Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ingredients for Salsa

Weeding is not a whole lot of fun, but it allows the mind to wander freely, a rare experience these days.  Today, I began to think of salsa - fresh, juicy, spicy, delicious salsa.  I could almost taste it.

All the ingredients are developing nicely.

Hot Peppers

Mmmm!  I can't wait.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A growing, blossoming garden

The peas, peppers, potatoes, eggplants and beans are blossoming.  The corn is knee high. The carrots are bushy.  The beets are plumping up.  The tomato blossoms are turning into tomatoes.  The squash is getting strong.  The bean poles are climbing.  The cabbage patch is covered and recovering.  

Things seem to be right on track.

Now, we wait.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Floating Row Cover

The sun is back and so are the flea beetles.  This picture is of our "good" Kohlrabi, all the others have no leaves left.  It's time to take action.

With more rain in the forecast, our discovery of root maggots and the eventual emergence of the cabbage butterfly, we decided a floating row cover was our best line of defense.  (We'll save the garlic and garlic tea for another time.)  The floating row cover is a very light weight fabric that lets the sun and rain through, but keeps the bugs out.  Ideally, it should be installed when transplanting plants into the garden, before any pests have started their attack.  We're hoping "better late than never" works for us.

The term floating simply refers to the fact that the fabric floats over the plants.  It's light weight enough that it doesn't need any sort of frame.  So, installing a floating row cover is very easy.  Simply unroll the fabric over the plants and weigh down the ends and sides with rocks, bricks, wood, soil or whatever is available.

We had one more step - ensure any existing pests are removed from the plants before covering.  A very important step indeed!   I wonder how many bugs we trapped inside the cover?!

Here's what our cabbage patch looks like now.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Lessons from the Garden

The persistent rain has made it difficulty to get to the garden consistently.  It seems like we've had a steady pattern of 3 days of rain, 2 days of sun all spring.  But finally, Mars and I were able to check it out and do some weeding.  Here's what I learned this time:
  1. A six month old puppy is not very helpful in the garden.
  2. Weeds like rain.  
  3. Clay soil dries quickly on the surface, but stays wet underneath the hard, cracked crust it forms.
  4. Mulch really does help keep weeds under control.
  5. It's easier to pull out weeds after a wet spell than after a dry spell.
  6. Flea beetles mysteriously disappear when it's raining but reappear once the sun comes back.
  7. Thinning carrots is my least favourite job in the garden - it seems so sad to pull out perfectly good carrots.   If only they could be transplanted. (Trust me, I've tried!)
Besides the flea beetles, cabbage root maggots, weeds and our pathetic looking leeks, the garden is looking pretty good.  The tomatoes, carrots, onions, beans, corn, spinach, squash, beets, peas, garlic, potatoes, flowers and even the remaining cabbage are all thriving.   

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cabbage Root Fly/Maggot Control

The news is not good. Getting rid of our cabbage root maggot problem is not going to be easy.  Apparently, they're tough to beat once they're in your garden.

It seems that a floating row cover is the way to go if you want a healthy cole crop.  These row covers provide a physical barrier to prevent damage from flea beetles, cabbage root flies and cabbage white butterflies.  The theory is that if the flying insects can't get near the plant to lay eggs or eat the plant, there's no worry.  Ideally,  these covers should go on immediately after planting cabbage transplants.  Oops, we'll know better next year.

This also explains the row covers we see in other gardeners' plots. Guess they've been there, done that!

Lee Valley has a floating row cover (7' x 50') for $19.95.  Other gardening centres probably have them too.

For more info, check out some of these links.
Gardening Know How
Ecological Agriculture Projects
Manitoba Agriculture

We'll have to go back to the plot soon to ensure we killed what we can and count how many plants are left to save.

Maggots in our Broccoli

cabbage root maggots and fly

Our broccoli is under attack.  We found one plant lying on its side, root chewed through and two others starting to lean to one side.  Aidan thought it was the world's toughest cutworm, but upon closer inspection we found maggots crawling around the roots.  This is the first time we've experienced this particular pest officially known as cabbage root fly maggots.
We hate maggots, they're gross and disgusting, and to top it off, they're killing our broccoli.

What do we do?!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Knee Deep in Spinach

We suspect our self seeding spinach is called Razzle Dazzle.    The description says it grows within 30 days, produces high yields, has flat, arrow shaped leaves, and grows up to 20 inches high. The description fits perfectly. It is truly dazzling.  It's mild and tender, perfect for salads and hot dishes.

Rain or shine, muddy or dry, we've been enjoying our Razzle Dazzle since May 10.  The plant is now knee high and threatening to bolt.  We'll have to start freezing some soon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Spinach & Cheese Biscuits

There's no hiding the spinach in these delicious spinach and cheese biscuits.  Nevertheless, Aidan and Melanie, who normally do not enjoy spinach, loved these biscuits.  Could it be we have have stumbled upon a new way to get kids to eat spinach?!

Here's the recipe I created based on a basic version from Better Homes and Gardens.
Spinach and Cheese Biscuits
1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tblsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/3 cup butter, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 cups spinach
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1tblsp lemon juice with milk to make 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Farenheit.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cayenne pepper.
Cut in butter using a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Stir in grated cheese.

Blanch or wilt the spinach.
Wash fresh picked spinach several times to remove all grit.
Remove spinach from water, shake off excess and place in saucepan over medium heat.  There should be enough water on the spinach for wilting purposes, if not add one or two tablespoons of water to the pot to prevent scorching.
Cover and let cook until spinach has wilted.  About 2-3 minutes.
Drain spinach well.
Cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces.
Add spinach to the flour and cheese mixture.

Make a well in the flour mixture.
Add milk.
Using a fork, stir until moistened.  Over mixing will cause tough biscuits.
Using a tablespoon, drop dough onto greased baking sheet.
Optional: sprinkle more cheese on top of each biscuit.
Bake at 450 for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.

Makes: 12 super large or 14 medium biscuits

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Garden Update

We finally put our tomato cages up today while checking for signs of blight.  Luckily, we didn't find any spots on our leaves.  Looks like we're clear - for now anyway.   We did, however, notice that it's time to start pruning our tomatoes.

We also found out our albino bean plant isn't doing so well.  Just goes to show how important chlorophyll and photosynthesis is to plants.
And, our mystery plants has lovely lilac coloured flowers.  Does that help identify it?

Late Blight Strikes Early

Thanks to my friend and fellow Professional Home Economist, Kathryn for a heads up on this article about Late Blight, a frustrating and devastating disease for tomato and potato plants.

Read more

We'll have to check our plants, let's hope for the best.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Taste Test

I tried tasting our mystery plant today on the suggestion of a friend (at least I think she's a friend!).

It tasted green.  No distinguishing flavour whatsoever.  And, luckily, I feel fine.

So there you have it, we've narrowed it down to a non-poisonous, flavourless mystery plant.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mystery Plant

Do you recognize this plant?

I believe the seeds for this self-seeded plant came from a package of "mixed seeds for kids" from last year.  We didn't know what it was last year, and we still don't know what it is.

Can you help?

What's Up in the Garden

There's a lot of good things popping up in the garden - besides the weeds and bugs.  Take a look.

Beans, spinach, carrots and peas
Cabbage & Eggplants
Melanie's Flower Patch (notice the circular pattern)
Tomatoes and Peppers

And there are also onions, potatoes, zucchini, pumpkins, butternut squash, and celery.

Looks like we're doing OK.

An albino bean?

Imagine our surprise when we found this white bean plant among our row of scarlet runner beans.  Could this be an albino bean plant?

The seeds were harvested from last year's crop of scarlet runner beans - all of which were green.

Can this plant survive without chlorophyll and all that photosynthesis stuff?  How will it get it's energy?

Let's see what happens.

Trouble in the Garden - Pests and Weeds

After a week away from the garden, we discover not all is well.

Millet, volunteer wheat (from my straw mulch) and red rooted pigweed are having a good year (did I mention I grew up on a farm where knowledge of weeds was second nature).  The only thing about these weeds is that they're much easier to control than quack grass.  They're easy to pull and once they're out, they're gone.

It was hard to distinguish our leeks from the millet in our garden.  When we did find them, we discovered that out of the 100's that we planted, only a few made it.  We probably should have watered them more consistently after planting them and put some sort of protective barrier around the rows to protect from cutworms. Can you spot the leeks from the millet in this picture?
Here's an example of how our garden neighbour protects his seeded rows from cutworms.
We also discovered some unwanted visitors, in addition to the many cutworms we've mentioned before.  This little shiny black beetle is a flea beetle (also well known on the farm).  And, although they're little, they can strip the leaves off of plants very quickly.  Cole plants like cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi and cauliflower are favourites.  They seem to enjoy our eggplants and pepper plants as well.

Here's what's left of my kohlrabi.  It used to have leaves as big as the photo above.

Options for controlling these little guys include planting sacrificial plants beside your veggies. Also known as trap plants.  For example planting radishes, mustard or canola beside your cabbage may distract flea beetles from your veggies.  On the other hand, they might just attract more beetles!

Putting netting or some sort of cover around your plant provides a physical barrier.

We're going to try mixing a batch of onion and garlic tea.  We've never tried this before, but it sounds like a fun thing to do for a 6 and 9 year old.

For more flea beetle information check out these resources beetle: beetle:

We also saw our first sunflower beetle.  These bad boys look a lot like potato beetles, but they like to chomp on sunflowers instead.  They're a little smaller than potato beetles and have a solid brown head.
All our sunflowers are volunteer plants that we let grow throughout the garden.  Because these beetles don't do much to other plants (at least I think not), we don't take drastic measures.  Although, when we see them, we squish 'em.

All in all, things aren't that bad.  Just think, if there weren't any of these issues, we'd have nothing to complain about!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away; Come Again Another Day!

It has rained and rained and rained these past few days.  Basements are wet, backyards are swamped and streets are flooded.  We haven't ventured to the garden plot to see what it looks like yet.  

Environment Canada says we've received 10.2 cm of rain in the last 4 days (May 28-31).  That's a lot!

Our clay soil will hold that moisture for a long time and when it dries it will clump up and become rock hard.  Those poor little seedlings and seeds will have to work extra hard to push through.

What can we do?
There's not much we can do right now, other than drain off any standing water if possible and/or necessary.  However, there are some things we can think about for the future:
  • Consider planting in mounds, raised rows or raised beds to elevate plants to drain and dry quicker.
  • Add sufficient compost to heavy, clay soil to allow for better drainage.
  • Put mulch around plants to protect them from splashing rain and soil being washed away from the roots.  It will also provide protection from the sun (which will eventually return) beating down and forming hard clumps.   Mulch will also keep the moisture in the soil for future use by the roots.  
  • Check plants regularly for signs of molds, fungus, mildew or blights.  Remove any diseased leaves or even entire plants to stop the spread to other plants.
  • Keep plants off the ground to allow them to dry quicker and avoid disease.  Stake those plants that need it right away (beans, tomatoes, and even some cucumbers).  
  • Dig drainage paths. Plan a path for excess water to follow.  
Today, the forecast is for a sunny 18 degrees with light winds.  Looks like we're in the clear for at least a couple of days.