Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Year Of Peppers

Every year there are some things that don't do so well (apple blossoms felled by frost,  squash that didn't produce female blossoms because it was too hot) and other things that do gang-busters.  Like peppers...

I am growing four jalapeno and four red hot pepper plants and they are loaded with peppers.

On Thursday I got a bushel of red shephard peppers -- some years these are skinny in flesh and circumference and length, but not this year!  Almost as fleshy as regular sweet peppers and nearly twice as long.  Wonderful to roast on the barbeque for Roasted Red Pepper Spread -- a dozen of these beauties was enough for a double batch of the stuff.

On Saturday at the Farmers Market, one vendor was offering a bushel of orange and yellow sweet peppers for $10.  How could I resist -- especially in light of my dearth of squash and a winter need for vitamin A.

Oh, I picked up a half-dozen green peppers to go with them at the No Frills at 77 cents a pound....

I dried and canned my way through all but two green and two red peppers 5 days.  I have 5 jars of dried sweet peppers (from 2 to 3 cup in size),  6 quarts of pickled sweet peppers,  4 jars of  sweet and sour yellow pepper soup, and they made substantial contributions to the content of jardiniere and a 6-pepper Hellish Relish.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jungle Time

We've had a few days of rain,  like we often do in the first week or so of August,  so the grass is greening up again,  the rhubarb is robust, and the pole beans continue to outgrow whatever I put them on!
bean tower

A neighbor was taking down her wooden porch railings.  One was 8 feet long, the other was 14.  We cut the longer to match the shorter and installed them with braces.   The trimmed piece was put to use as a snap pea trellis further back in the garden.

You can see the watering jug for a cucumber planted under this trellis.  The bean didn't grow over the horizontal spindles until I cover them with chicken wire.

I never pick more than a third of the stalks from a rhubarb plant at a time.  This year I mulched them. When it was brutally hot and dry (no rain in several weeks), I did water them twice.  No longer now in August!  But I'll have rhubarb to combine with elderberries for wine and preserves.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Audrey the Audacious

She's a volunteer from the the compost, growing out of the compost bin.  This is not a small bin.  This is not a small sunflower.  Before she bloomed, I was wondering if I was growing my own exterior "Little Shop of Horrors"!

I might even get sunflower seeds this fall...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How 7 Bales of Straw Saved My Sanity (and Garden)

Last year we had a dry July -- simply no rain.  And the hot weather came in June.  We finally returned to a better rainfall cycle in August. 

I watered every odd day on the calender for six weeks!  I use rain water for my "kitchen" garden -- greens, herbs, peppers, and cherry tomatoes in a space on the east side of house -- so I could water every day there if I needed to (with peppers and tomatoes in pots I sometimes needed to!).  The fenced-in main garden and the perennial foods area (rhubarb, elderberries, grapes, asparagus, some berry bushes, and Jerusalem artichokes) are too extensive to be served by rain water alone.  Our city limits watering to every other day.   I used little mulch and my watering system was overly complicated.

We had a dry winter.  We got some spring rain.  The forecast was for a hot summer with lots of dry days.  Things had to change or I would grow to hate my garden.  We got a trailer; it was big enough to haul 10 bales of straw home. 

I moved my blueberries so I wouldn't have to water their old location; they weren't getting enough sun anyway.  (In their new spot, they don't get enough acid -- I think next year they go into big pots.)
I pulled up the soaker hose that had fed them and re-routed it through the asparagus bed with bean patches on either side of it.

Grapes don't require a lot of watering since they have deep root systems.  A bale of straw went on them so I could get by watering them only every ten days or so.  A bale and a half of straw went around the berry bushes,  the plum tree,  the elderberries, and the rhubarb.     I didn't water anything in that area until mid-July or so.

A half-bale went around the apple tree.  I mulched the black raspberries (but not soon enough or deep enough -- another change for next year).  More straw on the potato beds, but they simply did not do as well as last year.  It might have been the seed or that this was a second year in that place. 

A half-bale went around my kale plants in my kitchen beds and around the kohlrabi.  Dried grass clippings mulched all my herbs and pots.  My peppers were withering  quickly until I did that.  A 37 degree C  day will still send them into a droop, but they perk right up with an evening water.

In the main garden I mulched as I planted.  I didn't even think about watering until the end of June.  Then I got out my hoses,  simplified the joins, and came up with a system that involved no Ys,  only two hoses,  the ability to turn off flow at the last end, and my rain sweeper attachment. With it I could water everything in about an hour.  I still used my 2 gallon jugs for watering the grapes, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers (filling them with the free hose end), but the attachment can gently feed a 30 inch  long section of trellis planting.  I'd often get weeding done while jugs were filling or the attachment was watering a section of bean or pea trellis.

I had snap peas and greens aplenty.  The pole beans are producing the dried beans I like.  If I get rain, I don't water.  I've eaten, dried, and canned kale.  My jalapenos are super happy and my other hot peppers are pretty chirpy.  I've got a late crop of snap peas coming up in one of the potato beds.  It's not perfect, but I don't dread odd-numbered days on the calender as much.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Re-Use Earwig Trap

Earwigs love to nest in -- and ruin -- my ripening grapes.  I don't  have as many this year because they bloomed early and frost hit some of the blossom.  I also deeply mulched the grapes this year so I wouldn't have to water them as often. The little earwig traps I bought a couple of years ago would be lost in it.

I've been eating tall tubs of Astro yogurt all summer.  I kept three out of the blue box to make earwig traps.  If they didn't work, I could always toss them back into the blue box.

The trap needs a way for the earwigs to get in,  the impossibility that they can get out again, and a bait to draw them in the first place.  A bait that they drown in keeps them from getting out.  They like beer and liquid detergent with a scent also helps draw them.  The detergent assures a drowning.

I drilled  four or five 1/4" holes in the top inch of yogurt container.  The lids go back on to keep out the rain and bigger vermin. The earwigs will crawl through the holes and drop into the bail solution.  Every few days I can remove lids and empty out dead earwigs and spent bait.

I had some very old near-beer sitting around.  It's the hops and malt that draws the earwigs, not the alcohol, so that was fine to use.  I had picked up a couple of detergent jugs early in the summer with push-spigots on them to replace my older outdoor sink water supplies.  Rinsing them out, I got a fair amount of diluted detergent which I stashed in another tall yogurt container.  I mixed the near-bear, detergent, and water in 64 oz. jug and now have a good month's supply of earwig bait.

I nestled the traps in the mulch under spans of vine that had grapes growing.  I've been removing earwigs every few days since and the grapes still look healthy.

Everything I've used in the traps has been diverted from the waste stream.