover to cover, including this excellent article on Geek Gardening. And then while I was looking for the link, I found the Wired How-To wiki which is just too #$@* cool! I’m going to go back later and wallow in all the information to be found there, but in the meantime I just thought I’d share.

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30 days of greens

Nick: “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

Me: “Ummm, we have lettuce. How about a salad? How ’bout salad salad with side of salad?”

Based on this blog, we’ve now been feasting on homegrown spinach, lettuce and arugula, with occasional radishes for a month. Thanks to all of you who’ve helped me keep the bounty in check. I don’t know about the boys – they seem to eat no more than the requisite amount of green stuff at any given sitting, but Steve’s definitely getting all the greens he can handle, and I’m eating a giant helping of salad for dinner, and usually the rest of the previous night’s salad for lunch.

Am I healthy yet?

For the record, the spinach is slowing down, the lettuce is under control and the arugula is still going like crazy. Also have lots of cilantro, which I used in a fruit salsa this weekend (with some strawberries from the sandbox) that was so pretty Nick said it looked like something in a magazine (I assume he meant a food magazine and not one dedicated to natural disasters or medical mishaps) Anyway, it was so pretty and cilantro-y that we ate it up – sorry no pictures. Maybe next time.

Elsewhere in the hoop… I thinned the carrots, which should be ready starting in the next couple of weeks…the bean leaf damage has continued on a small scale. The plants themselves are growing a lot faster than they’re being chewed on… On the other side of the “climbing wall” half a dozen cucumber plants are thriving. The cukes at the far ends of the box didn’t make it for some reason, but it looks like we’ll still have plenty… a few jalapeño plants finally popped up, and our friend Bob Needham gave us a sweet Italian pepper plant with a sweet Italian name I can’t remember. (It means “horn of the bull”, though). And the tomatoes… holy cow! They’re growing fast, threatening to fall over if I don’t get them some stakes, and soon.

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Who’s eating my beans?

Yes, something has been gnawing on the leaves of my bean plants; in addition to these swiss cheesed leaves, some are curling up – Yike!

I’ve seen this kind of damage in the garden other years, but this time around I have a little more invested in the venture, so I called in RZ for a email pest consultation. Here’s what she said:

Well, aphids will eat holes in leaves, and you might not see them unless you go out at night. Flea beetles will eat holes in leaves, too, but they mostly leave a scattershot pattern. You might notice them jumping around like fleas (though they are not fleas) when you touch the plant. Slugs will eat leaves, but they usually strip the greenery instead of leaving holes. It might be any or all of these guys, since they can be found in pretty much every garden around here. How widespread is the problem? Is there a chance the beans won’t survive? (Also, are they bush beans or pole beans? I’m just curious.)

Also, aphids can cause leaf curl, but so can some fungi.
From the photos, it doesn’t look like the leaves are turning yellow or dying off completely – good signs. Unless things look dire, I just consider some leave damage as part of the cost of gardening. If I start to worry that the plant won’t make it, I might break out the insecticidal soap. (Once you see a fungus, it’s probably too late to do anything but get the infected plant away from all the others.)…”
Since I’ve got probably 6-8 damaged leaves on about 20 plants i think we’re just in the “price of gardening” territory. The plants themselves still look pretty robust, and nothing’s turning yellow. The fungus thing scares me, though. I mean all these plants live together in pretty close quarters. If something sweeps through and kills everything, I will cry.
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Trouble afoot

The night before last I accidentally (OK, I was too lazy to go out and close it) left the hoop house door open overnight. I thought this to be No Biggie.

For some inexplicable reason I figured Tiger would keep any marauding pests away, even though as I type this Tiger is asleep at my feet. He spends his nights on the couch, so I’m not sure when I thought he was going to scare away the rabbits, woodchucks and chipmunks. But it turns out “someone else” is more of a menace to the garden, as you might notice these are not chipmunk or rabbit sized tracks.

Anyway, when I went out with a machete to hack through the lettuce crop yesterday, there were these craters through all the beds around the outside of the hoop house.

Dog-sized craters. See the flickr feed for mug shots of Garden Enemy #1.

They were probably made worse because, through some snafu with my hose timer, I seemed to have watered the garden all night (oops). This turned the garden into a temporary swamp, and the only thing that would have been more inviting to Tiger would be a full-time swamp.

Anyway, I got the water under control, and the Black Menace managed to (nimbly?) not step on any plants, so I think we came out of this one OK.

Incidentally, I’ve become totally dependent on that drip irrigation system. I just assume it will take care of everything. The poor peas and extra tomatoes that are planted outdoors get totally neglected (as is my custom), while I wander around muttering, “Where is that watering can?” then get distracted by something and forget all about them. By the end of the summer the “indoor” and outdoor gardens should be a real study in opposites.

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