It was a fun sight this morning to see the first male cucumber blossom. The first two vines I planted are well over 12″ tall and, so far, seem to be pest free. It looks like there are a few more flower blossoms, male and maybe a female, that should open later this week.
The delight of the morning garden tour always fades, however, when I get to the tomato plants.
This is one sick looking Green Zebra tomato plant. I need to pull it out, but I’ve been dragging my heels. Fortunately, I have a second Green Zebra that is still looking healthy. This appears to be the only sick tomato. The Sungold cherry tomato plants are making tomatoes like crazy. The Garden Peach has also set a few fruits, but the Purple Cherokee and the good Green Zebra are still dropping all their flowers. . . I hope that situation changes soon.
Since I will soon need the space my carrots and beets are taking up for some new fall crops, I decided to start pulling them even though they are miniature in stature – the (also small but tender) radish is in the photo for scale. I think the root vegetables are being hindered by lack of nutrition – the tops are smallish and less than luxuriant. I suspect they just don’t have enough extra energy to store any away. That’s my made up theory, anyway. Oh well, they do make a nice gourmet “baby veg” addition to salads.
It seems like we might be in for our first summer thunderstorm. I’m working with one eye on the NOAA radar, hoping that the red spot is aimed right for our house. The rain tally for the past 90 days is less than 1/2″ so I’m enjoying the distant rumble of thunder, even if it brings wind and hail. I’ll take water in any form I can get it.
The ants seem to totally dig the Screwbean mesquite that has started to bloom in the front yard. Last year, when the tree was only 30″ tall, it got one bloom and none of the fantastic helix pods. Now that the tree is over 3′ tall (someday it will be 20′ tall, bathing the front yard in the most beautiful lacy shade), it seems to have more energy for reproduction – hopefully I’ll see some seed pods this year!
Two weeks ago I planted a bed of Triple Play sweet corn, Macbel Haricot Vert and Anasazi beans. Something about seeing the miniature corn stalks poking up out of that bed that makes me feel like a real urban farmer. We never grew corn in our home vegetable garden when I was a kid. Corn was relegated to the big fields of the real farmers, a crop grown by the acre, not the square foot. Corn probably isn’t the most practical use of space and water in my small garden – it certainly doesn’t provide as much to eat per square foot as other crops, but it is one of the most anticipated vegetables this year. There has already been much discussion debating grilled vs. boiled preparations. I’m hoping to build and plant a second bean and corn bed this weekend – which will give me a total (hopefully) of 20 stalks – not a lot, but just enough to enjoy several meals of extremely fresh homegrown corn.
During my ten day absence the vegetable garden seems to have jumped into summer mode. The Smart Pickle cucumber and Bouquet dill seedlings that were still small and frail when I left are now robust, promising a future bounty of homemade dill pickles. I can’t wait – dill pickles are a favorite around here (jars and jars and jars of them are consumed annually), but the only time I’ve made my own is a few years ago in Maryland when I received a summer CSA box filled with cucumbers and dill. Since then there’s been a lot of talk, but no action, on repeating the home pickling endeavor. There should be plenty of cucumbers to pickle this year, though, as I currently have two cucumber plants growing well, have sown the seeds for two more (to replace seeds that failed to germinate while I was out of town), and plan to seed a final two plants behind the snap peas that will be giving out soon. I’ve also sown the seeds for Delicata winter squash behind the snap peas figuring they can take over the trellis when the peas are finished with it. I’ve been trying to ignore my need to organize and categorize into neat and tidy rows and instead experiment with companion planting, intercropping and succession planting. One of my experiments was to see if could extend the lettuce season a few more weeks by capitalizing on the shade provided by my fava plants – I seeded a row of lettuce between my fava rows two weeks ago. So far, so good; I just wish I had thought of it sooner as it may already be too hot for even shaded lettuce since temperatures have been consistently reaching the upper 80s and low 90s every afternoon.
Last night I felt I had truly entered the ranks of the obsessed and crazy when I found myself planting tomatillo and Habanero pepper plants in the dark. I was racing to get them in the ground before I leave town and abandon them to the (perhaps forgetful?) ministrations of others. I figured they would all be less vulnerable and have a better chance of surviving the coming week if they said goodbye to their pots and had some room to stretch out. Of course, the move was entirely overdue as the tomatillos have been blooming for over two weeks. I had no idea they had such cool flowers. My only previous experience with tomatillos is buying the husked fruits from the market and eating salsa verde. I have, however, grown tomatoes before and recognize the sign of a future tomato! Here’s a sun flare filled shot of a tiny Sungold cherry tomato in the morning light. I do believe there may be some good eating ahead.
This little critter was hanging out on the edge of my bean and pea vegetable bed yesterday evening. It appeared to be looking for something and took no mind of me stalking it with the camera. I was actually concerned that there was something wrong as the bee was there for so long, but I know very little about bees. I’m thinking about making some bee houses for next spring to encourage the solitary native bees. I was disappointed this spring when my Golden Currant bush bloomed profusely but only a handful (10, to be exact, because of course I counted) currants formed. While I did see some small native bees hanging around, I think I need to provide more habitat. Hopefully as the plant population increases in my yard, so will the bee population.
At lunch time I spent a few minutes thinning out the Oxheart carrots. I haven’t grown carrots since I was, oh, I don’t know, 8 years old, but I think these are looking like they will, indeed, become carrots. According to the seed packet, they should be ready to harvest in 3 or 4 weeks, but they still look pretty puny to me. I think I should be prepared for a slightly longer wait. I chose to sow the wide stumpy Oxhearts since the description said they were the best for heavy soils. Even though I removed about 12″ of clay from this bed and returned slightly better clay that included more organic material along with compost and sand amendments, I can’t imagine I am even close to having ideal carrot soil.
It was a welcome relief to wake up to cool moist air and the sound of a gentle rain on the roof this morning. Yesterday was one of those days that causes many a southwest gardener to give up in despair, I imagine. The thermometer hit 90 again and by noon all of my cool season vegetables were limp and drooping despite the extra water I had languished upon them. Then the wind kicked up. All afternoon and evening the dull roar was unrelenting. The sustained winds were about 30 mph with gusts of at least 40. My bean and pea plants spent the afternoon keeled over at 45 degrees. However, despite this blast furnace torture regimen, my first snap pea flowers began to open.
With a little luck, given the 20 degree drop in temperature today and maybe, just maybe, a few more drops of rain coming, I may yet get a few spring vegetables out of garden other than the occasional fistful of greens I’ve harvested. I was spying on my French Breakfast radishes this morning and I think by next week I’ll be enjoying them with just a sprinkling of sea salt. . .