Saturday, April 28, 2012

Garden Check-In

 It's definitely a rough year for the garden.  We have had continual pest problems.   I have been spraying with neem oil on a regular basis and that has helped a lot, but I let things get too far gone before I started that and the pests keep trying to creep back in.  I'd say I spray the neem about twice a week, always at the end of the day (so the sun combined with the spray doesn't burn the leaves) and on days when we watered in the morning (so the plants aren't drought stressed).  I find more dead caterpillars than live ones now, and there are fewer missing leaves.

We finished planting everything for spring almost a month ago and I did a full picture update then, so today I went outside and took pictures of everything again for comparison.

The potato patch is nearing the end of its life.  The plants have put up with caterpillars and a certain 70 pound labrador running through them.  They've bloomed and are showing some signs of blight, so they'll be ready to dig up really soon. It's hard to see in this picture, but in the far corner (nearest to that ramp into the shed) we do have several squash and cucumber plants thriving.  Some of my seed never sprouted, so I bought a new packet I will plant there this weekend.
Just to check things out, I pulled up one of the plants.  I didn't do too much digging, but these were the potatoes I easily found.  I suspect there are about 40-50 pounds of golf ball sized potatoes out there all together.  Not as high a yield as we've gotten in the past, but some of the plants were completely defoliated by caterpillars, so not surprising.

Over in the strawberry bed, the plants look healthy and we've let them put out some berries.  I debated pinching off all the blooms so they would put their energy towards plant growth, but in the end, decided to just let it go.  We'll hopefully keep these going through the winter and get a big crop from them next year.
Here is the strawberry bed (on the bottom) and bell pepper bed at the top. 
The bell peppers are doing really well and have all just set fruit.  The gypsy bell peppers are vying for "first pick of the season". These are similar to red bell peppers in taste, but the size/shape of a banana pepper
 Here are the broccoli plants at the bottom and the beans at the top.  The broccoli is getting leggy (from the warm weather, I think) but it is starting to produce.  The beans are doing well in the hugelkultur bed and starting to climb some fencing Josh put in for them.
The onions look ROUGH.  This is what surprised me so much about the caterpillars.  Normally, onions are the last to get attacked, but these were eaten down to nothing in some places.  They are starting to bulb out, so we'll have some onions, but not the yield we would normally get.
This is the bed that has garlic planted all around the edge and was the last to be attacked by caterpillars.  It's also being watered through ollas rather than drip line.  These tomato plants are doing really well and basil is coming up between them.
These tomato plants look healthy and are starting to put out blooms
These are the onion beds that were already in rough shape from the early spring flood we got.  The caterpillars didn't help the situation and, as you can see, there certainly aren't rows of healthy plants here.  I'll be surprised if we get much of anything from these.
The carrots are still very happy though!  Only the outer rows got nibbled by caterpillars, so they haven't been under as much stress as everything else.
These are the tomatoes and some squash in the last remaining octagon bed
Some of the squash is starting to put out male blooms, but I haven't seen any females yet
  Over on the end, we have banana peppers and chili peppers that have started to put out some blooms

The old watermelon seed I planted at the edge of this bed has sprouted, we'll see how it holds up over the summer.

And the okra in this bed is finally starting to come up too.  I ended up replanting this because I wasn't seeing sprouts.  I think that may have been because it just wasn't warm enough to get quick germination yet, but the plants are hardier and produce better when they sprout and grow quickly.  I figured the seed I had used may have been old, but even if it was just too cold, I was better off replanting. As Doug Welsh, the ag extension guy that hosts a weekly gardening show on our NPR channel, always says, "seed is cheap!"
And here are lots of little cucumber plants.  The baby cucumber plants have been the favorite meal of the caterpillars and I got frustrated, so I just put out a whole packet of seed in this spot and figured I would thin it out later.

Over in the back of the yard, the birds are getting a lot bigger too.  The turkeys are absolutely huge compared to the chickens now!  I'd say they're at least twice the size of the chickens.  I haven't been picking them up, but Josh estimates they are about 8-10 pounds live weight.  Josh is in charge of the birds, but if I understand the timeline right, we'll be processing the turkeys sometime near the end of July. They have been a bit of a learning experience.  The last time we raised meat birds, they were a whole flock of their own and they were also chickens.  These big boys eat a lot more feed than I expected, even with being able to scavenge in the yard under their mobile coop.   They have not been as loud as I expected though, so that's a bonus.
The hens are all feathered out and getting bigger.  They probably have a couple more months before they start laying eggs.  That red lady in the front is one of the Rhode Island Reds
Here is one of the Amercaunas.  They are the ones that will lay blue/green eggs, we're all excited about that.
And these are the Barred Rocks (well, I mistakenly focused my camera on the chicken wire, but you get the idea).  I think these are the prettiest of the flock.

I knew it was gonna be a rough garden year, but man!  It's a little depressing to look around out there sometimes.  And the grasshoppers aren't even out yet, nor has the summer drought that I'm sure is coming set in.  The grasshoppers will be the biggest challenge, there's nothing to do about them except for letting the birds take care of them.  The fruit trees are happy and healthy but one of our peach trees didn't set fruit at all this year for some reason and our big plum tree didn't either.  Plums usually need another tree to cross-pollinate with.  We have a variety that will self-pollinate, but it's not ideal and hasn't worked for us.  We will need to put in another tree next fall.  One of our peach trees is doing really well though, it is so heavy with fruit we had to give it some extra supports.  The new orange and lime tree are doing really well too.

How is everyone else doing in the garden?  Are you all surviving the consequences of the mild winter??

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