Gardening Archive

Garden update

Posted August 19, 2016 By Ruth

Buena Mulata peppers:


They started as these spindly little plants that could barely hold themselves up and turned into this!  And covered in peppers too.  For anyone else growing these my husband says that if they’re less than fully ripe they taste very “green” (and not in a good way), but as long as they’re fully ripe they’re both very hot and very tasty.

The Chocolate Habaneros are happy this year too:


Usually these plants get barely a foot high for me (if that tall, often they’re less than a foot), but this year, they’re huge, the tallest are pushing two feet!  I assume thanks to the heat, since hot peppers are considered a hot climate plant.  They’re covered in very large habaneros too.

Some more pictures of the Blue Berries tomatoes:

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Their final color is determined by how much sunlight they get, so that red one is mostly shaded while the darker ones in the bottom photo are mostly in the sun.  What I find amusing is that a not insignificant number of them are coming in yellow and blue instead of red and blue:


The farm that produces this particular hybrid also has a Golden Berries tomato, and clearly they’re related!

I brought some of the Black Plum tomatoes into work with me to share with a couple co-workers.  I might have converted them.  One asked me to tell him when I’m starting my seedlings in the spring, he’ll pay me the same fee he pays to buy his usual plants at the store.  The other asked me where I get my seeds from.

The Black Plums are still our favorite of all the tomatoes.  As cool as the White Cherrys and the Blue Berries are I don’t know that I’ll bother to grow them again next year.  The Black Icicles I might though.  The flavor is similar to the Black Plums, though higher acid, and as a paste tomato they’ll help thicken the tomato sauce up with less simmering.

BTW, I’ve weighed a few of the gallon ziplocks and so far they’re all coming in at over 4lbs each.  I’ve lost track of how many are in the freezer.  Tomatoes aren’t halfway done yet.  I’ve cooked up 4.5 ziplocks worth of tomatoes so far…..

I picked three watermelons last weekend, and took one, and a bunch of mixed tomatoes, over to my north side neighbor (the one who’s husband died), since I remembered that she liked watermelon.  She was delighted, and came over Wednesday to admire my garden and tell me that the watermelon was one of the better ones she’s ever had (there’s a reason I grow them!).

I picked another cantaloupe Wednesday, and will hopefully be picking two more today (if not I’ll have to see if I can chicken wire those tires for the night).

I treated all the peppers for caterpillars again.  Though the worst by far is the paprika peppers.  I’m not actually sure I’m getting any paprikas this year, every time I check the plants I end up pitching more peppers for ‘pillar damage!

Last weekend I spooked an itsy bitsy (barely big enough to be out of the nest) bunny out from under the cantaloupe vines (sigh).  Gosh they’re adorable at that stage.  Especially when they’re so spooked that they trip themselves and literally end up tumbling ass over ears in their panic.  I so wished I could have caught it on video.  Then I went back inside and got my bottle of repellent and re-treated the entire garden…..

One of my hibiscus is blooming.



This is the one next to the rain barrels, and so it gets more water than my other ones.  The others do have buds on them though, so they’ll be along eventually!

Sunflowers are also going strong:

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I am, overall, quite happy with my garden this year!

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All good

Posted August 17, 2016 By Ruth

We made it through the storms yesterday with no major damage here.  There’s a Facebook photo circulating of what looks like a funnel cloud on the west end of the lake I live near, and news reports of a funnel cloud further north of that, but no reports of actual tornado touch down that I can find.

Yesterday, since I made it home from work before the storms hit I ran out to the garden and snatched as many of the ripe tomatoes as I could before the storms hit.  In the 10 minutes or so I was out there the sky went from blue and sunny with some pretty white clouds, to dark and nasty with black clouds.  So I gave up and went back in.  I still picked another 3 gallon ziplocks worth of tomatoes though before giving up:


I was worried the winds would knock over the tomatoes (the storm Saturday knocked a couple over though they were salvageable with only minor damage).  A check this morning and the garden doesn’t look seriously worse for wear, though I’ll need to do some new tying down of cages as some are leaning hard.

At one point the water was coming down so hard and heavy that the water shooting out the downspouts was shooting OVER the rain barrels (which were over-flowing anyway, guess I need to redo those overflow pipes so at least that water will be directed where I want better in heavy rain like this).

Today looks to be a very nice day, weather wise, so hopefully I can catch up on some of the yard and garden work I’ve been putting off!

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Harvest basket

Posted August 13, 2016 By Ruth

One of the downsides to this year’s bountiful garden is my ability to harvest it easily.  I’ve generally used one of the kitchen strainer baskets to hold stuff as I wander around the garden picking.  It was handy for a few reasons, including the ability to plop it into the sink to rinse everything.  Previous years this has generally worked fine for most of the garden.

This year?  Not so much.


Yesterday I picked two strainer fulls of tomatoes and left more on the vines that I could have picked but would be ok for another couple days.

So earlier this week I went looking at various options and ideas for harvesting baskets.  Found lots of:


Really big gaps that my little tomatoes would fall out of.

Awkward to use.



Ran across this one, which struck me as really cool, but gosh, do I really have to spend $50?  I’m sure it’s worth it, but money…….

The more I looked at that last one the more I thought I could build something comparable.  I’d have to go buy some cedar board, but I already have 1/2″ hardware cloth left over from another project……


Bonus: mine has feet to hold the contents out of the dirt!

The mesh and staples used to hold it on will probably eventually deteriorate, but the wood is cedar and the screws are exterior grade, so at whatever point the mesh dies I can reuse the frame.

Of course, it won’t fit in the sink, but I can rinse stuff off with the hose if need be and not worry about it!

It holds just, you know, one or two tomatoes…..



Interior dimensions are approx 5.5″ deep, 8″ wide, 16.6″ long

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Garden update

Posted August 3, 2016 By Ruth

I finally got a cantaloupe for myself today.  No pictures, I ate it already.

I’m still waiting for the Sugar Baby watermelons to ripen, they’re huge, but apparently not ripe yet since the tendril at each hasn’t even started to die back yet.

For anyone else trying to figure out when Golden Crispy Melons are ripe, part of the answer is that once the skin starts cracking PICK THEM NOW BEFORE THE INSECTS FIND THEM.  I can also confirm that they don’t slip off the vines like cantaloupe.  Other than that I can’t help you. Maybe I’ll do better next year……

Once the real tomato rush hits I’m going to be overwhelmed.  There are SO MANY tomatoes on all those HUGE plants this year.  Wow.  And unlike last year, this year my little home-made 3′ tall cages are NOT cutting it.  The Black Icicles are pushing 8ft tall, and everything else is taller than my eye-level.  Well, the ones that haven’t fallen over from lack of support are anyway.  You can’t even SEE the cages anymore.


Since most of the tomatoes are going for sauce (or maybe ketchup if I have enough and time to play) anyway I’m going to try just stuffing them into gallon ziplocks and freezing them till I have time to actually make something out of them.  Its supposed to work fine with fruit for jelly, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t for tomatoes for sauce.

They do look pretty all together in the bowl though:


Not sure if its the heat or what, but I’m also having a horrid time with blossom end rot this year too.  I’ve already added calcium to the tires, both when planting the plants and again a few weeks ago.  I don’t normally have to pitch more than a couple tomatoes for BER, but this year I’ve already pitched several Icicle tomatoes and a bunch of the Black Plums.  Rapid growth is supposed to be one of the triggers, so thats what I’m blaming it on.  Cause yah, we’ve had some rapid growth this year!

I had to treat all the pepper plants for caterpillars this week.  They’d found my paprika peppers (which looked AWESOME till I looked closer), and I ended up picking and pitching more than half the peppers due to the damage.  Hopefully I caught it in time to save at least some of them.

Ripening Hungarian Hot Wax peppers:



I’ve got two more baseball bats er, zucchini out there to pick and process, and god knows when I’m going to have time to do that.  Maybe tomorrow.

Melon Pear fruit:


Size wise they’re a bit bigger and fatter than the biggest grapes I’ve seen, but not by much.

Some flower pictures, just cause:

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Posted August 1, 2016 By Ruth

Husband commented that he’d not heard all that many coyotes this year, and I have to admit that neither have I.  Usually we hear them several nights a week by summer time.  Certainly we’ve had a bunny population explosion this year.  Not sure if someone did a big hunt, or if the pack has just moved around for some reason.

Although I’ve been seeing one on the trail cameras occasionally, I’m pretty sure it’s only one, and it appears to be a youngster.  I caught a daylight look at him not to long ago, apparently hunting bunnies in my neighbor’s back yard.  Pretty sure he’s (or she, can’t tell from a distance) not mature, got a skinny gangly look to him, like you see in not yet mature dogs.  Course, I didn’t have my camera on me at the time, dammit.


I’m thinking this is the cantaloupe thief, as I got a very blurry shot of a coyote checking out the garden the night after someone stole the cantaloupe, and, other than the bunnies munching around the edges, nothing else has even approached the garden.

A note for everyone who says that “Well, I have a big dog, so X wildlife don’t come into my yard!”.  I got news for you.  Chances are good Apollo is quite a bit bigger than your dog, AND he’s an intact male.  And he pees all around the yard, and around the garden in particular.  We actually encourage him to pee around (around, not IN) the garden in hopes of driving off some of the munchers.  Not only has it not appeared to make any difference in the quantity of wildlife we see, he and a couple foxes ended up in a “My Tree! Peeing Contest” last winter!

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Posted July 27, 2016 By Ruth

The one plant in the garden that the wild critters REALLY want to munch on this year has been my cantaloupe vines.

As soon as the vines inch past the line of repellent the ends are chomped off.  Nothing else has been chewed on this way, just the cantaloupe.  I’ve managed to keep the damage at a minimum by religiously spraying the new growth once a week or so, but if I forget……

Apparently the first cantaloupe melon ripened late yesterday, or possibly even overnight.  Its my one gripe about this variety, it’ll go from GREEN to RIPE in less than 24hrs.

And apparently the scent of the ripe fruit was to much to resist for whoever was keeping such a close eye on the cantaloupe for me:

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Though I grow a small variety, the fruit isn’t THAT small.  I can’t see a rabbit carrying it 10 feet the way it was.  I suspect deer.  Maybe I’ll move a trail camera over to watch the garden……

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Garden update

Posted July 25, 2016 By Ruth

The garden is coming along nicely for the most part.


The first White Cherry Tomatoes



The first of the Blue Berries Tomatoes



More cucumbers, two Black Icicle tomatoes and a Buena Mulata pepper

The various melons are ripening.  I did staggered plantings of the watermelons and cantaloupe this year in an attempt to keep from being overwhelmed with fruit all at once.  We’ll see how that actually works.

Anyone know anything about the Golden Crispy Melon?  I got a packet of freebie seeds, and went ahead and planted them, but I can’t find alot of info on them, including how to tell when they’re ripe!

Something appears to be killing off my carrots.


Not sure if its a watering issue or what.  I guess I’ll go pick some carrots and see what I’ve got.

Overall though the garden is doing quite well!



In other news, I sold this Saturday at work:


I can’t decide if I ought to praise the guy for planning ahead.  Or if I ought to be pissed at him for reminding me winter is coming!

Anyone know what this flower is?

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It looks REALLY familiar, like I ought to recognize it.  But nothing’s jumping at me.

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Garden Update

Posted July 19, 2016 By Ruth

Blue Berries tomatoes are ripening



Black Icicles are getting there too, plus the tallest one just topped the 7foot tall cages:

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There’s at least two more that’ll definitely make the 7foot mark, and a couple more that may or may not.


Sugar Baby Watermelon:






Melon Pear fruit:


Note-I didn’t realize till it was to late, but quite a few places recommend caging these plants, like tomatoes, and for much the same reason.  The weight of the fruit flattens the plants out.  Something to keep in mind if we decide to grow them again.


Paprika peppers:



I’ve pulled two zucchini out of the garden, and made a batch of zucchini bread, just cause.

Oh, and this is Friday’s cucumber harvest:


JUST Friday’s harvest.  Of course I’ve had at least a few almost every day for the last week-plus, which I’ve mostly been eating, cause these are seriously good eating cukes.  So I made two quarts of refrigerator pickles.  Which used up less than half of Friday’s harvest.  Gave away 8 or so to a friend.  Harvested another pile at least that big on Sunday.  Gave away another handful to a neighbor.  Gave away the whole pile to a former co-worker who planned to do a serious batch of pickles.  And between yesterday and today (Tuesday) I refilled the strainer with cucumbers.  I think my cucumber plants are happy.  Time to play around with a wider variety of pickles I think.


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Garden update

Posted July 11, 2016 By Ruth

My four rain barrels have come in handy this summer.  I keep saying that I know, but its so true.  Our water bill would be SO HIGHER this summer without them.  I’m planning on how to add 4 more.  It won’t happen this year, or likely next year unless I’m lucky, but it will happen.

My mystery squash plant is thriving:

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I originally assume the vine was cantaloupe, but it clearly isn’t.  The giant leaves look like zucchini leaves, but the zucchini variety I grow doesn’t vine like this clearly is.  The squash itself is marked much like the baby pumpkins (well, the Long Pie Pumpkins I grow anyway), and that would explain the vining habit.  But the insanely quick growth (it was still a baby with bloom attached when I took a picture on the 26th, and is now a good foot long) is more zucchini style.  The Long Pie Pumpkins grow quickly, but not THAT quickly.  So do I treat it like a zucchini?  Or like a pumpkin?  I’m kinda tempted to let it keep growing and see what happens……

For comparison, a zucchini (which I’ll be picking this week, its a good size for it):


And a baby pumpkin:



Anyway, the rest of the garden.

The Melon Pears are THRIVING.  And to think I was worried about them.  There’re even baby fruit forming!  And yes, another mystery squash, this one looks straight forward Long Pie Pumpkin though.

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Tomatoes: it turns out the Black Icicle Tomatoes may have had a magnesium deficiency.  They’ve been awfully pale and droopy in comparison to the rest of the tomatoes.   I had a couple people try to assure me that paste tomatoes are always “kinda droopy”, but they just didn’t look right.  After doing some digging around the internet I mixed up a couple gallons of water with some epsom salts and sprayed down the leaves and drenched the soil with it.  About a week and a half later the plants are much more normally colored and far less droopy.  In addition, I was worried that they had blight, they had almost all the symptoms (and so do several other tomato plants), and now almost all those symptoms (on the Black Icicles) are gone.  I’m still going to treat the entire garden with Actinovate, just to be safe (cause I don’t have the space to do proper rotations and I refuse to stop growing tomatoes), but I’m also going to treat all the tomato tires with epsom salts too (and seriously considering doing the entire garden).  A magnesium deficiency wouldn’t be a huge surprise in retrospect.  I’ll have to see if I can arrange some soil testing either this fall or next spring.

Black Icicle tomatoes before epsom salt treatments (and one a few days after treatment):

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And yesterday:

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The difference in color is NOT a trick of the light, I promise!  In addition the tallest plants are pushing 6ft tall now!

All of the tomato plants have baby fruit on them, well, except for the volunteer plants that appeared in two tires, but thats not a surprise since they didn’t get the headstart the rest did.  For that matter, pretty much everything has baby fruit on it!  Possible exception is the habaneros, but they do that to me every year, get thinking I’m not going to get anything and then POOF, hot peppers!

I’ve picked enough cucumbers to do up a good sized batch of refrigerator pickles.  Putting them on a trellis DOES make a difference in how easy it is to find and pick fruit.  But I swear the plants are VERY HAPPY being allowed to sprawl on the ground:


Or maybe its just the insane summer weather this year, donno…..


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Deer repellent

Posted June 23, 2016 By Ruth

I bought a single, small, bottle of Plantskydd from a locally owned place back in 2013.

That first year either I didn’t apply it right, or the insane rains we had that year reduced its effectiveness, not sure which.  But ever since it has worked wonderfully.  As long as I re-apply once a month or so it has done an awesome job of keeping deer and rabbits out of my garden.

Did I mention I’m still using that original bottle?  Plantskydd’s site says once opened they’re only good for 3 months or so.  But if the bottle I have has lost any of its effectiveness I can’t tell.  I was slow getting it out on the garden this year, and something was sure munching, but once I sprayed the Plantskydd all munching stopped.

Oh, and I don’t usually spray it ON the garden plants either, though it’s technically safe to do so.  I generally just spray it in a circle around the garden and it does just fine!

I will warn you, it REEKS until it dries (which is about a day).  Seriously puke worthy reek too.  Not an issue where I am, but if you’re gardening in your urban garden and your neighbor’s bedroom window overlooks your garden they may not appreciate you spraying Plantskydd about, just to warn you.  The dogs do find it quite interesting though, till it dries, so if you have a dog who’s allowed to run loose by your garden you may want to restrain them till its dry, else your dog may smell extra bad for a while.

Plantskydd isn’t available from any of the big box stores, at least by me.  I found it at a locally owned garden place, or you can order it off their website.

note: I bought the Plantskydd with my own money and this review is completely unsolicited, well, by Plantskydd anyway, I had a friend ask me what I used to repel deer!