Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hedgehog Cottage

I'm in North Carolina this week, enjoying highs in the mid-70's and lows in the mid-50's.  Yes, I can hear the chorus of "shut-ups," but get over it and enjoy it vicariously!

We went to a Tour of Homes here in Blowing Rock yesterday and saw 5 gorgeous homes.  Two were older mountain summer cottages - one was built in 1899!  The other 3 were either built or renovated more recently, say in the last 10-15 years.  Of course, you don't get asked to put your house on the tour unless it's special, but oh my.  One of the houses was called "Hedgehog Cottage," because the owner has traveled extensively in England and fell in love with the little creatures.  I'm sorry to say that we could not take photographs inside (what's up with that?) but here's a little guy who was right outside the front door.

Speaking of outside, here's the front garden.

Now before you want to give up gardening, I want you to bear in mind that these folks have a full-time gardener AND the weather here is like it is in northwest Washington State.  Especially this year, there has been ample rainfall.  Look closely at the photo and you can see the fog; I took this picture at about 9:30 in the morning.  As a side note, it rained most of the night and is misty and cool as I write this.

Hedgehog Cottage has a wonderful main house and three separate guest cottages.  Each cottage has a bed-sitting room, a bathroom, and a little beverage center with a small refrigerator, sink, coffeemaker, etc.  Here's a view up a driveway to one of the guesthouses, on the top floor of the old carriage house.  The path on the left leads to a lovely patio and you can see one of the other guesthouses in the background.

Every bedroom has a working fireplace!  It's very English, with diamond-paned windows, chintz, beautiful antiques, and the owners' whimsical hedgehog collection.  You know how sometimes a "theme" can be overdone?  Well, not here.

The terraced front of the house

More of the front terrace
Here is the old cottage.

It is currently owned by the sixth generation of the same family.  They are scattered around the country, but come to Blowing Rock every summer as their schedules allow.  This house has no insulation or heating system, so it is strictly a summer cottage.  And the family is very intentional in leaving it as close to original as they can.  Every bedroom has a sink, and I mean a sink, with exposed plumbing like a lot of us had growing up, just right out in the bedroom.  There is one bathroom with a sink and toilet and one bathroom with a sink, toilet, and tub.  There is no TV.  The kitchen was updated sometime in the 60's and they do have a dishwasher, thank goodness.  There are books and games galore and about 5 acres of woodlands with paths and "rooms."  If a child's imagination can't catch fire here...

We had a wonderful time and got lots of ideas to ponder for the renovation I'm about to start in Memphis.  (More on that later, my friends, as the renovation includes a complete redo of the garden that I want to share with you - a real "Garden in Progress!")

Here's just a few more photos from yesterday:

Hostas and daylilies massed together

Gorgeous lilies

Stone walls abound here!
My own yard here is so lush!  As soon as the rain lets up, I'll get out and take some pictures to share with you.  In the meantime, stay cool!

The Big, Bad Wolf er, Coyote, at PAR Davies

Hi Everyone,


No, we're not growing cute little boys!
Thursday was a bittersweet day at Davies for all of us who have worked so hard in the garden. We were greeted with the destruction brought on by the raccoons the last few nights. Below are the remnants of the melon patch. I will say they didn't waste the melons because each melon was cleaned out inside. On a funny note, we saw an area where they spit all their seeds. Susan went out Wednesday despite the rainy forecast and found the remnants of the raccoons' tomato destruction. The way she described it, there must have been 50+ lbs of tomatoes that we lost in the last few nights. It was very disheartening to say the least.

Watermelon and cantaloupe almost ripe
I found a roll of bird netting in the barn, and Michelle and I covered the watermelon patch and anchored it all around with bricks and metal stakes. I hope that if they try to remove it they get their little hands and feet all tangled up. Jamie, G.A. and Larry started out immediately adjusting the new bottom fencing by bending the bottom in an 'L' to lay flat on the ground about a foot out, so the raccoons can't dig under the fence. They are working on a plan to keep them from climbing up and over the fence. Ladies, we couldn't make it without our great group of guys….doing all this fence work right after they installed the new water pipe/faucet! They were still working when I left at 10:30.

G.A. and Larry raccoon-proofing the bottom of the fence
On a happier note, the weather on Thursday morning was great with the temp in the upper 60's when we got to the garden and less humidity even after all that rain. Gardeners were Maxine and Dorothy (first timers), Michelle, Ann, Martha, Susan, Larry, G.A., Jamie and myself. The main order of the day was the harvest, and it was a good one despite all the destruction. We picked tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, squash/zucchini/Sweet Fall, cucumbers, jalapeƱo, shishito, banana, habanero and bell peppers, Aunt Ida's pole beans, Dixie butter beans, eggplant, green bush and yellow wax beans. There were still 148 lbs. of tomatoes picked even with all the destruction, and we had 29 lbs. of cucumbers. I was concerned that we might be sending more basil than they could use at the shelter, but I found out that they love it and will use all we send. Martha delivered everything to the shelter today, and she reported back that they were very grateful.

Below is the one and only surviving Minnesota Midget cantaloupe, which I brought home Saturday. These were growing in four containers and had quite a few little melons, which I am sure were tasty morsels for the raccoons. I sliced it up for the gardeners today to sample, and everyone agreed it was excellent and want to grow more. I have saved the seeds which I will keep some for PAR and share some with the gardeners. I also have these growing at home, so eventually will have even more seeds to share. These were recommended by Carl Wayne, and are exceptionally sweet with a very thin rind and practically no waste. Just right for one or two people. Imagine a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some mixed berries in the seed cavity. Yum!

Minnesota Midget…..sorry about your babies Ann, but now you can plant your own
The squash were checked for squash bug eggs and quite a few were found and destroyed on the "Sweet Fall" squash leaves. These vines are growing out of their bed but we've seen only two squash so far. There is an abundance of mainly male blossoms. The smaller of the two squash has disappeared to I presume the raccoons, so I picked the remaining one. We weren't quite sure if it was ready to pick yet, as the stem was still firmly attached, but it looked like it might be ripe. We wanted to do a taste test before sending any to the shelter, to make sure we picked it at the correct stage and also that the flavor is good. After cutting it open, I believe it could have stayed on the vine a little longer, as the rind edge was still a bit green. But after it was baked it all tasted quite good, similar to an acorn squash, but sweeter. If these ever start producing, they are definitely worth growing again.

"Sweet Fall" squash baked. This is a 9x13 pan, so it is quite big at about 4.5 lbs
Most of our time was taken up with harvesting, but we were also able to collect some more of the recently cut grass from the manor house lawn to add to our compost. When we have some extra time there are a few bags of leaves that need to be shredded to mix with the grass. Everything has had another growth spurt due to the rain, and pictured below are several beds overflowing into the walkways. We should soon be able to harvest the purple hull peas and okra.

Back row are the cucumber towers interplanted
with bush beans and zinnias, then the sweet potato bed, 
and in bottom right corner is part of the purple hull pea bed.
Below is our scary coyote to deter raccoons. Hey, we'll try anything. We will be able to tell folks what works and what doesn't, and isn't that one of our objectives at Davies?  I happen to like this little guy, even though he looks like a ballerina standing on this tippy toes!

Looking at Saturday's forecast, there is a slight chance of rain. We will go ahead and plan on working Saturday unless the weather changes, at which time I will notify you no later than Friday evening.

'Til later,

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Road Trip!

It's a Garden Party!
Just a heads-up about the Missouri Master Gardeners State Conference on Sep 20-22, 2013.  It's in Springfield, MO, which is a good drive from Memphis - about 7 hours - but you can break it up by spending the night in Bentonville, AR and visiting the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

There will be garden tours of private gardens, visits to the Springfield Botanical Garden (including the Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens), and a chance to see the fabulous Springfield Botanical Center!  Education-wise, there are lots of classes open to Master Gardeners - check it all out and register on their website.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Big Tomato Harvest at PAR Davies!


Tomato harvest from last Saturday
There were a lot of early birds at the garden last Wednesday trying to beat the heat. Gardeners were Susan, G.A., Jamie, Martha, Ann A., Lauren, Larry Crawford (first timer), Karen, Melba, J.J., Bob and Virginia V., and myself. We had a GREAT harvest. As Susan says, "It makes all our hard work worth it." We picked cucumbers, bell peppers, squash (yellow and zucchini), eggplant, misc. peppers, green beans, speckled butter beans, tomatillos, basil, carrots, and a whopping harvest of tomatoes. Some of the tomatoes were saved for the Tomato Tasting at the MAMG meeting onThursday night, and the rest were sent to the shelter. Martha generously offered to drop off the produce.

The majority of the work was the harvest, which we all participated in. Jamie as usual was tending to the watering, and he visits the garden during the week to make sure nothing dries up. G.A. and Jamie worked on replacing the broken faucet/hose connection, which is not a small task.  G.A. bought the replacement part, and the plan is to get it fixed asap.

Larry checking out the water pipe
We discovered and squished a few squash bug eggs, the first this year. Here we are in the middle of July and we aren't inundated with squash bugs. That is some kind of miracle. I have noticed in my home garden that there are fewer, too. We will have to remember each workday to look for squash bugs and their eggs. After the Bt injections last week, the squash plants all still look healthy. We will have to wait to see how long the plants last before we declare our experiment a success or failure. I would love to be able harvest some of the 'Fall Sweet' squash. We have harvested 52 lbs. of zucchini and yellow squash so far--not bad, and they are still producing.

'Fall Sweet' squash bed. The leaves are beautifully variegated
One of the good-sized squash from the above bed
The tomatoes were tied up and suckers were pinched off. The vines are loaded with tomatoes and they are not being taken over with bugs or disease. What a blessing. I should have taken a picture of our tomatillos. We were finally able to harvest over 3 lbs this week. The bug/worm problem seems to be abating to where we are able to get a good many nice clean tomatillos. We should have many more weeks of picking on these plants.

We planted a lot of different kinds of cucumbers this year. The long Japanese and Camilla cukes were planted to grow up on tomato cages. These both get at least one foot long. One of the other varieties was 'Collier,' and you can see what it looks like on the link below. It is planted in the far end of Bed 12. Check it out, because you might think that there is something wrong with these cucumbers if you don't know what they are supposed to look like. Lauren said they were very tender and tasted really good and fresh. These were some more of Julie's treasures from Seed Savers Exchange.

Karen by one of our cucumber towers

Lauren sampling the 'Collier' cucumber
The purple hull peas that had the aphid/ant infestation last week have cleared up and the bushes are starting to put out blossoms. However, the ants and their buddies have now moved over onto the pole beans. Ugh! They just don't give up. We also spied some Japanese beetles on the pole beans. Karen and Lauren took care of that bed by thumping the beetles into a bucket of soapy water (see Karen's bucket above) and the aphid/ant infestations were sprayed with mild soapy water.

Susan saw an okra pod ready to pick, so we might start getting some next week. 

The Saturday crew of Sally, Karen, Barbara H., Peggy G., Michelle, Elizabeth B., and Rita D - led by the intrepid Mary Elizabeth - harvested, tied up tomatoes & tomatillos, picked off beetles and eggs from beans and squash and just generally did everything on the rather extensive list that I gave them!  What troopers!  

Here is a recipe from Cooking Light that I sent to the shelter which uses a lot of the produce that we sent today. Perhaps if you have an abundance of the same in your gardens, you'd like to try it. 

Tomato, Squash, and Red Pepper Gratin - yum!
'Til later,

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bugs, Critters, and Diseases - Oh My!

Hi Everyone,


It was another busy morning with a great group of gardeners….Jamie, Susan, Michelle, Lauren, Susan, G.A., Karen, Greg, Martha, Latanya Simpson (first timer), J.J. James (first timer) and myself. Susan got here at 7:00 to open up for the other early birds. They started out harvesting our bounty of tomatoes (regular and cherry), peppers, tomatillos, beans, potatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, beets, blackberries, turnips and eggplant. Cathy delivered to the women's shelter.

Cathy weighing our harvest
We dumped the second potato tower with a total of 4.5 lbs. We plan to wait a few weeks before we harvest the third and last tower, as there are still green shoots growing, and maybe we will get more and bigger potatoes by waiting. We are definitely thinking of doing the towers again next year, with the plan of putting them at the far end of the bed where not much will grow because of the black walnut trees. Since the towers will have their own little environment and will get enough sun, the roots and toxins from the trees shouldn't affect them, and we will be able to utilize space that is otherwise unproductive. The blackberries were picked by our Saturday crew, and I was surprised that we got any this first year, although it was just a smattering (6 oz). We are looking forward to big ripe berries next year.

Now on to the pest and disease issues. There was the beginning of what looked like powdery mildew on the cantaloupe (both in the containers and those planted in the hugelkultur). Affected leaves were picked off and Neem oil was sprayed on them. Then the ant/aphid thing was going on with the purple hull peas (yuk). For those of you who don't know about this ant/aphid relationship: Ants deposit aphids onto the plants so the aphids can feed off the plants, and then the ants feed off the aphids. Clever ants huh? These were the brown aphids, which makes everything look dark and slimy and disgusting. We applied a mix of dish detergent and water to the infected areas, and will see what happens. A few Japanese beetles and squash bugs were seen and squished, and fortunately was not an infestation. I don't see as many Japanese beetles, so maybe they are at the end of their cycle, at least in our garden. We saw a few white flies or mites on the underside of some tomato leaves. Mary Elizabeth has these on hers at home and is treating them. We will see how the treatment is working for her, and proceed from there, if in fact we need to do anything.

Tomatoes have grown up over their cages, and some of these had to be tied up. We have watermelons and cantaloupe growing nicely. A few more bean seeds were planted. Wormy tomatillos were picked and gotten rid of, and a few good ones were harvested. Some more beans were planted, and now most of our beds are full. G.A. and Jamie worked on the irrigation system, and plans were made to replace a broken spigot/faucet.

Everyone was waiting to see how to inject the squash vines. The syringe and needles were there for us when we arrived (thank you Peggy for dropping these off). I was really hoping we'd have someone who had a feel for doing injections, although I guess we could have figured it out. I think God had a sense of humor when he sent us an actual M.D. in the person of Latanya Simpson!!!! What more could we ask for. We used 1 tsp. of Bt to a cup of water and then Latanya injected about 1 ml in the area of the SVB damage with an 18g needle. She did all of the "Fall Sweet" squash and then the yellow squash and zucchini that were infected. All the squash still looks good with no wilting. Susan brought goggles for us to use. We will be reporting the results.

Latanya injecting the "Sweet Fall" squash.
Wish I could have gotten her beautiful face in the photo!
Greg set some of the mousetraps for the voles again after the raccoon fiasco last week, but this time did not use bait. He just set the traps near a vole hole and covered over with a bucket. I am not getting my expectations up on this one. 

Here's what we found last Saturday!
The grass on the manor grounds had been cut recently and there were piles of grass which were turning brown. We got wheelbarrows full and hauled it to the compost bins. We were able to pile this up layering it with leaves, which added a nice amount to our diminishing compost supply.

We've been having some problems that have been making us scratch our heads, but we've also had some successes as evidenced by the amount we are harvesting, which we are so thankful for. I still need volunteers to help me with setting up our tomato tasting on the 18th at our monthly meeting. With everything being late, I don't think we will have as many tomatoes as I had anticipated when this idea was first hatched! If it is well received, maybe we can try it again next year. There is an article in the newsletter sent yesterday that explains everything, so check it out, and let me know if you'd be able to help me with the setup.

CONGRATULATIONS LAUREN! Those of you who didn't see the article, check out the link below and you will see our own Lauren Bangasser on the front page! Great job Lauren. If you haven't been to Grahamwood, stop by for a visit and you will be in for a treat. Lauren is doing a wonderful thing there.

'Til later,