Friday, July 31, 2009

Another weather rant

The humid weather is making me cranky, even as it makes the garden explode with goodness.

What's really irritating me today? Forecast teasers on television.

You know what I mean -- the meteorologist does a ten-second spot that says "the weather has been bad/good/whatever recently, but will it be better tomorrow? Stay tuned for my forecast after this show, and I'll tell you."

No. No, no, no.

Coyness does not suit you. Either tell me now, or don't say anything. If I want to know the answer right now, I can just go online and find the answer. If I don't want to know, well, then I've got no incentive to stay tuned, so all you've done is irritate me. I'm cranky enough already.

And don't get me started on the way that some newscasts now offer a mini-forecast during the evening news, which is actually a retrospective: it was sunny/rainy/whatever today. I KNOW that. I want to know whether I need an umbrella tomorrow, or whether I should wear a sweater instead of a tank top. That part of the forecast comes much later in the show, trying to make me stick around for the whole thing. That might have worked before the internet, but now I don't need to stick around and listen to news I don't care about. I just go online.

On the other hand, if the ten-second spot was a useful announcement like, "It's going to be hot/cold/dry/wet/whatever tomorrow. Stay tuned for the details," I might actually stay tuned. And not be so cranky.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


We have bunches of the highly prized baby-sized yellow squashes, but according to my fellow gardener, we're of peasant stock, so we tend to pick them full-sized.

We did pick our first yellow squash yesterday, a larger one that was hiding, just out of range of the camera.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pepper varieties

This year is proving to be an excellent one for sweet peppers.

Bob Thomson, in his book, The New Victory Garden (1987, but still my favorite basic resource) quoted two gardening experts on peppers, one saying that peppers were among the greatest challenges for home growers, and the other saying that peppers were so popular for home growers because they were so easy.

There are two factors that can make peppers harder or easier: weather and choice of variety.

You can't do much about the weather. We lucked out this year, and the too-cold-for setting temperatures increased just in time for the first cycle of blossoms. Banana peppers (in the background of the picture) always tend to set in bunches like real bananas, so I'm not surprised by how many we have already, but regular green pepper plants can be a little stingy with their fruits. Not this year, though. I counted at least eight little peppers on the Ace plant in the foreground.

Even when the weather doesn't cooperate, the choice of varieties can improve the odds of getting a good pepper crop. Banana peppers, with their smaller size and commensurately shorter time between setting and harvesting, offer the impatient gardener an early crop of peppers in good years, and guarantee at least some mature peppers in a bad year, although their flavor isn't as intense as regular green peppers. Last year, a critter (woodchuck, probably) got into the garden and ate the banana pepper seedlings down to the ground, while mostly leaving the other peppers alone. (That's another good reason to plant more than one variety.)

For the main crop, I've found Ace peppers to be the most reliable here in the Northeast U.S. The fruits of this variety are generally smaller and less thick-walled than the varieties found in grocery stores. As a result, the Aces mature more quickly, and more of the peppers can reach full size in an area with a relatively short growing season. Some years, they're uniformly small, but in other years, they can be large enough to use for stuffed peppers.

I've never had any luck with pepper varieties specifically grown for the colors they eventually turn, and I've tried them all (red, yellow, chocolate). I don't bother with them any longer, since I'm aiming to lower my blood pressure in the Recovery Garden, not raise it with frustration!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Onion update

I'd been wondering if the onions would grow after their initial bulbing.

At least with the rain we've been having, the answer is an emphatic "yes." We've been noticing how they seemed to growing substantially, but didn't have empirical data until today.

The first onion I picked ten days ago was about 3 1/2 ounces, and it was one of the biggest I could find at the time. I picked another one a few minutes ago, and while it was on the large side, it wasn't out of the ordinary. Weight: just under 7 ounces.

That means the fifty pounds of onions I'd previously calculated for our harvest has doubled to closer to one hundred pounds!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Maitilda's greens

Maitilda (1995-2009) was an exclusively-indoor cat from just about the first moment after she strayed into my yard and I adopted her.

It took a while for her to adjust. In the beginning, she desperately wanted to go outside, and I tried putting a harness and leash on her, so I could take her out in the garden with me. She always got too excited, though, and wound herself up in the leash as she rolled in the dirt.

The only "green" she really cared about was grass. Over the years, we reached an agreement: she wouldn't try to follow me outside, and when I came in, I'd bring her a blade or two of grass to eat.

She's going to miss this year's harvest, and I'm going to miss her.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Resistance is futile

The onions have been taunting me for the last couple weeks, ever since they suddenly started to form bulbs.

Imagine 200 excited donkeys from the Shrek movies, all shouting, "Pick me! Pick me!" That's what I've been hearing and trying to resist.

I haven't grown onions often enough to know whether they've maxed out already, with the remaining time in the ground only required for curing purposes, or if they'll actually continue to get bigger until the tops fall over.

In any event, I couldn't stand the temptation any longer, and picked a couple. The first one weighed 3.7 ounces, and the second was slightly larger, around 4 ounces. We have something in the vicinity of 150 onions this size, plus another 50 small ones (ranging from an ounce to perhaps 2 1/2 ounces) for a total of at least 50 pounds.

In the grocery store today, red onions are selling for 99 cents a pound, so our crop would cost us $50+ to purchase fully grown, and the seedlings cost us a little under $30. Not a huge return on investment financially, but factoring in the better flavor of these onions, it's a worthwhile crop.

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's raining snails

Yesterday, I was pruning some of the brambles encroaching on the garden, and started to hear the pitter-pat of heavy rain hitting the landscaping fabric at my feet. Except it wasn't water: it was snails!

Friday, July 10, 2009

LOLgarlic or garLOLic

I swear, this is how they grew, without any human help.

They're garlic plants in love. Holding scapes, instead of hands.

I probably shouldn't anthropomorphize them too much, though, because, even as I'm thinking, "awww, how cute," I'm also looking forward to the day (soon) when I can tear them out of the ground and devour them.

At least we haven't named them.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Not rhubarb

The swiss chard is almost as big as our pitiful rhubarb plant.

These plants are the Northern Lights variety, although this picture doesn't do the colors justice.

We also have some basic ruby chard to use as filler as spots open up in the garden, but for the moment, until the onions and garlic are harvested, the garden is stuffed to its limits.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sun (a little)

While I wasn't looking (because the rain kept me indoors), the garden grew.

In no particular order, today I found a 2" banana pepper that's already set (while many more pepper plants are flowering, both bananas and Ace); yellow squash on the verge of blooming; and grape tomatoes that have set. The swiss chard is starting to look good too, while the basil is struggling in the cool dampness.

For a while, the onions were threatening to be very large scallions. It's more than time for them to have started bulbing, and as of a few days ago, they looked like leeks (except they were red). We'd have found a use for them anyway, but I was pleased to notice a definite trend toward globe-shaped root tops. I still think they're going to be late, but they could turn out hugely magnificent with all this rain.

We've harvested about a quart of sugarsnap peas so far, most of them eaten before they leave the garden. Many of the pods are extra-long and empty of peas, though, more like snow pea pods. I'm attributing it to the rain, which may be causing the pods to grow too quickly, sort of the same way sudden, excessive rain leads to cracking tomatoes.