Saturday, June 25, 2011

I really have no idea what I am doing.

Really.  This is sorta the third year we've had a garden here, but only the second where we'll actually get a harvest since that first year we lost our whopping 8 plants to late blight.

So far the missteps haven't been as profound as last year, and we seem to be on the verge of getting a good amount of food out of our front yard, but I love seeing people around town who are doing it better.  Last year I found a few random people with really neat urban gardens scattered around Pittsburgh.  This year I want to actively seek them out because they let me know that what I'm trying to do is possible (and also because they are just so cool).

Today I managed to get out to Wilkinsburg to FINALLY try to get new eggplant seedlings from Garden Dreams.  They did NOT have any Turkish Orange left (damn) but I found several other varieties of eggplant as well as seedlings for ground cherries, green tomatillos, purple tomatillos, and a bunch of cherry tomatoes.  I also picked up some variety of white tomato...not because I need another tomato, but because I've never grown a white one and I couldn't resist.

They occupy two city lots and the whole garden is just amazingly landscaped.  There are several areas full of potted seedlings for sale which make up the bulk of their business currently, but later in the season they will also be selling their naturally grown produce to the public.  There were so many different colors and types of pepper, tomato and eggplant seedlings available that I can only imagine the rainbow that will be their harvest.

But enough words!  Here are some pictures I took there earlier today...if you're ever in Pittsburgh, they are definitely worth a visit (even on a gloomy day such as today):

(A haunted house.  Or a non-haunted house doing a really great impression of a haunted house.)

I can't wait to go back in a few months when the veggies start to ripen!  Next time I'm bringing the kids.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Food everywhere!

We're reaching the part of garden season where the kids start to REALLY get excited.  Harvesting is much less work and much more fun than all the stuff that comes earlier in the season.  We're also getting more variety with our CSA, which is awesome because it forces us to try and figure out how new and creative ways to cook food that the kids will eat.

One of the big success stories in this arena, is actually my first attempt at quiche.  After being inspired by this post and recipe by Chris over at Adventures of a Thrifty Mama I decided to give it a try using ham, broccoli, garlic scapes, fresh basil, and spring onions all from the amazing Kretschmann Farm CSA.  It was surprisingly awesome, and even better than the quiche I remember eating all the time when I worked at Whole Foods several years ago.

I tied up the volunteer tomatoes growing behind the bush beans.  The peas have been yanked and more beans have been planted on each side of the tomatoes.

An entire melon cluster has been eaten by bunnies.  They were spaced too close anyway, so it's not a huge loss, but this is a trend I would like to stop.

Austin picked one of his "spicy peppers" (Garden Salsa).  Not sure what we'll do with it yet since we have no tomatoes.  

Today's harvest was one weirdly shaped Space Miser Zucchini, two immature gypsy bell peppers, one garden salsa pepper, and one small kohlrabi.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Around the garden...

I picked up two Golden Treasure pepper plants a few weeks back without really knowing anything other than that they are a sweet yellow pepper.  After doing some research, it appears they are quite long (8" to 9") and resemble banana peppers.  The plants are now barely a foot tall but there is one baby pepper already growing.

I have multiple clusters of Early Girl tomatoes growing on my two plants.  The other tomatoes have yet to achieve fruit set, though there may be some in hiding.

On the left, you can see a pretty large volunteer tomato in my tomato bed.  I'm torn because it's VERY close to my Early Girl and too big to move.  I think I'll be leaving it and keeping my fingers crossed.  

Yesterday's harvest was one kidney shaped ichibahn eggplant and a bowl full of basil.

The two Gypsy Bell's have a total of 4 baby peppers including the big one I keep watching.

The first Saffron Summer Squash...there are no male flowers yet though.

This kohlrabi will be harvested later today.  

Our newest family member is now 4 weeks old, and LOVES just sitting in a rocking chair sucking on a finger after she eats or when she's feeling cranky.  Unfortunately for her, Daddy's finger won't do, and Mommy's fingers aren't always ready when she is in finger mode.  See the problem here?
It's not good enough to just wash my hands either...I have to actually scrub and make sure none of the garden dirt stays under my finger nails or else it will end up in her little tummy.  Granted I ate tons of dirt as a kid, but I'm pretty sure the only thing a 4 week old needs right now is milk.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Zucchini and eggplant harvest!

These are going into stir-fry tomorrow with some left-over great northern beans and whatever else we have in the house.  I picked them a tad small because I just couldn't wait  :)

We've given up on peas until fall and yanked all of these out of the pea circle today.  In it's place I direct seeded a zucchini called "Sure Thing Hybrid".  I'm thinking I will just plant beans and zucchini where ever I have room at varying intervals since they grow so quick and we could never have too many.   Plus last year we lost all of our summer squash after the first few harvests.  Also, check out the little volunteer tomato in the lower right part of the picture...I'm going to leave it alone and see if it can compete with the grass).

 Ugh.  My eggplants are all covered and this is the plant that looks the healthiest.  I think I'm going to lose my only traditional eggplant, so I need to make a plan.  Even my tiny little Turkish eggplants in a different area of the garden have been totally destroyed now by the flea beetles.

I'm pinning all my hopes on finding replacement seedlings at Garden Dreams later this week.  I have my heart set on growing some Turkish Orange stuffers, and it's included in their list of seedlings.  As a bonus, they are having and end-of-season sale with all seedlings at 50% off PLUS a free tomato, eggplant and pepper plant with each purchase!  If you're in the Pittsburgh area, go check them out...currently they are Certified Naturally Grown, but are working towards becoming Certified Organic.  If I come back with new eggplants, I will be potting them in an entirely different part of the yard and covering them until they get to fruiting stage.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Out with Aphids and in with Flea beetles.

My second round of eggplants are now being full-scale assaulted by flea beetles.  It seems like the organic soap spray I doused them with has eliminated the beetles on the plants in the back yard, but the ones in the front are now being feasted upon as well.  I hadn't looked too closely at them in a few days, so several leaves on each plant look like some jerk sat in my yard and poked the crud out of them with sewing needles.  I tried to manually squish some of the little bastards to be a warning sign for the rest of the flea beetles, but they just hopped away while giving me the buggy-finger.  Hopefully the thorough dousing in soap spray puts them in their place.  Mwahahahahaha...

On the plus side, the ladybug release has seemed to eliminate the aphids from the garden entirely.  The number of holes being eaten in my bean and pepper plants by mystery bugs has also decreased greatly, which is comforting because the beans were looking pretty questionable a few weeks back.

I couldn't bear thinning every single broccoli, so I saved one in a bucket.  It's the last on the right here and seems to be doing well so far.

The pepper bed is lush and green and seems to have recovered well from the bug that was eating holes in the leaves.  I won't be putting down straw since it just makes it harder to weed.

The space miser plants have produced two squash that ended up being unpollinated.  I cut them off today and will be watching the bee status of the garden a bit more closely.  This might just be the result of not having a male flower at the time, though it does worry me that I got rid of almost all of the pretty flowers that bees like in order to make room for more veggies.

I thinned the pan patty squash down to three pants and the cucumbers down to two plants per spot.  The royal burgundy bush beans are nice and bushy, so I hope to see some flowers soon.

This one kohlrabi is way bigger than the others.  No idea why.

My tiny pepper!  Last year peppers were one of the latest things to set fruit.  Expect new pictures of this guy on a semi-frequent basis until he's ripe...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Progress of sorts.

It's so exciting to see stuff actually growing!  We got such a late start that I don't really expect to harvest much except for herbs for the next few weeks.  Peas would be nice, but with the scorching hot Julyish weather we've had recently I am pretty sure those will be a bust.  I'll give it another couple of weeks and then pull it all for more bush beans or possibly something else.

Last year I only grew tomatoes in pots, until late in the season when I allowed a bunch of volunteers to grow and ended up with a mixed bed of peppers and roma tomatoes.  Those roma produced like gangbusters, so this year I started a tomato bed in the sunniest spot of the garden to try and get my heirlooms producing that well.  So far, the plants seem very squat and bushy.  Few (if any) flowers yet, but multiple thick, strong lower branches that just want to sprawl with tons of leaves but very little height.  They are all different types as well, so I'm hoping it's just a stage.  I did notice those bumpy proto-roots on all the thick ground-level stalks, probably because the straw mulch is tricking them into thinking they are laying on dirt.  Tomorrow I will be removing the mulch to pull weeds, so we'll see if I can get a better handle on what's going on then.  Right now I don't know what to make of it.

The first pepper!  A gypsy should turn orange.  You know you screwed up when one of the first veggies you get is a pepper.

This is an okra plant grown from seed.  I don't know if anyone in my house will eat okra, but I figure it's worth a shot.  I think it survived the seedling apocalypse that took place a few weeks back because it's one of the few plants I started in a pot year I hope to have a small area of the sun room just for starting plants so I don't lose them all.

Ichibahn Eggplant (last year's MVP of the garden).

WAY more of the cucumber and squash seeds came up than I was expecting.  Tomorrow will be thinning day.

The kohlrabi seem to grow a quarter inch each night!  They're working out so much better than expected that I am thinking about getting some seed and keeping them planted in succession.  My grandfather and father both grew kohlrabi when I was a kid, so I remember the taste well enough that I never dared buy it from the supermarket.

One of my volunteer tomatoes in the pea bed.  There are three with fairly large healthy stalks that I'll be leaving and trying to tie against the wall to the trellis for the peas.  I've pulled out dozens of volunteer tomatoes, and something HUGE that I think was a volunteer pumpkin from Halloween seeds.  I would have left it if pumpkins  didn't hog so much space.

Lawn murder on my mind.

I am seriously considering killing off the rest of my front lawn.  There isn't very much of it left, but what there is just breeds weeds and invasive grass that needs to be chopped up weekly with a weed whacker because the areas between beds are too narrow to mow.  I'm so new to this gardening thing that I don't really know the names of all the nastiness growing in my lawn, but there are several distinct "problem plants" that I feel like I'm in a losing battle against.  Some are vines, some are grass-like, and some are weird and spikey....all of them have very deep roots and grow like...ahem...weeds.

Considering this is my FRONT lawn, and that all of my neighbors have nice, green, landscaped lawns I do feel kind of bad about it, but I just don't think I can take the hours of pulling invasive stuff from the edge of all my veggie beds each week.  I can't even have straw mulch because now my tomato plants are being climbed by the horrid vining weed from under the straw.  I have to remove all of it from the bed to find the spots where the vines are rooted.

My plan is to put down weed cloth and then pine mulch on all of the grass.  I may start with layers of newspaper first to guarantee that the whole thing is smothered.  This project isn't happening until I'm done with the actual planting, so check back around early July for details.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lemonbalm, Flea Beetles and CSA box #2! Woo hoo!

So I found out that the weird citronella smelling plant along my back fence is actually lemon balm.  I've never had lemon balm before, but I found out you can make lemon balm pesto and a bunch of other neat and yummy things, so I guess we'll be trying out some new recipes.

Lemon balm also repels insects, which might be why they are all living on my potted plants along that fence.  Now that the aphids have been destroyed (along with my original eggplant and cherry tomato plants) and I have replanted with seedlings bought from the most excellent Garden Dreams Urban Farm & Nursery, my poor replacement eggplant leaves are being made into swiss cheese by flea beetles.  Ugh.  I bought some neem oil spray so tomorrow we should be able to test it.

 The Space Miser has new blooms daily!

Our Kretschmann Farms CSA box had fresh strawberries, herbs, radishes, garlic scapes, kale and lots of different lettuces.

The kids were most excited about the new lettuce.  They're pretty used to the bland tasteless iceberg that we buy, so this was a very flavorful treat.

A view of the whole box.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer Squash!

I have AT LEAST 3 baby Space Miser Squash appearing! We would have stuffed and eaten the blooms if they weren't crawling with aphids. We just did a ladybug release, so hopefully the aphid problem will subside, but in the mean time we are eagerly awaiting our first garden stir fry.

One of the small pan patty squash I transplanted to the corner of the onion bed.

Baby in the garden!

The tomatoes need staked.


We almost have food!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Things progress (slowly).

I've been doing a lot of uploading while holding a cranky baby, so if I haven't typed up the description it might appear the next day when I have a free arm.

Anyway, things are going as well as can be expected with the horrid weather here. It's like Pennsylvania is having an identity crisis and doesn't know whether it wants to become Seattle or Phoenix. It's either too damn wet or too damn hot.

The buckets are slowly getting filled. I need to move several to the back yard so they don't block my light.

The kids help with the watering with their animal cans provided by gramma.

I LOVE the silver on that Space Miser squash.