All the garden entries from the 2014 growing season have been placed here.
All in all it was a good growing season. Tomatoes, as usual, were amazing and produced unexpectedly large harvests. That said there was a bout of bacterial speck to be dealt with about midway through the season.
First time growing Brussels Sprouts seemed to go well. They are so much tastier when ripened on the plant (less bitterness, but more flavor). Also grew Italian Choice Red Bell Peppers, and String Beans. All delicious, though it took a bit of time to figure out how to properly prepare them.
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While the blog entries are organized most recent entries first, the log will be listed from the start of the season in the spring, to the end of the season in October.
CAUTION: This entry contains many pictures.
Here We Go, 17-May-2014.
Same size as last year, buried soaker hose irrigation. _____________
Garden Overview — 2014 garden begins. Foreground: Brussels Sprouts. . . . . Behind them (where the stakes are): String beans. . . . . . Back-right: four tomato plants, . . . . . . . . Back-left: Italian Choice, red, Bell Peppers. . . Notice the fixtures at the front-left: I'm trying all underground irrigation this year, using soaker hoses.
Soaker Hose Lessons, 29-May-2014. _____________
Ooops. . . Learning — I broke my garden yesterday. Latest Gardening Lesson: When using buried soaker hoses to irrigate, you must exercise care when you add trellises or stakes.
Use Pressure Regulators With Soaker-Hoses (30-May) — For four years I've tried all different brands of sprinkler- and soaker-hoses. They all spewed tons of water out in the last few feet, and almost no water for most of the length. Thought it was bad brands of soaker hose. This year I learned that soaker-hoses aren't made to deal with full municipality water pressure (50-60 psi). If you don't want to blow out your soaker-hoses the first time you turn them on, you need to add pressure regulators. These (the two black things you see here) are less than $10 each, and seem to work fine. They reduce city water (50-60 psi) down to 10-20 psi pressure. So far, this has proven to work for me.
Off to a Great Start, 30-May-2014. _____________
Garden Overview — Front: Brussels Sprouts. . . Behind them: String Beans. . . Behind them: Place where the "Italian Choice" red peppers will be planted (they are currently being grown from seed inside). . . On the right: Four tomato plants.
Tomatoes — The two in the back are Better Boys, which are indeterminate. This (indeterminate) means they will keep right on producing until something (like a frost) stops them. . . . The two in the foreground are determinate (Better Bush). That (determinate) means they have a specific set of life-phases they grow through, which terminates in fruit production. When they are done, they are done, regardless of whether there is still more season left. In general, I don't like determinates for this reason, but was absent-minded on the day I purchased these two. . .
State of the Garden, 07-June-2014. _____________
The Garden — Left to right: Brussels Sprouts, String Beans, Tomatoes. The egg crate hangin' with the tomatoes is red-pepper sprouts that were germinated indoors. They are almost ready for planting in the space behind the tomatoes (another inch or two of growth needed).
Peppers In, 18-June-2014. _____________
Red Bell Peppers (Italian Choice): — This is the first time I was able to germinate the seeds indoors. This is an important step to master, before you can start doing heirloom seeds. There are nine plants here, though I have had to replant a couple of them because the birds think my garden is their playground.
The white plastic stakes mark where the soaker hose is buried.
Garden 23-June-2014. _____________
Garden Overviews — (left to right): Brussels Sprouts, String Beans, Tomatoes (Better Bush in Front, Better Boy in back). Behind the tomatoes, there are nine, newly planted, red bell pepper plants (Italian choice, red).
Tomatoes Gone Wild: — I left four feet between plants this year. The most so far. Still, it looks like they will combine into a single large bush before the season is out.
Brussels Sprouts, 01-July-2014. _____________
When Our Soccer Team is About to Play Belgium — The Brussels Sprouts are a bit wilted in the heat today. Maybe it's a good sign.
Garden With Tomatoes, 06-July-2014. _____________
Into Every Life — The tomatoes sustained quite a bit of wind damage in last week's storms, but, with a few well-placed stakes, and lots of ties, they're back upright. Looks like lots of tomatoes are on the way. . . God willing.
Second String-Bean Harvest, 09-July-2014. _____________
They're good for your heart — 2nd string-bean harvest just over 2 pounds. Looks like there is at least another harvest on the vines that is almost ready. Incidentally, wasps really are the a**holes of the gardening world. I take solace in the notion that some people think their stings lower MS activity.
Garden 11-July-2014. _____________
Brussels Sprout Close Up — This is a closeup of one of the Brussels Sprouts. It shows how each branch has one Brussels Sprout in its crux. They start out as a little tiny speck, and grow bigger with time, looking like little dark green blobs. This picture is a nice one because it shows them in various stages of development. There's one near the top (left) that is starting to show the normal appearance of a leafy sprout.
Heavy Duty Stakes — Another tomato basket fell over. This is a six foot, 1x2 stake that I drove about 2.5 feet into the ground with a sledge hammer. It surely did some root damage. These are the heaviest-duty cages I have found, and they still aren't up to the task. I need to find a better solution. Perhaps next year I will drive the stakes in when I set up the cages.
Place of Peace — (Accidental Feng Shui)
First Tomato Harvest, 14-July-2014. _____________
First Tomatoes — They're a lot like the first pancake on the grill. A little raggedy and imperfect. You can't see it here, but many of the tops are split. That means I've been over-watering a little, and will correct course.
The Garden, 16-July-2014. _____________
Thank goodness for poop in a bag — Serious compost shortage this year.
Rooting at a break — A branch broke almost completely off. I left it alone because it had flowers on the end, but then it started growing roots just after the break. I did what any self respecting gardener would do. Cut it off and plant it in the ground. We'll see how it does. --- UPDATE: It's doing nicely. See 2014/07/24.
Third string bean harvest. — Just under two pounds.
2nd tomato harvest — They're still coming from the bottom branches, so there are a lot of uglies, but there are also quite a few nice ones. And, just so you know, the uglies are just as tasty as the pretties.
Garden, 19-22, July, 2014. _____________
Garden 2014.07.19 — You can see the root damage showing up from where the 6 foot post had to be driven. These leaves are turning yellow. If it was one of the blights, they would be turning more of a beige color (i think). You can also see where I've started the planned expansion for next year. Unlike NATO, this expansion is entirely within my own back yard.
Single serving string-bean harvest — I didn't get any until the third harvest, so did not have any feedback on what I was doing wrong in harvesting and preparation. The first three harvests were not so good. Now I'm starting to learn, though. The only ones with any flavor are the green ones (greener the better). The white and yellow ones taste like the beans in pork-and-beans if you were to rinse off the sauce. Cut off 1/4 to 1/2 inch from each end and boil for 10 minutes or so. I have not been able to make saute preparation work yet.
Tomatoes — Harvests are averaging about 6-12 per day with about 80-90% of them pretties. In the beginning of the harvest season most of them were uglies.
More — Last year I was harvesting once a week so it was easy to keep tallies of the yields. This year it is every morning or afternoon, so it doesn't make sense to keep a count.
Ongoing Garden, 24-July-2014. _____________
From a Branch to a Plant — This is the tomato plant that was started from a broken branch (see 2014/07/16). You can see that it is really coming back nicely here.
Garden Expansion — The expansion is coming along. I put the birdbath in the middle of the newly scraped area.
Oops — Did I say 6-12 per day? I'd like to revise that. It looks like, for a while anyway, it will be 2-3 dozen per day.
2014.08.05 - Garden overview — L to R: Brussels Sprouts, String Beans, Tomatoes. You can't see the peppers behind the tomatoes, but they're there and doing fine.
Perfect! —Nicest tomato I've grown, to date.
Recognize this guy? — t was planted from a branch that had broken off one of the plants and started to sprout roots (see 2014.07.16). It is doing well and now has flowers. Should be producing tomatoes before you know it. Lesson? If this produces good tomatoes, next year I'll buy one of each variety and start extras from clippings.
Tomatoes Galore — Today's tomato harvest had much nicer pretties, in much greater numbers, than usual.
Bacterial Speck, 26-August to 5-September, 2014. _____________
Bacterial Speck — The tomatoes contracted something called "bacterial speck" about three weeks ago, which I was not able to treat. I was lopping off yellow branches every day and not keeping up. Finally was able to treat them with copper, which stopped --or at least slowed-- the dying branches. I've still been lopping off foliage, but now, most of it is left over from before the treatment.
Close-up — This is leaf speck (aka bacterial speck). Note the yellow hallos around dark brown specks. - - You should treat it with copper at the very first sign. I waited three weeks before starting treatment, which has probably doomed my tomatoes to an early end-of-season.
Bacterial Speck — I've been out every day pruning dead and dying branches. The existing tomatoes, which are normally hidden in the foliage, are completely exposed. While they still have that amazing garden-ripened taste, the lack of shelter from sun and wind causes them to have tougher-than-usual skin.
Overview — Here's the garden as of 2014.08.26 In the foreground (near the bird-bath), you can see the tomato plant that was started from a branch. It now has flowers and should be good for some late fruit. Unlike the mature plants, it only just started to show signs of leaf speck when I was finally able to apply the copper treatment, so it cleared right up. The cinder block you see there was discovered during the garden expansion effort.
Peppers, 8-September-2014 _____________
Peppers are doing great ! — Multiple peppers on each plant and new flowers too!
The peppers are Italian Choice Red. — I was worried they went in too late, but here we are with plenty of season left, and peppers starting to turn red.
State of the Garden, 04-07, October-2014. _____________
Second pepper harvest. — I like the red ones because you can tell when they're ripe. Few things are more disappointing to eat than a pepper that ain't ripe.
— Still more peppers to harvest.
The tomato plant started from a branch is doing well. Lots of tomatoes and flowers.
— The sick tomatoes are recovering nicely. it has taken a lot of pruning, and copper treatments.
Brussels Sprouts after two harvests — The way their stalks grow makes them look a little like palm trees.
Visitor, 14-October-2014. _____________
A visitor to the garden —
Close-Up — Just hangin' out under the palm trees that smell like cabbage.
Aphids, 16-October-2014. _____________
Aphids on the Brussels Sprouts — Aphids LOVE plants from the cabbage family (like the brussels sprouts). They seem to prefer the leaves and leave (sorry) the sprouts alone. Dusting the plants with Sevin does nothing noticeable to rid them. I'll have to research some better solutions for next year.
Pepper Harvest, 20-October-2014. _____________
— Peppers are producing well. The deeper the red, the sweeter the pepper.
The saddest day of the growing season — Lots of green tomatoes. I have been ripening them as needed by placing a bunch in a brown-paper-bag and closing it up. This produced fairly good ripe tomatoes that I thought would be on par with store bought tomatoes. Boy was I wrong. I had forgotten just how bad store-bought tomatoes are.
Post script: Why Do Store-bought Tomatoes Taste So Bad?
At this writing (24-December) I just purchased my first store-bought tomatoes of the season. They were AWFUL. They were nearly perfect to look at, and bright red, but they had a texture like a raw potato, but with less flavor.
I used to think store-bought tomatoes were bad because they picked them bright-green and then let them ripen in transit. I can no longer support that thesis, since, the home-grown tomatoes I have been ripening from a bright-green state, were WAY better than the store-bought tomatoes.
So I went back and learned a thing or two about how "big-food" does tomatoes. It turns out they pick them bright green, but then they gas them with ethylene to turn them red. The industry marketing effort is quite insistent that this is the same thing as if the fruit had ripened naturally, but judging by the taste, I'd say that may be a (big) stretch.
My guess. The ethylene hormone causes them to ripen (turn red) but does little or nothing to promote the normal process of breaking down the starches, which turn into sugars. Again, starches are the things that have a taste and texture reminiscent of potatoes but with less flavor.
Well, that's my theory. I've read the big-food releases that blame it on other stuff (like the varieties of tomato selected), but those theories just don't pass the smell test (sorry).