Friday, July 27, 2012

Letter from Dianne 7/27/12

Garden about 2 weeks ago

Suzanne, thought I'd better give you an update on the raised bed. You could describe it as 'the good, the bad and the ugly'…because it's all there. Needless to say, things have not done well at all in the heat and drought lately. Things started off well though, and I got oodles of tomatoes. I quit counting at 100 for my little 'Early Girl.' I will definitely plant her again. Maybe not the best 'home-grown' flavor but she makes up for it in quantity. The other tomatoes did well also, especially the plum tomato called 'Health Kick.' I recently have noticed something going on with the 'Black Cherry.' Leaves are still green but suddenly turn black and crispy, and some of the leaves do have little spots all over. I am hoping the heat is the contributor of that and not blight.

'Black Cherry' in background with top dying

The squirrels, which I thought would be the biggest problem have not bothered the garden at all. I had a great Goodwill Store book find 'The Tennessee Fruit and Vegetable Book' by Felder Rushing and Walter Reeves. In it they say to pick tomatoes as they just start ripening so as not to tempt squirrels and the like. I have been doing that in addition to keeping the hose stretched out all around the garden to simulate a snake (we have had snakes in our yard this year). I think these two measures, plus the grace of God, has given me a bountiful tomato crop.

Tomatoes ripening on the counter

I had trouble with Japanese beetles early on. They are easy to get if you hold a bucket of soapy under them and just thump them in. I have also been using an organic disease/bug repellant/fertilizer of 1 tbsp Neem oil, 1 tbsp Bt and 1 tbsp liquid seaweed, which seems to be working well. It even took care of the powdery mildew on the squash and cucumbers. I have noticed a couple of huge grasshoppers lately on which the spray did not have an effect on though. I have not been fertilizing in the heat except for the seaweed as mentioned above.

Red bell peppers ready to be picked

The peppers started out with a bang and then quit. They are now putting lots on again, especially the jalapeƱos and bananas. The okra is doing well also in the heat. I had planted the Clemson Spineless and the Burgundy. I have since pulled up the Burgundy, as it was not producing well, was attracting little mite-like bugs and pods were extremely tough. The one eggplant continues to produce well and there is a lot of basil. Cucumbers are still producing as well as the Dixie Speckled butter beans. I hope to plant one 4x8 bed of the butter beans next year, as they produce well and nothing seems to bother them. The pole beans did not fare well at all, probably due to the heat, as the blossoms just quickly fell off. I did get some zucchini and yellow squash, but not many. As always, the squash is a pain to grow with the squash bugs and borers. I only had one plant of each--without the bug problem, but did have vine borers. The chard is full of holes but I haven't pulled it up. When the weather gets cooler I will try cutting it back to see if it will have another flush.

This was labeled 'Pimento Pepper', so I assume it will turn red
Recent harvest

Despite the heat and drought, we have been happy with the raised bed so far. This week we got more lumber to start Bed #2!! That will be a fall project when the weather cools, and a perfect time to add shredded leaves to the fill. I am now thinking of what I will plant in the fall/winter garden. I have been instructed by my husband to plant lots and lots of Romaine, which is his favorite garden veggie so far, with a close second being the tomatoes.

All from the garden…zucchini, yellow squash, onions, red bell pepper and herbs


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