Friday, August 30, 2013

Mexican Sour Gherkins

Seen at the Blowing Rock NC Farmers Market:

Are these little things cute or what?  They look like little watermelons, but they're cucumbers.  The vendor said they sell them to chefs, who pickle them and use them for garnishes.

The botanical name is Melothria scabra and seeds are available at a number of heirloom seed supply sources.

I want some!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dragons at PAR Davies! 8/28/13

Hi Everyone,

TOTAL YTD 1889 lbs

In spite of the hot weather, we had a good hard-working bunch of gardeners yesterday morning….Jamie, G.A., Susan, Martha, Greg and myself. Don dropped by to give us some really neat plant markers. We are still harvesting a good bit - squash, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, cantaloupe, tomatoes, peppers, basil, and beans. Martha delivered all to the women's shelter.

In addition to the harvest, G.A. and Jamie got busy planting, which we really needed to get going at. They planted collards, radishes, carrots, rutabagas, purple and white kohlrabi.  Last week G.A. cleaned out half of the purple hull pea bed and planted kale, and we planted the crimson clover in the far bed by the compost.  It feels good to be getting things into the ground, even if it is a little at a time.

Jamie planting our lovely kohlrabi.
This will be a colorful purple and white bed.
Sweet potatoes in the foreground and
middle right is the Crimson Clover.

The tomatillo bed has been pulled up as well. I don't know if we will try these again. They bloomed and produced a lot but were infested with a larvae of some sort of waspy critter. We spent too much time separating the wormy ones from the good ones.

A DRAGON DAY: We got real dragony today when we harvested Dragon Tongue Beans and planted Red Dragon Carrots. Both of these are from our friend Julie and Seed Savers. She brought us so many fun things. The Dragon Tongue Beans are a cross between a big pole bean and a yellow wax. They are tender even when they get big.

Dragon Tongue Beans…they kind of lose their purple spots as they get older.
Last week Jamie was busy shredding in the compost bins. We are going to have some really good compost next year. This is what I've wanted for so long, but we never had time before.

We have a 'system' now!
PEPPERS GALORE: We have been pretty blown away with our pepper crop. We've been averaging between 15 and 20 lbs of peppers a week, with 22 lbs yesterday. That's counting the Bells and all the other varieties. They are very tall and have been producing since early summer. They have been fertilized with comfrey tea and fish fertilizer, and started out with a dose of epsom salts. Peppers are so good for you, and we are glad we are able to provide abundant harvests without the use of toxic chemicals (peppers are one of the dirty dozen). Some of the limbs get so heavy they just break off.

Another crop that has just starting to get prolific is the okra. Picking this okra is no job for the height-challenged person. I don't know what we will do if it gets much taller! We sent 8 lbs. of okra yesterday. Of course, okra kind of grows itself, so we can't take too much credit for it.

Martha and our protector coyote with the lovely okra.
The zinnias were overtaking our few peanut plants. The Saturday gardeners tied them up and now the peanuts have a chance to do their thing. I don't think any of us know what to expect from the peanuts, but we'll find out. I hope peanuts and zinnias are companion plants…oops, I forgot to check that out. Sometimes you just have to put things where you have room.

Zinnias & peanuts

CONGRATULATIONS: I'd like to congratulate all of the graduating MG's. I wish you all the best in your new adventure…especially our friends we have gotten to know in working with you at PAR Davies. I know some of you are very busy and need a breather, but I hope you will come back and join us whenever you are able.

At this point the weather looks good for working on Saturday. I will send out a reminder and a To Do List on Friday.

'Til later,

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's a Wonderful Day in the...Garden at PAR Davies!

Hi Everyone,

HARVEST TODAY 312 lbs         
YTD TOTAL 1608 lbs

What a day! I was wondering why we couldn't get to the planting I had planned, but when I added up our harvest, I can see why we ran out of time. The temp was not too hot and there was a breeze, but with all the work we did, we were ready to go at quitting time. Today's harvest included tomatoes (179 lbs), watermelon, tomatillos, purple hull peas, okra, basil, peppers, green beans, eggplant, squash and cucumbers. Even though our tomatoes have been ravaged by raccoons and we have dealt with what was presumed early blight ever since they started putting on tomatoes, they still keep going with new green growth and tomatoes on the tops….although they certainly would not win a beauty contest. Martha took our produce to the shelter, but after she left, we discovered some things that hadn't been picked. Nancy dropped by later and graciously took a second load. We will have to remember that we have things planted in every nook and cranny possible, and to always take a walk around the garden before we call it quits on the picking. I am guilty of forgetting to do this when trying to get everything ready for the delivery. Our workers today were Susan, Jamie, Nancy, Maxine, Greg, Ann, Dorothy, Martha and myself.

Martha's vehicle loaded up again
When I got to the garden I was delighted to see our compost area. I have been hoping we'd get enough time to start organizing our super compost bins that Bob Hathaway made for us. I felt we could have a great system going with these bins if we only had time. Jamie has started getting us organized and he has plans for shredding leaves. Already the bins look great. Maybe he was spurred on with Jim Volgas' composter donation (pic below). Isn't it a beaut? We will be able to accept kitchen scraps of produce now since it is enclosed and shouldn't attract critters. People have asked in the past if they could bring scraps for our compost, and now I can say 'yes' without hesitation… citrus rinds (very slow at breaking down) or things with seeds please. Thank you Jim and Jamie! The tools shown are an open cylinder with holes (left) to put in the middle of a compost pile to allow the center to be watered. The item on the right is what is used to aerate the compost. Now we are all set for some serious composting. We will be able to teach about composting better now with these great visuals.

Jim Volgas' donations
I purchased our Crimson Clover and Hairy Vetch seeds at Russell's this week, however, there was not time to plant the clover today. Let's plan on doing that next week along with the carrots. Some of the squash bug eggs were starting to hatch on the zucchini and yellow squash, and the nymphs were pretty thick. I brought some old sticky hairspray to spray them with so they couldn't scatter as we gathered the leaves and bagged them. I found this recommended online, although not a good idea for otherwise healthy young plants. It seemed to immobilize them, and many but certainly not all were bagged. I believe controlling the SB's will be ongoing until all the squash plants are removed. We knew they'd appear sooner or later, didn't we, and they are still as ugly as ever.

Okra almost ready to start putting out big crops,
pictured here with the protector coyote
Our okra has finally taken off. There have been little spurts of production, but it looks like it is getting ready to put out bigger harvests. It was planted later than normal because of waiting for another crop to be harvested.

The Big Bells
The pepper crop has been great this year, especially with the bells putting out a lot. We've had to go in and stake our cages because they were falling over. They haven't stopped producing all summer, with many more small ones coming on. These in the bed are as tall as most of the gardeners. The other varieties….serrano, banana, jalapeño, shishito, habanero and small yellow bell bushes are not as tall. We added some epsom salts to all of the peppers this year. At our July MG meeting Bill Colvard said that our native soil doesn't need magnesium, but what we have in our beds isn't exactly 'native soil.' Of course we don't know if the epsom salts is the cause of our bumper pepper crop, but adding it certainly didn't harm them.

Cleaned-out herb bed
Everything was removed from the herb bed in the center walkway except what we could use--which is our precious comfrey, which was getting choked out. The reason we did this is because it was so overgrown and no one knew how to make use of the herbs that were in it. The plan is to keep this bed and the smaller herb bed filled with common culinary herbs….parsley, cilantro, oregano, thyme, lovage, chives, dill, in addition to giving the comfrey room to expand. Martha brought us some seeds from her parsley that she says reseeds itself every year.

That is all the news I can think of for now. I hope you all are able to take advantage of a few days with no rain to work in your gardens.

'Til later,