Category Archives: gardening

Freeze Warning

The earliest 28° frost/freeze where we live can occur any time between late August to late September. Last Friday, the National Weather Service warned us that a killing freeze/frost could occur Monday and Tuesday nights, September 7 and 8. That is pretty early,  and all the signs were indicative of this calamity.

On Sunday, Husband and I harvested all the chard, green and red New Mexico peppers, red sweet peppers, and  any tomato that showed any inclination of ripening indoors. (Tomatoes that have been subjected to a frost when they are still on the vine should not be canned. It produces some enzyme that is contrary to safe canning.) That meant a trip to several  local liquor stores to get boxes for ripening tomatoes, as well as a search for canning jars. (There are no canning jars to be had in our town now, as everyone was scrambling to save their garden produce, too. )

We spent Monday figuring out how to maximize the canning jars and lids we still had, and to cook up  a couple dozen chili peppers for enchilada sauce. We covered bean poles with comforters and blankets, and also covered  pepper plants  and  cantelopes with old table cloths and a large tarp. So much for a restful Labor Day Weekend.

Tuesday morning dawned with frost covered roofs and droopy tomato plants. Similar cold temperatures are predicted for Tuesday evening, so we will leave everything covered until Wednesday. By then, warmer evening temperatures are predicted.

When has the weather changed your plans?

 

Bugs

For the first time ever, we have an infestation of flea beetles in the kohlrabi and cabbage. You can see in the header photo what they did to the kohlrabi leaves in just a couple of days. We very rarely have insect problems in the garden, and usually never have to apply insecticide. This time the Sevin was sprayed vigorously  on these tiny, black, flying beetles the size of sesame seeds. We will wait three days to harvest, then all the cabbagey things are getting removed.

I am both  fascinated and repelled by insects. I know we need some, like bees, but I wish they weren’t so destructive.  People here try to catch flea beetles and take them to the Badlands and put them on Leafy Spurge, an invasive plant that is toxic to cattle and resistant to herbicides.  What a wonderful use for them.  I like useful insects, but that is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.

What are your favorite/least favorite  insects? How do you manage them in your garden? What are your feelings about insecticides?

The Great Pepper Mystery

Husband and I started six varieties of peppers from seed this year.  We started two sweet red peppers (Spanish Giants and Ajvarskis) and two hot chilis (Joe Parker, a New Mexico Hatch type red chili, and Chimayo, a smaller, hotter, New Mexico red Chili). We also started some Habaneros and Thai chilis for our son

We labeled them and were careful to not mix them up.  When we planted, I was certain that all the Joe Parkers were given to my secretary,  as we decided at the last minute we didn’t want them. The Thai chilis and one Habanero went to our son, and all the rest, (17 in total) went into our garden. Or so we thought. Imagine my surprise  when son sent photos of the alleged Habanero that looked long and slender like a Joe Parker. Two of what I thought were Chimayos also turned out to be Joe Parkers, and now we can’t tell the difference between the Spanish Giants and the Ajvarskis, as their tags got all mixed up when we planted. The header photo shows what I think are, from left to right a Spanish Giant, an Ajvarski, and  Chimayo. (The latter are quite easy to discern.)

Husband tried to do a taste test between two big peppers,  but they tasted similar. I decided the only way to solve this mystery is to not start any Joe Parkers next year. I should add that the peppers I gave my secretary were doing well until we had a wind storm and a big tree crashed on top of her garden.

What mystery, ancient or modern, would you like to solve?

84 Pounds of Pickles

I have never been able to do math in my head. Husband is far better at it, but last week he failed at basic math hilariously while using a calculator.

Husband found some lovely vegetables at an Adventist farm  stand.  (Adventists are supposed to be vegetarian,  but I find it humorous that some of our most prominent local  Adventists are big time cattle ranchers.) We decided to make German  refrigerator pickles with them.  The recipe called for four quarts of brine and one cauliflower,  one carrot, twelve pearl onions, two cucumbers, and two bell peppers. It all had to sit in the brine in a steel pot in the refrigerator for a week.

We have a refrigerator in the basement just for this purpose,  but we are always concerned about the weight on the shelves. Husband calculated the weight of everything and worriedly told me that we couldn’t possibly put the brine pot in the fridge because it weighed 84 pounds.

Well, that just didn’t make sense to me, and after some sturm und drang, Husband recalculated and determined it all weighed 8 pounds. The veggies are brining  away in the pot in the fridge.  Now I can finally tease him about his math skills.

How are your Math skills?  What kinds of Math are easiest for you? When have you miscalculated?

The House of Orange

Husband informed me this week that the reason carrots are orange is a result of selective plant breeding in the 17th century as a tribute by Dutch gardeners to William of Orange.  Prior to this they were purple, white, and yellow.  This was a real surprise to me, as I assumed such activity  was a phenomenon of the 20th century.  What a wonderful thing to know!

What new things have you learned lately?  What would you change the color of, if you could? Got any good carrot recipes? 

Digging a Hole

I can get really dirty when I’m working in the yard and putting in a new fence post this week made for TWO seriously dirty days.

The fence was initially installed in the end of April 1991, right after I moved in, so I didn’t have to take the dogs out on leashes six or seven times a day so they could do their business.  One of the fence posts was replaced years ago and the others have slowly deteriorated over time.  I have a huge black steel fence post “holder” keeping one up and my handy man did a serious MacGyver on another one last November when the ground was already frozen.  YA and I decided to replace the saggiest one and see what lessons we learned before attempting the MacGyvered one.

All the online advice talks about how hard it is to get the previous concrete out and they weren’t kidding.  The hole was humungous because we couldn’t get any leverage in a smaller hole.  We finally got down to where we needed to be and we measured the post and I sawed it off to the right height.  Then on Day 2 we got an ugly surprise; the very corner where there post needed to go had an old remnant of the initial fence post.  Believe me when I tell you it doesn’t take thousands of years for old wood to calcify.  It took an hour, a saw, a drill with 2 different bits, one dandelion digger that didn’t survive the ordeal and a hammer to finally clear that corner.

So the post is in, I’ve taken another super serious shower and some ibuprofen for my sore shoulders.  YA and I had lunch after we had finished and we both agreed that we learned a lesson that we could apply to the gate post – that we were hiring someone else to do it!

Any projects that you’ve gotten dirty doing?

 

Tales of Woe

Last week I got bitten by a bee, on my bottom lip.  I felt the bee start to fly in my mouth (I’m sure that’s not where he/she meant to go) and I spit it out pretty quickly, but not before I got a mild sting.  No big swelling, no allergic reaction but it did hurt for a few days.  On Day 3, if I looked REALLY hard, I could see a teeny whitish blister.  Kinda.  Certainly no one else could see it, including YA.

Then on Monday, while hammering a nail in the bathroom, I missed the nail and whacked by left index finger something good.  I swore so loudly that I had to go apologize to the neighbors.  It really hurt.  No bruise, no blood under the fingernail.  Nothing except for the lingering soreness.

Now I don’t know about you but I think if you get hurt enough that it still hurts after a day or so, you should get a little bruise or a blister or something.  It doesn’t have to be some egregious wound, just a little badge of honor for your pain.

Have you ever received a trophy (or badge or prize)?

Plants on the Move

Ligularia, or “The Rocket”, is one of my favorite shade plants.  We have several in our yard, and I like to pair them with Hydrangeas.  They can be somewhat alarming when it is hot, as they droop in the day, but then they perk right up again after it cools in the evening. They come in different heights and leaf colors. I like the large ones with big green leaves.

I am an impatient gardener, and I plant things too close. I seem to forget just how big Hydrangeas get, and that they will muscle out anything next to them if it isn’t far enough away. This happened recently on the north side of the garage. I had planted Ligularia too close to the Hydrangeas, and the they became completely covered.  Ligularia can become quite large, as you can see in the header photo.  The ones in the north bed were puny, so last Saturday I decided to transplant them to a more open space in the fern bed. It is shady and they can predominate over the ferns. I was amazed to see how resourceful the Ligularia were, and that they had actually migrated from the middle of the Hydrangea bed to the very edge of it, as though to escape the larger shrubs. I initially planted them in a straight line with the Hydrangeas, and here they had moved at least a foot north to the edge of the bed. It is as though they tried to transplant themselves.

We have become more strategic landscapers in the past few years,  but our tendency is to plant where there is  room and to fill in empty spaces somewhat willy nilly. I suppose that is why we end up transplanting things a lot.

What is your landscaping strategy?  What have been your successful and not so successful outcomes?

 

Weeds

Husband and I returned home last Tuesday from Brookings to a garden jungle of weeds. It rained every day we were gone, and the temperatures were quite warm, so everything grew. We weeded on Wednesday.  Husband estimated we  hauled about 50 pounds of weeds to the city  grass clippings and weeds dumpsters,

I have never seen the utility of using a hoe to weed. It just cuts the weeds off at the top, and leaves the roots to produce the weeds again. We are hands and knees, crawl through the garden and pull the weeds up by the roots sort of gardeners. We are, however, getting older and Husband has neuropathy in his fingers from diabetes.

This year we tried a new strategy, laying down newspapers between the rows  and on the edges of the beds and covering them with a layer of top soil. That really helped  keep the weeds down. Husband has bought at least 30 bags of topsoil toward this endeavor, and after weeding yesterday he liberally strewed newspaper and dirt in all the places he hadn’t before.  It was a real pleasure to gaze at the garden yesterday and see nary a weed.

What is your favorite garden tool?  What special satisfaction do you get from gardening?