Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blueberries, squash, tomatoes, oh my!

Well, the sugar snap peas are done, and I was ready for it.  It is true, you CAN have too much of a good thing.  I pulled up those vines, and used them as mulch under the blueberry bushes.  The vines were healthy, and blueberries and peas really don't share pests, so there was no risk of disease or insect issues.  My blueberry plants remain very small, but oh, the blueberries are so sweet and flavorful!  We have the entire bed covered by a frame and bird netting to insure that we get the fruit.

The Italian zucchini also are producing.  I love this meaty vegetable.  Here you see a few sitting on the railing of the steps, along with the eggs harvested the same evening.  If you look closely you will see how days without enough water, followed by days with enough water, result in squash that are not evenly sized from end to end.  Oh well. 

Almost as exciting as the ripe squash are the tomatoes that are starting to fill out.  So very beautiful!  In one of my beds the plants are 5 feet tall and dark green, making me wonder if that bed got a little too much fertilizer!  I am trying to keep the tomatoes well watered to prevent blossom end rot, but it has been awfully dry, and I haven't been quite as attentive as I should.  Time will tell!

Finally, my yukon gold potato plants are suddenly showing signs of disease.  Here you see the leaf spots.  In addition, the vines are yellowing and the plants are looking sickly overall.  So far the potatoes I dig (and oh are they beautiful and tasty!) show no symptoms, but I plan to get them out of the ground right away now, just in case.  I have not identified the disease at issue; from a cursory view it does not readily match any of the potato diseases.  I need to get some leaves, stems and roots under the microscope!  However, just getting the potatoes dug now will solve the problem, plus will give me a free bed for more beans, squash or cukes!  I will make sure to get rid of all potato plant leaf and stem and root materials, and not compost them, as I don't want to spread the disease for future years.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Harvest time!

It is harvest time, and the vegetables are beautiful this year.  Here you see spectacular beets and one of many baskets of sugar snap peas. I only had one row of beets, but what a great yield!  The peas are ripening so quickly now that it is difficult to pick them often enough.  They are so very good, but I need to come up with some new ways to prepare them.  Raw and lightly steamed are great, but with so many peas, I have to do better!

Did you notice the picture of the pea vines on the ground?  Our dog Jo likes sugar snap peas.  A lot.  She watched me and learned how to pick them.  She now also knows that pulling too hard brings the entire crop down on your head.  Every morning when she goes out now, I can look out and see her standing in the middle of these vines, munching away.  Luckily I have another set of vines in the next bed over.

I also had to include a picture of that gorgeous chard plant, with its red stem now growing tall above the adjacent potato plants.   I did not have the heart to snap it off, so it just keeps growing.  Soon I will remove it for some other plants, but for now it is just a living, growing piece of art in the backyard.

If you haven't cooked fresh beets before, remember this trick to make preparation easier: wash them well and cut off the leaves, leaving about an inch of leaf stem attached to the beet.   You will want to cook and eat the leaves separately.  Now, place the washed beets in a pot of water, enough to cover them all, and bring to a boil.  Let them simmer until just tender: test with a knife.  Immediately drain off the water and rinse with cold water until they are cooled enough to touch.  The skins now will slip right off:  I keep a couple of paper towels handy to help with the process.  Remove the skins, cut off the top and the tip of the root, and you have beets ready to slice and prepare.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A plethora of peas

The sugar snap peas are really coming on strong now, and if I can get a few days when they are not picked and eaten garden-side, one at a time as they ripen, I will have a delicious vegetable on my plate this coming weekend.  These are very good raw, but I love them best lightly steamed or sauteed, with butter and pepper (and some new potatoes if you have them).  Because they stay tender and sweet when plump, and don't have to be shelled, you get almost twice the volume of tender, sweet, peas to eat (compared to English peas, which must be shelled). 

In the last two weeks my beets, which were planted this spring, have gone from tiny and questionable to perfect sized and almost ready to pick.  Here you see them with some young bean plants in the next row.  See the withered, brown spots on the bean leaves, and to some extent on the beet leaves?  This is the result of heavy winds damaging the leaves about a week ago.  The leaves were young and tender, and the edges were broken and bruised to the point where the tissue could not recover, and so died.  The plants will, however, be fine.

My garden is really suffering from lack of water right now, so I will have to break down and pull the hose over this afternoon.  With all the big storms headed our way last weekend, I was sure we would get a good drenching, so I did not water.  Well, the storms went all around us, but not a drop of rain fell at my house.  With the rain barrels already empty (it has been dry!), I will have to resort to city water.

Finally, look at all the plums!  I wonder if they will hold on and ripen this year, and if the birds will leave them alone?  This is a very young, European type plum tree, which I pruned heavily this spring after a pruning workshop.  It has responded well, so I am very hopeful!