Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: Garden Update #23

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Garden Update #23

A lot has happened this week - so let's get right to it.

I'll start with the "bad news". This will probably be the last update on the community garden this year. The bugs have won. The squash bugs have killed the zucchini, yellow straightneck squash, and butternut squash plants. When we got two zucchini on Friday, the plant looked pretty bad, but it wasn't dead. There were also some baby butternuts on the plants that looked fairly healthy, but I think the plants were finally overcome. With the fall like temperatures, and all the rain, the bugs had perfect conditions.

The Roma has finished producing, if you look back through the local booty and garden updates, you will see we got a lot of tomatoes. The plant is drying up and now has aphids - nice. The remaining "mystery tomato" has produced quite a few gnarly, bruised, and diseased looking tomatoes. Today I found a tomato hornworm on the plant that had been parasitized by wasps - you'll see what I mean in the pictures below.

The Better Boy seems to be doing alright so far. The tomatoes on it are really large, one of them appears to be starting to ripen, and there are a few new blooms. It has a few aphids. I rid what I could today, but we'll have to go back a few times to make sure.

The banana peppers are doing really well, kind of. They are lush, looking great actually, with the butternuts having died back, they can get some sunlight now and have been relishing. They've been producing peppers left and right. Problem is, something keeps coming along and putting a hole in the peppers. I have no idea what is doing this!

Anyways, we will be going down to the community garden this week to tear out the dead squash plants and the dying tomatoes. This was our first year gardening in the ground, so we didn't really think about fall crops. We aren't prepared with anything. But we have learned so much this year. We've learned the ills of monoculture - even if it's unintentional (everyone grows squash, which I didn't know, next year - we won't), staggered cropping, planting early and late for spring and winter crops, and the benefits of diligence and planning.

All that said, there will not be any more photo updates of the community garden. The container garden is still flourishing, so we will be focusing our attention on it and the indoor winter garden. We'll keep you up-to-date on any "booty" we get off the plants at the community garden, and, of course, if something interesting or informative happens, but otherwise, it has come to a close for the year. I am really humbled by the experience. I think we've learned how to better work with what we have and nature. But there is also a lot out of our control - what other gardeners do, the temperatures, the rain level (or lack thereof), etc. I hope that each year we get a little better, and learn a lot more.

Here are the final pictures of the community garden 2008.

Let's start with the bad:

Dead butternut plant.

Rotting baby butternut. :-(

Dead yellow straightneck squash plant.

Almost dead zucchini plant.

Check out this guy. So, nature isn't pretty, or kind sometimes. This is a case in point. This is a tomato hornworm, a pest that is pretty destructive to tomato and other plants. The white things on its back are wasp larvae. You see, the wasp parasitizes the parasite. A specific kind of wasp lays its eggs on the back of the hornworm and when they hatch - well, they eat the worm. Nice, eh?

And the (mostly) good.

Two of the three hot banana pepper plants. For some reason I didn't get a picture of the other one. It looks pretty much the same, except its peppers have holes in them. Argh!

A couple of pictures of the Better Boy. These tomatoes are big and beautiful. I really hope they ripen.

There was a bit of garden work to do this weekend with our other gardens.

I fed all the plants in the container garden. Even after just a couple of days, they are already showing signs of improvement - new growth, small blooms, looks like we might get another round off most of the plants, weather permitting of course This round of peppers will be ripened on the vine (of course, weather permitting), we will eat the peppers, of course, but they are ripening on the vine so that we can save the seeds out of them for next year.

Here are some pictures of the container garden.

A little hot banana pepper.

A new and a ripe cayenne.

A chocolate bell pepper - its a little funky looking.

A hot Hungarian wax pepper.


New Mexican Chile!

The ever-productive petite bell peppers.

A bloom on the poblano! There are actually a few on the plant.

A regular bell pepper.

A photo shoot of our "Serexican Chile Peppers". You see, we planted the New Mexican Chile and Serrano pepper starts in the same pot. As I am a novice gardener, it never occurred to me that the peppers could - you know - exchange genes. Well, they can, and we think they may have. These are the peppers on the serrano plant. They don't look quite like serranos - they are very pointy at the end and a little ripply and muscular like cayenne or, well, New Mexican Chiles, one is also starting to curl. Who knows really, we'll see what they are like when we eat them, we might have a fun new strain of pepper.

There was some planting this weekend. We got most of our winter garden green and herb seeds. The spinach and spearmint seeds we ordered are "back ordered", but we will start a pot of each as soon as the seeds arrive. We are going to wait to start the kale and chard seed for about 2-3 weeks, so they will, hopefully, be getting large enough to start clipping at the close of farmer's market season. We probably won't start the salad greens until October, maybe mid-October, we're not entirely sure yet.

We did plant two pots of large leaf Italian sweet basil, one of cilantro, and two of catnip. We sowed them directly into pots and put them in our mini-hot houses (pictured below) to germinate. The basil is fairly long lived, so the two plants should be plenty. The cilantro will need to be staggered to get a continuous supply. I'll start another pot in about 3-4 weeks. One great thing about cilantro is that it has three "harvests". You get the green cilantro, when it goes to seed you can grind them for ground coriander, or save them for your next pot of cilantro.

The catnip is going to be tricky. It needs to get fairly large before we subject it to the cats, but once it's germinated and needs light, I fear it will be irresistible to kitties. I've been contemplating growing them under milk crates until they get large enough, hopefully that will be kitty proof.

The starts are all doing very well. I've thinned some of the pots down to a single plant; others still have quite a few. All but the cherry bomb and mini bell peppers have gotten large enough to be removed from the mini hot houses. We open the hot houses for a few minutes each day to allow the plants some "fresh air". The plants that have been removed from the hot houses are almost ready to transplant.

Check out their progress:

Cayenne pepper starts.

Cherry bomb pepper starts.

A couple of jalapeno starts.

Mini bell pepper starts.

Two pots of very healthy looking One Ball squash starts. We're going to thin these down to two starts for our indoor container garden. We're going to put them in the warmest, sunniest part of the house, get something to use to trellis it, hand pollinate any flowers that appear, and hope!

Tomatillo starts.

Some of the larger peppers and the tomatillo starts were bending over, they looked like they could benefit from a little more soil to help hold them up until they were transplanted. After adding a bit of soil, they looked a lot better.

The mini bells and cherry bombs in the hot house with a pot of catnip.

Here is our "germination station", we start as many of the pots as we can in the cooler, and the rest, or the smaller starts that need sun, go in the hot house until they get big.

The plastic containers seem to work really well for this purpose. We face the clear side towards the window (I turned them around in the picture so you could see inside them), the sun streams in, and the bright white background helps reflect some sun.

I forgot to report about the avocado tree last week, I'm only doing it once a month so its a little harder to remember.

Here she be. The tree has lost a lot of leaves. There is a lot of new growth, but the leaves are browning at the tips and falling off. I did some research and it seems like it could be many things: too much water (we are letting it go dry between small waterings), too much salt (we haven't figured out how we would determine that yet), need of food (we are going to feed it this week), shock from its new environment (this seems most likely).

We'll let you know next month if light waterings only when soil is very dry and feeding it help at all.

'Til next time.


VeggieGirl said...

Ahh, so sorry that the bugs won :0( But hey, your garden STILL looks great to me!

Cookiemouse said...

Many plants don't like overwatering, and avocado needs a soil that drains well and is aeriated. Maybe your tree should also be in a larger pot.

spelled with a K said...

I feel you pain on the squash decline, my cukes are done and the zucchini appears on its way out, the last survivor appears to be a yellow squash. You managed to get some real nice peppers from the looks of things, It never got warm enough here for mine to thrive.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Veggie Girl - No worries, it's all part of agriculture. Thanks, the container garden still looks mighty nice.

Cookiemouse - That's what I understand. The avocado is in really well drained soil and it doesn't seem too packed down. I was wondering if it might be underpotted, I think we may try that too.

Spelled with a K - It's tough, isn't it? I know that it happens, but I still wish that the bugs hadn't been the culprit. Perhaps we can better deal with those sorts of issues next year.

Thanks, the peppers really did well this year. They seem to like being grown in containers. It has been really mild here too, they seemed a bit stunted at first, but really went nuts when the temperatures got a little warmer. Now if it would just stop raining....

DP Nguyen said...

I am so sorry about the bugs. Grr, my zucchini plant and Roma plant is almost dead. All your peppers looks so wonderful! I might try to plant some potted pepper plants next year.

Bianca said...

Sorry to hear about the squash!

Avery Yale Kamila said...

Sorry to hear about the bugs. But boy do your peppers look amazing!

jessy said...

i really love all the pictures of your peppers! they're all so pretty and adorable, too (especially the little hot banana pepper)! and your "serexican chile peppers" sound really neat! i can't wait to see how they develop and grow!

squash bugs = supersadface. sure, it happens, but that just stinks! poor squashes! when i went to my parent's home a few weekends ago i did a lot of weeding in their gardens - had to pull up 5 squash plants because the squash bugs invaded and were killing them - jerks! that's really strange on whatever is poking holes in the bottoms of your peppers. it could be a corn earworm: - crazy!

glad to see the little ones inside are do'n great! and i'm interested ot see if the milk crates will keep your kitties from eating the catnip before it's ready! we have 4 cats and i'm sure they would join forces to turn a milk crate over - but your cats and probably less evil than ours! ahahahaaha! and a stack of heavy books on top of the crates should prevent tipping, too (i needed).

makes me happyfaced to see your organ in the background! yay!

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Dp Nguyen - Eh, it happens, hopefully we will be more prepared next year.

Aw, sorry to hear that, the end of season is always hard when you see your plants dying. :-(

Thanks, they have done really well this year. You should give it a try, they seem to thrive in containers.

Bianca - No worries, the butternuts earned their keep, we should be in butternut city most of the winter.

Avery Yale Kamila - It's alright, it happens, and we learned a lot.

Thanks, they have proven to be quite tasty and prolific.

Jessy - Thank you, you can probably tell I have a strong bias to the peppers, they get an unreasonably large share of the picture space in the garden update. Aw, yes that little banana is cute. I'm curious about the Serexican Chiles myself, I hope it stays warm enough for the to ripen!

Yeah, it sucks about the squash bugs, but once you got 'em, well, they're there and they'll take over.

WOW, they INVADE don't they, one day there will be a few eggs, the next, there is a colony that is unstoppable.

I thought it was weird too. Thanks for the link. One plot had some corn growing in it, so it could be what has been getting to them.

I'm happy they are doing so well myself. What makes me even happier is that we haven't had to hide them from the kitties, they have left them alone.

Our cats are pretty evil too, they cannot be trusted!! Hehe.

I was thinking about stacking some plants on top of the crate and wedging it in the corner, it'll make it quite difficult for them to get to.

Yes, the Hammond is keeping some starter plants right now. Don't worry though, it is protected, there are big drip trays under everything. It's been too hot to go back in that room and play it very often, so I am looking forward to winter, more opportunities to play the organ!

kale for sale said...

I look forward to hearing about the serrano and New Mexican chile, if it's hotter than usual or not as. Good job on the jalapenos. Mine did absolutely nothing but lean over and look atrophied. Next year I'm sticking to serranos.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Kale for Sale - I hope the peppers ripen so I can really tell their "full potential". If they are good, I'm saving the seeds, might have a fun new pepper variety on my hands!

Thanks about the jalapenos, though I think the plant did more of the work than we did. :-) We've had really good luck with peppers - sorry to hear you jalapeno didn't pan out.

You can NEVER go wrong with serranos. Mmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry that the bugs are winning! Grrr. At least you still have the container garden rocking away!

Leng said...

so many plants! I am always so amazed at your green thumb.

The "hot house" is a great idea! Genius!

Why do you start off some of your plants in the cooler though?

Long and I have been thinking about potting more veggies and putting them on the side of our window sill. It gets only the morning sun (before noon), so I don't know how that will do.
Everytime I look at your blog, I wanna plant :-)

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

Shellyfish - It's alright, I wish we hadn't had this issue, but we learned a lot, and that is what is important.

And you are right, the container garden is still looking great!

Leng - Aw, thank you. I have as much a knack for killing plants as I do for nurturing them, so I would say my thumb is part brown, part green.

The cooler is our favorite way of starting seeds, it does a wonderful job. The seeds also tend to start a lot quicker than any other method we had tried.

The "hot house" is generally reserved for plants that have started, need some sunlight, but could still benefit from the high humidity environment. The only reason we are using the hot houses to start some of the catnip and basil is because all the pots wouldn't fit in the cooler.

You could definitely grow tons of greens and herbs with what you have available to you.

If you can save some seeds from your favorite market produce, try 'em out, who knows what will work until you try.

Haha, well, we are glad to be gardening inspiration.

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It won't succeed as a matter of fact, that's what I believe.