Where the Cultivated Things Are

6 Jul

Two posts in one day? I imagine you’re saying to yourself right now, “This guy must be crazy, thinking I have time to read all of his rambling blither!” I didn’t manage to take photos of the jam from that last post until tonight, because we were busy giving the Wonderpup’s haircut some much needed touching up, and after putting our second application of organic calcium-rich foliar spray on this evening, I realized it’d been over a week since I wrote about the garden, and we’re headed off to the flyover state where Panda comes from (as opposed to the flyover state that I come from that we’ve already visited twice this summer) this weekend, so I doubt there’ll be another garden update forthcoming until sometime around the middle of the month. So, here we go.

As you can see up there, things are still kicking pretty strong. The cucumbers on the right-hand side have even started to reach the top of their little tripod. I was looking back at pictures of the garden over the course of its life this spring (and now summer) before I started writing this, and it really is striking how much it’s changed. You can see a picture of it back when it was just a few spinach and arugula seedlings and a fresh dug bed over here.

Anyhow, probably the most exciting thing is that we’ve started harvesting non-leafy-green things! So far we’ve gotten one (huge) 15.25 ounce zucchini, close to 5 ounces of beans, and just over 6.5 ounces of carrots.

We’ve got another zucchini growing strong, and two that look iffy – kind of like the one that I thought had blossom-end rot. It might, in fact, still be that, or it might just be that some of the flowers aren’t getting pollinated, but the more I think about it, the more I think it might be the former. We’ll continue to monitor, in any case. Also, we spread some fertilizer around the base of a bunch of the plants, kinda hoping it would just leach into the soil over the next month or so. Over the last week it’s started to grow a white, fuzzy mold, but my (fingers crossed) theory on that is that it’s just a product of a warm, moist, nutrient rich environment, and not actually a sign of some kind of true problem. That it’s happening at all seems to add extra insult to the fact that we broke down and bought fertilizer (organic, but still). Maybe it’s just pride, but I think there’s a little bit of an ideological issue too. In any case, we’d really been hoping to make this work with as few outside inputs as possible (obviously a fair amount of our compost comes from the grocery store at the moment, but there’s got to be a reasonable limit somewhere.) There’s one more potential concern that requires some research, but I’ll get to that over the course of this week’s photo tour.

So that potential concern: one of our tomatoes finally started to turn red, and promptly developed a crack that exposes some of the interior flesh. You can see that turning-red tomato in the photo at left. Five minutes of searching, and about.com suggests that this is an issue of too much water(we’ve had some pretty heavy rain recently). I also took a photo of some rather lovely baby cherry tomatoes, but I don’t want to overload you, dear reader, with tomato porn, so I hope you can be satisfied with a picture of our Big Boys (Seriously. That’s the name of the variety.)

In the meantime, we’ve also got a fair number of cucumbers starting to look like they might be ready for picking any day now. Until they turn dark green, they kind of look like some sort of alien pod though. Maybe they’re not really cucumbers, and maybe we should be better about locking our doors at night. Check this out:

Although we initially believed we’d be able to just continually harvest our arugula, it appears to not be the case. It’s starting to get really, really leggy, and it’s pretty much impossible trying to keep up with pinching off all the little flowers it keeps shooting up, so we’ve started pulling a few plants every time we want a salad, as I did tonight. Once we have a few squares completely free again, we’ll start replanting those, either with more arugula or possibly with some simpson curly leaf lettuce seeds that I was given at work. You can probably tell that it’s getting thinner on the right-hand side of the arugula section in the top photo if you look really closely, but here’s a picture of some leggy arugula, ripped fresh from the garden:

And finally, because I like to end on a positive note, here’s what I think was the absolutely most exciting thing that I noticed out in the garden today. You see, I was utterly convinced that our eggplant was going to continue to inch along, sending out flowers without making any fruit. Well, hot damn. I was wrong:

Before I sign off, I figured I’d share with you all how I procrastinated at work for about 10 minutes today. I made a QR code that links to this blog. Check it out, if you have a phone that can read them. I’m totally fascinated by the technology. Anyhow, hopefully I’ll have some more answers to the research questions that are arising RE: fungus growing on our fertilizer and if there’s anything we can do about tomato cracking (other than water regularly and pray that we aren’t deluged).

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5 Responses to “Where the Cultivated Things Are”

  1. val July 18, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Could that be a variety of cucumber with light colored fruit?
    Isn’t that the prettiest eggplant ever? I picked my first one yesterday.
    My arugula bolted long ago, but I let it reseed and I’ll be eating it all fall–have you tried arugula pesto? (amazing)
    Don’t sweat the cracking–it happens, it’s annoying, but it won’t kill your harvest or anything. I found it more common on larger varieties of tomatoes. And it could be worse–no rain!
    I started out just using compost, mostly as an amendment to my clay soil, but I will never produce enough compost for my garden. I still have not done a soil test (I find it the county extension process confusing), but I use fish/seaweed emulsion on my eggplant and peppers. I have also begun to use an organic fertilizer–there are going to be deficiencies that compost cannot solve. Espoma makes some great products.
    That is weird about the fungus on the fertilizer though–I look forward to hearing the resolution of that mystery!

    • pandabolt July 18, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

      It turns out it is, in fact, a light-colored cucumber. We went away for four days and came home to giant, yellow, slighlty overripe cukes (slice one open and they still taste fine, so we’re hoping to hurry up and use them). Planning an update on what’s going on this week with the garden to be published tonight, fingers crossed. And I’ll include research on the mold as well. We ended up pulling the arugula last week and plan to replant sometime this week though, along with another variety of letttuce (arugula’s great, but it’s the only salad green we’ve been growing, and it’s getting… monotonous).

      Our house is of two minds on arugula pesto – she liked it quite well, I wasn’t such a huge fan. Do you have a trick for cutting down the arugula-bitterness of it a bit? I was thinking maybe some roasted garlic or somesuch might be nice, or maybe just mixing it into a basil pesto…

  2. val July 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    Cool–I have not had success with cukes yet–hoping the lemon cucumbers I am trying this year will be the winner.
    Once it flowers, arugula can get bitter, but if it is just the natural bitterness that you are talking about, I think using pecans in the pesto counteracts that pretty nicely.
    I really hate that most lettuce can’t take the summer heat in my zone. When the cucumbers and tomatoes are coming like crazy, I have to resort to store bought–or the local farmers that grow it hydroponically.

    • pandabolt July 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

      This is our first year, but the cukes seem to be thriving; they’re Edmonson Pickling Cucumbers. We got the seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, who, in theory, only sells varieties that they’ve found perform well in the Mid-Atlantic. For that matter, we got the seeds for almost everything in the garden that we grew from seed – probably 70% of the organic matter out there – from them. My one data point of experience with the company and their product (and in general, their philosophy), has me pretty sold on using them in the future; I’d look them up if you’re unfamiliar. It looks like you’re also in our neck of the woods (NoVa), right?

      As for the arugula, I actually found the leaves got slightly sweeter (to my taste) once the plant had bolted; in any case, yes. Just meant the natural bitterness of the plant. I love it in salads, or wilted underneath some protein (we used it as a bed for black-eyed peas last night, for instance). Pecans actually sound quite nice though – we’ll have to try that with the next round of arugula.

  3. val July 18, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    Yes, I’m in Arlington. Hi neighbor!
    I have the SESE catalog, will have to try them out.

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