Winter is coming!

And not soon enough if you ask me (or Jon Snow).  Thoroughly disappointed in my garden this year – after all my hard work with the cover crop, using hay as a mulch/cover, fighting off the slugs, etc, just ugh. All for a handful of tomatoes, one spaghetti squash and well, enough cucumbers for 2 half batches of pickles so that’s a positive.  I’m currently babying my 8 or so corn stalks to possibly bear me one, JUST ONE, ear of corn.  Couldn’t resist having the DH grab the last brussel sprout and baby broccoli plants at the local home store, those are going to have to go in a container though I think.

As un-fruitful as the garden has been, it is apparently very hospitable to my “Charlottes” (aka sewing machine spiders or Argiope).  For the past few years we have had one or two pop up in mid August around the pool and in the garden and they are so cool to watch!  And huge, holy moly I’ve never seen a spider that big.  We named them both Charlotte – Pool Charlotte and Garden Charlotte – and they do their thing and then disappear, and an offspring appears again the following summer.  Well, THIS summer we have had EIGHT Charlottes!!  As of this morning I counted 7 though so someone moved out, but the rest are all hanging out in large webs strung between the shrubs, or the cucumber trellis or between the fence and the asparagus.   Strangely only two of them are really big right now, the rest are sort of medium size so will be interesting to see how big they all get and if there are any egg sacs leftbehind for the winter.  These are the two biggest(about 3″ top to bottom) they are outside the garden area:

frontsideyard_charlottes

This sneaky one made this web overnight from the fence to the asparagus ferns, I almost walked right into going to water the corn (it’s only about 3 feet off the ground):

garden_charlotte

Okay so back to my disappointment garden –  my brain started turning and hatched the garden re-do project, woo! I’ve decided to tear out the existing boxes (4 years old), take down the fence and create a whole new garden with smaller and deeper boxes.  Of course new soil too which (already crossing my fingers) will be beneficial for next years plants.  Only dilemma is moving my asparagus – next spring will be year 4, I hate to dig them up as I keep reading they don’t do as well when transplanted but they can’t stay where they are!  My strawberry plants were going into their 3rd year, I haven’t researched how well they do with transplanting so may just start over with those in a dedicated box (or one of the neato strawberry planters that I see all over Pinterest).  Off to the drawing table!

One Potato, Two Potato

Going to combine two topics in one post today – garden and coffee roundup. Coffee first, as always!   Happy to report we have used up two of the nine bags of coffee – the Jamaican Blue Mountain dark roast and Gevalia Dark Gold Roast.  This week I’m aiming to get two more down – Green Mountain Coffee Co Vermont Country Blend and New England Coffee Co Hazelnut Creme (which I’ll probably have in the afternoons as hubs isn’t a huge fan of the flavored stuff).

Now to the garden – my experiment with growing potatoes in trash cans was a success!

33potatoes

I likely harvested them a little early as the plants were wilted but still green, I was worried any potatoes that might be in the cans would rot as every week we are getting inches of rain.  I expected to find potatoes growing at all levels of the buried stalks…but all of these were at the bottom which was a relief to find out.  33 total potatoes, “All Blue” and “German Butterball” I’m excited to taste them tomorrow 🙂  I will definitely grow these again, they were pretty easy to take care of.  I may take a few of these, let them sprout eyes and re-plant them for fall harvesting.  Now that I am thinking ahead though, I might utilize one of the trash cans and plant pumpkin seeds…

The rest of my garden is doing great, I really think the whole cover-crop and rototilling made a huge difference. Plus the hay mulch is really keeping the soil from drying out on our 90+ degree days.  I have one spaghetti squash happily growing in size and starting to turn yellow, cucumbers are vining up my trellis and have picked 4,  jalapeno’s are showing up and the tomato plants all have at least one green tomato.  The container summer squash is doing ok, have two squash now but noticed one of the vines rotting (did I mention it has been raining inches here every week?) so pretty bummed out about that; the zucchini plant in the garden is also doing ok but certainly not where I expected it to be by now, I had to pull up the radishes as they were monstrous and going to seed but I have yet  <knock on wood>  to see the dreaded squash vine borers.  I planted a few more zucchini seeds and some corn last week, fingers crossed!

Every year I’ve lived here we have had a sewing machine spider in the yard somewhere, they are biggest spider I’ve ever seen in the wild!  Last year we had TWO! We called them  Garden Charlotte and Pool Charlotte. I don’t expect a Pool Charlotte this year as we moved the huge grass by the pool pump that she was making a home in last summer, and wasn’t sure I’d have a Garden Charlotte as I dug up the rosemary bush that she was using for her home.  Normally we don’t notice them until they are really big and obvious, but yesterday I saw TWO baby ones in my garden, yay! Of course this one in the picture was on the potato plants so I carefully cut the plant branch and placed it in the garden, the other is on the spaghetti squash vine.

potatocharlotte

Looking forward to watching them grow along with everything else in the garden 🙂

The not-so-cute-anymore bunny

After the recent “slug-fest” I was relaxing a little, preparing to do battle with the evil squash vine borers (SVB) in a few weeks. BUT. I walked out last Friday morning to find my 6″ pea plants devoured 😦 they were just starting to curl around my trellis netting and so green and vibrant! And apparently delicious. I neglected to think that the baby bunny that was born in our front yard would squeeze through the gap in the fence and get to the raised boxes. I suspect he/she also snacked on my corn shoots <sigh> thank goodness I still have time to start them over.

The potato plants have stopped flowering, so will watch for them to start wilting/yellowing as a sign to harvest those.  I am blown away by my yellow summer squash I’m growing in a container! I probably should have culled this to just one plant but they are both growing so fast how to choose?  And one teeny baby squash has started on each vine, woo!

summersquash1  summersquash

In contrast my zucchini plant which was started at the same time in the garden, is barely 4 inches tall. I am babying the one in the container though – moving it out of the sun when it gets too hot, keeping track of the soil moisture, etc.

zucchini

Those are sacrificial radishes growing around the zucchini, supposed to help in keeping the SVBs away (we’ll see!).

 

Slugs 1, Gardener 1

The slugs may have won (?) round 1 but this Gardener has won round 2.  The cornmeal in cups worked the best, I didn’t try the beer since it continued to rain almost every day, and I did resort to putting down commercial pellets in a ring around all my new seed plantings.  So now I have beautiful sprouts – cucumbers, peas, and 3 kinds of squash – and my tomatoes and pepper plants are no longer losing leaves.  Phew! I went ahead and planted a spiral of corn in the middle of the squash hills, I have never had any luck with growing corn but I read about growing them in a spiral pattern so into the ground they went. And now that the sun is out for (fingers crossed) at least 4 days in a row I should see some rapid growth out there.

My potato-in-a-trashcan experiment appears to be going well. This is about 2 weeks after planting the seed potatoes:

potatoes1

And this is at 2 months:

potatoes

I noticed this morning there are some blossoms coming on one of them which I hope is a good sign. I didn’t expect them to grow this fast, I thought this would be a months long project…after the blossoms fade and the plants wilt/yellow – which from the internet looks like maybe 3 weeks from now –  it’ll be time to check for taters!

 

Slugs. Ugh.

A week after my last post I planted my garden – two tomato, two pepper and a spaghetti squash plant which I bought and a bunch of seeds (cucumber, peas, zucchini squash, butternut squash). I also planted 5 marigolds around the peppers and tomatoes. Trying something new, I’m keeping the hay as mulch as it seems to be keeping the weeds down and the soil from drying out. Which was fabulous at first, we had some nice warm sunny weather for about 3 days…then it turned into this damp, rainy, chilly place. Since I started gardening a few years ago my biggest enemy to my garden nirvana has been stink bugs and squash vine borers (SVB), but I have discovered the weather we have been having for 2-3 weeks is apparently a perfect environment for slugs. Ugh.

Last weekend I was starting to get worried because NONE of my seeds had sprouted. Well, my radishes did but those are sacrificial to ward off the SVB. But no sprouts anywhere, and I noticed the leaves of my pepper and tomato plants had holes in them and the spaghetti squash leaves had pretty much been chomped off. And the marigolds looked like they had been beheaded.   A few of my near-ripened strawberries were also used as a snack, but I’m pretty sure that’s birds or squirrels.  Initially thinking it was a slug problem, I took my frozen crushed up egg shells and spread them around each plant.  This seems to have deterred them off my existing plants, but as I found out this morning I probably should have done this around where my seeds were because in fact my seeds did sprout, but before the little leaves could barely unfold out of the dirt they are being devoured by the slugs – checking early in the morning allowed me to see the slime trails. So war it ’tis. I’m not a huge fan of using chemicals when it can be avoided, later this morning I am off to the store for cornmeal and some cheap beer – the cornmeal I’ll put in jars on their sides around each plant, and the beer will go in a cup buried to be even with the soil around my soon-to-be-replanted seeds.

In better news my potatoes in the garbage cans are growing like crazy! Today I’ll finish filling the garbage cans to the top with soil, and crossing my fingers the drainage holes were enough to keep them from rotting with all the wet weather.

I’ll post an update on the slug-fest as soon as it stops raining… :/

 

Late to the garden party?

Normally I would have my garden planted by now (almost mid April). This year I am making myself wait. And then wait a little longer.  Having lived in the North (New England) for most of my adult life I get over anxious in the fact that there is no snow on the ground here in the South (Virginia Beach) in March, and throw my garden in the ground around St Patrick’s day for the past 3 years.  And then when there’s a (many) frost warning I’m out there like a mad woman covering everything and fretting about how low the temperature goes.  So I decided THIS YEAR is going to be different. My garden boxes are sitting idle with a lovely covering of hay mulch.

Well, not so idle – my asparagus came up two weeks ago and we have harvested a few spears (ooh my, soo buttery!) and the strawberry plants have blossoms.  My experiment with growing potatoes in trash cans (“All Blue” and “German Butterball”) has started off well, they have sprouted through the first few inches of soil!

I grew lettuce in a large bowl-like container last summer (“Heatwave Blend” if I recall correctly) and it did great, was super easy to go out to the deck and just snip a few leaves, so those seeds went in about a week ago. I’m trying again to grow carrots (“Kaleidoscope Mix”) in a container, last year I just had too many plants and while the tops were all nice and green and pretty, the carrots (what few there were) were only about an inch long – I was more careful about how many seeds I started this year so hopefully will just thin a few and have more success.

The most frustrating part of gardening is the evil Squash Vine Borer (SVB). Those who have experienced this little devil know what I mean!   I absolutely LOVE zucchini and yellow summer squash, I remember having them all the time from our family garden when I was growing up. And having sooooo many zucchini’s that we were trying to give them away to anyone who drove by our house.  But this SVB here is a dream killer – I have never gotten more than 2-3 squash off a plant before it dies from the SVB eating the vine. I’ve tried all kinds of tricks – last year I even wrapped the seedlings in a knee-hi nylon covered toilet paper roll. This year I’ll try aluminum foil around the base of the plant (it’s supposed to confuse them by being shiny?) and set my alarm to go out every hour and look for the wasps to try to kill them before they lay eggs. Maybe being late to the garden party this year will mean I’ll have some squash to share with my neighbors.

Next week I’ll have an update on what’s been planted 🙂