So we have two new kinds of vegetables to harvest this week. First the eggplant exploded and only about a week after first noticing small fruit, two of them were ready to harvest. In fact, the fruit was heavy enough that it pulled the plant over so I had to stand it back up and stake it. We should be getting more eggplant over the next few weeks as it does not look like it is slowing down.
Also we picked cantaloupe for the first time. We got two melons, but unfortunately one of them got over ripe and had to go to the compost pile. They go from un-ripe to too ripe very fast in the heat. Luckily, the larger one was not over-ripe and it weighs in at almost two and a half pounds. There are a few more growing so we should get some more.
We also picked a whole bunch more basil (1.5 lbs) and some tomatoes (1 large, 7 cherry). Overall it was a big harvest and makes a nice picture:
The other plants are doing well. The cucumbers have started growing rapidly up the trellis that was installed last week. The bell peppers are still growing and he largest ones are about 2-3 inches long now. Also, there are two watermelons growing, one of each variety. I have not mentioned the sweet potatoes in awhile. They are continuing to grow well and are vining all over the place as they tend to do.
It's hard to believe it is late July and time to be seriously thinking about fall crops. I started the broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce this week. I started them indoors so they could get a good start in the cooler weather of inside before I move them out later in the year. There realy is not much to see here. Just a tray of dirt. I did label them with strips of milk cartons so I would know which plants were which.
I picked the first squash of the year. it was a little small, but ready. It weighed about a quarter pound.
The onions have cured and were ready to be cleaned. There was one rotten onion so I threw that out. So out of 18 planted we have 16 usable onions weighing 4.77 lbs. Some have fat necks and will need to be used soon. (I have already eaten one.) The rest can store for awhile until I am ready to use them.
The tomatoes are still going. I picked another another 24 tomatoes (15 full size and 9 cherry) for 3.52 lbs.
Other Garden News
A couple of other things to mention about the garden:
We have a couple of watermelons starting to grow. They are about the size of a quarter now.
There are 4 or 5 fruits starting to grow on the egg plant. They are about the size of a quarter too.
The peppers are finally starting to set fruit. We have probably a dozen small peppers on the three plants.
I pulled out four of the six bean squares. They were not doing anything. The two squares I left had flowers still on the plants so I left them.
I have doubled the water. While the ground was slightly moist I figured it could be wetter. The peppers were looking ever-so-slightly wilted in the afternoon and the watermelon is starting to fruit and it needs water. I had been running a single watering cycle for one hour at 5AM. I added another hour at 1PM so the plants would get another drink in the heat of the day.
It has been several weeks since I last posted about the garden. Nothing realy has been going on other than the plants growing. But now we have some updates.
The Onions are Pulled and Curing
We have pulled the onions. The tops died back most of the way so it was time for them to come out. We got 17 onions out of the 18 we planted. Pretty good. We laid them out to dry and cure on the cement pad that is under the big satellite dish. It stays shaded most of the day. In a few more days they will be ready to clean and use or store. Most of the bulbs have the narrow neck that is good for storage. If they have wide necks you should use them soon because they will rot first. As a side note, if you put nitrogen fertilizer on them after they start to bulb they will tend to get wide necks and won't store.
The Cucumbers are Up and Growing
Whats up With Some of the Other Plants
The beans were a bust. I don't know exactly why. From the 54 plants we planted we got about 15 beans. Disappointing. The Japanese beetles have been enjoying them, but that should not have affected the beans that much.
The peppers have not set fruit yet. We have some flowers, but no fruit. We planted pepper plants from the same tray in the in-ground garden and they are producing just fine.
The eggplant is starting to flower so maybe we will have some soon.
The cantaloupe has a fruit on it that is getting close to ripe.
The watermelon is growing, but no fruit yet. I am mad at the landscapers. They have weed-eated the ends of the watermelon vines. Overall the landscapers have done more damage to out gardens this year than all other causes combined. Grrrr!
There is so much to update that I decided to do a video so I can talk about every plant.
Tomato Leaf Removal
As I pointed out in the video there are some blighted leaves on the lower part of the tomato plants. This is normal for this time of year in the Mid-South. Blight is a fungus that is in the soil and it gets on the lower leaves when they are in contact with the soil or the fungus gets splashed on to the leaves from rain or overhead watering. The fungus then works its way up the plant. One of the ways to control blight is to remove all the diseased leaves from the plant. I took off all the diseased leaves and also a few more that were on or close to the ground. It opens up the bottom of the plant and makes it easier to see what is going on. Taking off some of the lower leaves does not harm the plant. Research I have read says the energy for growing the fruit comes from the higher leaves and it encourages the plant to grow more. I also sprayed with the fungicide Chlorothalonil.
I trimmed back the basil. It was getting to the point where the plants were growing together. I wanted to harvest it while pruning it to encourage future growth. I talked about the method in an earlier blog post here. It felt like I was taking a lot off the plants, but they will bounce back. I also made sure I cut all the blooms off the purple basil.
It is time to thin the watermelon, cantaloupe, and summer squash. We double-planted them in case some of them did not come up. Most did, but there were a few spots where one did not come up. The two seeds in each location were planted very close together so it is not possible to pull one plant and not damage the roots of the other. So, we used the scissors again to thin. When thinning you want to make sure the plants are developed enough to tell which ones are the healthiest and look the best. Then we just carefully snip off the stem of the other one. Unfortunately, you can't leave both because they will compete for nutrients in the soil and neither plant will do as well.
The powdery mildew on the peas is getting worse, but we are still not going to do anything about it. They only have a little while to go and are starting to slow down. In a week or so we will probably pull them out and plant the cucumbers.
I also fertilized the onions with nitrogen. I would have done it much earlier, but I realized that the nitrogen I added a few months ago also caused the cauliflower to grow quite a bit. With too much nitrogen fertilizer cauliflower will not head. So, I held off fertilizing again until the cauliflower was picked. Now that is is gone I put about a little more than a tablespoon of fertilizer per square on the onions. Note to the future: Don't plant onions next to cauliflower in a square foot bed.
The basil has been growing now for about a month and so I pruned it. The purpose of this was not for harvest, although it will be used for that. The main reason is to get the plants to bush out. Right now they are primarily one stalk growing straight up. They are pruned just like any other shrub, just above a node. By pruning them just above a leaf they will form two branches from that point. More branches means more leaves which means more harvest. Joellen shows how to prune basil in this video from a few years ago.
Natalie Bumgarner planted watermelon, cantaloupe and yellow squash when she was here about two weeks ago. They are all up and have a high germination rate. Of all the seeds only one of the cantaloupe did not come up. Because we double planted all of them, that won't be a problem.
The peas are still going strong. We are getting about a pound a week from them. I am starting to see some problems however. Today there were aphids on the peas and there is also some powdery mildew. I think the peas are almost done so I am not going to do anything about it for now. If the aphids get too much worse I might spray with insecticidal soap. Hopefully the ladybugs will move in and take care of the problem for me.
There are many benefits of raised beds: you get to choose the soil you are growing in, you don't have to bend down to tend the garden, and there is good drainage so you don't get any root rot and similar problems. One of the down sides is you have good drainage. With the recent summer heat it gets hard to keep the garden watered with a hose, it drys out too fast. So, I have installed a drip irrigation system on a timer to water it for me.
How I Did It
The hardest part was getting the water to the garden. It is about 75 feet away from the hose bib. I used 1/2" black irrigation pipe. I used my shovel to cut a long slit in the grass from the hose bib to the garden. Then I went down the line lifting up the grass and pushing the hose into the open space underneath.
I had to go around the raised bed so the pipe would come up in the walkway. This will save it from the lawnmowers and weed-eaters of the landscaping crew.
Here in Memphis this week we are going to get into the 90s and that will do in all of our leafy greens. Late last week UT Assistant Professor of Residential and Consumer Horticulture Natalie Bumgarner came in from Knoxville to tape a few Family Plot shows and with her help we harvested the rest of the mustard and turnip greens (including the turnip roots), and lettuce.
Cool Season Leafy Green Totals
Here are the total harvest we got from our cool season leafy greens
We also have picked 1.08 lb of peas so far. That should keep going for awhile. We may need to push back the cucumber planting to keep the peas going.
Square Foot Garden
This year we are trying out square foot gardening. We will be growing a 4x8 garden and seeing what happens and finding out how much we can grow in such a small space.
Here is what is growing right now in the Garden:
(click the picture to zoom)
We hope to follow this plan to be able to maximize our harvest. (click to zoom)
Our Harvest So Far
5.5 lb Radishes (32 plants)
1.09 lb Spinach
0.70 lb Turnip Greens
0.58 lb Turnip Roots
1.71 lb Mustard Greens
3.71 lb Peas
1.12 lb Green Lettuce
0.83 lb Cauliflower (1 head)
2.01 lb Basil
3.85 lb Carrots (45)
0.11 lb Green Beans
13.77 lb Tomatoes (95)
4.77 lb Onions (16)
0.25 lb Summer Squash (1)
0.86 lb Eggplant (2)
2.41 lb Cantaloupe (1)