Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back to Gardening.

A week off for vacation and then another week off to nurse chicken pox led to insects trying to walk away with my garden. As if the heat of a Texas August isn't enough of a deterrent, I'm also still too tired to do much, but I'm going to start with a little each day and work myself up to the larger tasks. Weeds (mostly grasses) are a concern, but I'll worry about them after I get the insects in check. The plants are all large enough to compete with the grasses for nutrients, but insects can wipe out a mature plant in a matter of days.

Not enough squash left for squash borers to be a problem, but there are plenty more willing to wreak havoc in a North Texas garden. This week, I'm spraying stems and leaves with a home-made concoction which consists of a little bit of rubbing alcohol mixed with a squirt of dishwashing liquid, two pinches of sea salt and a pint of water. I'm doing this as the last phase of mealy bug control. While I was off doing other things, these bugs totally wiped out a Costaluto Genovese tomato plant and made inroads on surrounding plants. The first day, I pruned and used the Q-tip removal method on large infestations. Now, I'm down to the mild infestations coupled with prophylactic precautions. My largest spray bottle only holds a pint, so I've been making one bottle each morning and each evening, making my way from the infected area to other areas. I'll probably continue doing this even after I've sprayed every area, doubling back to spray again as the need arises.

I tend to greet Spring with high garden ambitions, make too many gardens for one person to tend, and then fall down in the summer heat. This year is no exception, but I intend to continue the gardens into the fall and maybe even year-round this time, so might use the heat of this summer like many people use the cold of the winter and plan methods of controlling grasses/insects before the fall planting. The trick will be matching the budget to Em's aesthetic requirements. I'm also rethinking a few other practices that relate more to my philosophies than anything else. I might address that in a future post.

We're finally getting some chili pepper fruit, so Em's licking his chops in anticipation of some firey dishes. Unfortunately, the tomatoes aren't fruiting right now, so salsa won't be an option. Here's a photo of the south end of the east fence garden. I don't have a zoom function on my camera, but maybe you can discern the Peter Peppers along with zinnias and a Black Krim tomato.


Ripe Peter Peppers look like red penises, it seems. I swear I didn't know that before I planted them. Heh. They're only about 5000-10000 on the Scoville Scale, so somewhat hotter than a jalapeno, but not as hot as the Chiltepin growing nearby:


The asparagus are still ferning (their first year), competing with grasses much like everything else. They tend to want to lay rather than stand up straight, so I MAY think about some kindof sling support to gather them closer to the fence and away from where there's SUPPOSED to be grass in the yard. As it is, they fall into the grass and unless I'm there to hold them up, Em either can't mow there or mows over them. Neither is desirable. I haven't seen any insects interested in the asparagus or sweet potatoes [knock on wood]. Maybe it's too early for them.


The sweet potato plants are all still doing well, if I ignore how the nearby gardens are encroaching on their beds. The culprits shown here are Fox Cherry Tomatoes.


The three I picked before vacation are now cured, so we'll be eating those shortly. I'm thinking about ways to store the ones yet unpicked. Basements are rare in North Texas because there's rock under us. I'm thinking I could put them in a large picnic-type cooler with maybe a few cold packs in a closet somewhere, swapping out the cold packs once/day or so to maintain a temperature higher than a refrigerator yet lower than the temperature inside the house. Suggestions are welcome. The four beds I have this year came from the smallest of last year's one bed (left on the bathroom windowsill like an elementary school science project most of the winter in water. Last year's one bed was started from a section of sweet potato purchased at Kroger that sprouted before we got around to eating it.

The fruit bushes planted this year had few successes. It looks like one raspberry plant is making an attempt to fruit, but it has a little damage which I MIGHT have attributed to being next to the Costaluto Genovese tomato I lost to mealy bugs or even the zuccini that I lost to squash borers, but I have a 2-year old raspberry plant on the west side of the house that looks the same way.


LOTS of the 25 bushes I planted in early spring ended up doing nothing. I don't blame the vendor for that, as they sat in my office for several days (maybe even a week) before we got them into the ground. Bottom line: The plants got here before I was ready for the plants. On a sadder fruit bush note, Em hired some guys to mow the lawn in the front and sides because the lawn mower Em was using lost the ability to propel itself. These guys didn't mow down the 2-year old raspberry bush on the west side of the house, but they totally (POOF!) eliminated the two 2-year old blueberry bushes on the east side of the house. Without a Trace is NOT just the name of a TV show. SO disheartening! They were JUST starting to look like they'd adjusted.

Overall, the state of the gardens right now is "waiting on tending" while "taking over the world". They're trying to run together and grow all over each other while grasses, weeds, and even trees take advantage of the chaos.


It's that time of year again.

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