Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dear God, Could We Have A Week Without Rain?


At least this has made Hubs decide to put a gutter and downspout at the east end of the patio cover.  Those buckets that are upside-down are covering a couple of new transplants that are pretty close to being beaten right down to the ground.

There is not a whole lot going on in the garden right now.  I got the Adzuki, Garbanzo and Provider beans planted last week.  They were pre-sprouted, but not to the point of cotyldons, because beans get kind of stinky in the paper towel and sometimes they rot.  The Adzuki are up, and I'm seeing a few of the Garbanzo.  After I planted, it turned off cold.  May has been unusually cold this year.  The Fortex beans I planted earlier emerged during a period of two or three straight days of warmish weather.  I didn't pre-sprout them as it was raining, the soil was wet, and there was rain in the forecast for the next several days.  I figured that was plenty.  Fortex beans are said to be slow to form beans in the pod.  This is a good thing and it's a bad thing.  It means the bean pod can be left hanging on the vine till it's quite long, and it will still be tender enough to eat.  Of course this increases your yield.  And, oh, Fortex beans are really good.  But if you save seed, it means that might be kind of difficult to let the pods hang there till seed is developed.  The Japanese Beetles will be coming in July and they love beans.  They drill holes in the pod and eat the seed.

I planted the Beauregard sweet potato cuttings I had rooted in water but they are not looking very good at all.  At least they are still alive.  I have more that grew from little rootlets I threw into a bucket when I harvested last fall.  Just put a shovel full of soil from the bed on the top and stored the whole she-bang in the garage.  Watered when I thought about it, but that wasn't real often during the winter. 

I also have a couple of Carolina Ruby sweet potatoes in a flower pot, half-covered with soil, that have sent up some healthy-looking greenery.  I'm going to have to split off the one on the right, as the potato itself is rotting.

And then the Carolina Rubies I just put in an ice-cream bucket and left in the light of an average interior room have started to sprout, too. 

I used to always worry about whether I'd be able to get sprouts early enough to plant, but I worried for nothing.  I've walked into the pantry where I store the potatoes and have found them covered in sprouts.  Now I store them in a folded-up paper bag to keep out the light.  The pantry has no windows so the only light that happens in there is if we leave the door open, or when we come in and turn on the light while we look for something.  Sweet potatoes only need 100 days to mature, and so for zone 6, that leaves plenty of time.  Even if I don't get them into the ground till June 15, I've still got at least 120 days from then to First Average Frost Date.  

I'm picking potato beetles off the potato plants.  There are only a few.  If we had a sunny day there would be more up on top of the leaves, sunning themselves.  As it is, every time I go out in the garden I swing around by them and pick off what I see.  They go into soapy water and that's the end of them.

We are chasing Jack-rabbits out of the yard daily.  Sometimes they show us where they're getting in by going out that way, but usually they just run us around the yard till we're tired enough to open a gate for them.  Sheesh.  Still waiting on the fence guys.  Jeff said when they come to mark where our electric and telephone lines are buried (our water line is in the front and we do not have gas lines out here), then we know they're going to be showing up to work on the fence.  I imagine all this rain has set them back awhile.  We're ready, anytime, and I hope that will be before it snows.  I will be so glad to be able to keep the rabbits out of the yard.

The pea trellis that I made from some three-piece sections of concrete reinforcement wire (shown in previous posts) has been having a lot of trouble staying standing up.  The ground is wet and the wind blows them right over.  Luckily, they've been blowing over toward the side where the peas are planted and not away from it, and that happens to be the side that's close to the fence so they haven't been able to fall all the way over.  Hubs put down a couple of posts to wire them to on Thursday.  I thought about planting peas on both sides of the trellis, and if I had, maybe that would've anchored the trellis.  Or they could've gotten uprooted, it could've gone either way.  I've planted cucumbers on the other side but they are not big enough to climb yet.  When the peas are finished making peas, I'll leave them on their side of the trellis, just to anchor that side.  The cucumber plants will be over the trellis and all the way down on the other side in pretty short order, once the weather warms and they get going good.

Today I noticed there are a few peas that are ready to pick.  The first time I ever picked peas, it was back in the 1970's when I and my best friend Patty went to one of the You-Pick places near Hobart, Indiana.  We'd picked cabbages and beets and were just hitting our stride when we decided to pick peas.  Got them home and found most of the pods practically empty.  This is one thing you have to learn about peas.  Just because the pod is fat doesn't mean it's full.  You have to feel the pod.  It will begin to be bumpy.  And it will feel heavier in your hand than the pods that aren't filled out. If the pod has begun to show "veins" or has started losing color, the peas inside will be too mature for good eating.  Leave it on the vine to finish maturing, and use the peas in those pods for seed.  If you take a permanent marker out to the garden with you, you can mark an "X" or something on these pods so you'll know they're "seed peas".  You don't want to leave them on the vine forever, because that will signal the plant that it's done and it'll quit making peas.  But let them get to the point where the pod has thinned out and the peas inside rattle when you shake the pod.  Some people put these into a paper bag and keep them in a warm, dry place till they finish drying.  I would think that would encourage mold.  My mother used to thread a needle with string, and she would run the needle through the end of each pea pod, and then when the string was filled with pea pods, would hang the string horizontally along finishing nails she had running along the wall, close to the ceiling.  She would do this with other things that grew in a pod, too, like string beans and okra.  The finishing nails were not obvious when they were not being used, and she wouldn't have cared if they were.  Mom's garden took precedence over home decoration.  Usually I shell the peas and let them dry on a tray lined with newspaper.  But they say it's better to dry them in their pods.  I don't know which is best.  You pick.

I have four quarts of pitted Nanking cherries in the freezer and am still picking.  I don't think the Mockingbirds have noticed the fruit yet.  It may be because they are so busy building nests and raising babies.  When they're feeding babies, they need protein, so they hunt bugs and worms, and that's alright by me.  The cherries grow along the main branches under the leaves and aren't very visible from a distance, which probably helps a lot, too.  I try to keep any fruit that falls to the ground picked up, as I don't want the birds to be down there looking up.

Margaret Roach says the way to invite lots of birds into your garden (for bug patrol) is to have a lot of bugs.  No problem here....

The peach tree is loaded. 

The nectarine tree had quite a bit of fruit on it, considering this is only its second spring here, but the fruits got infested with something that made them ooze from little holes and then they fell off the tree.  I will do better by my fruit trees next year, I promise.

I have always had fruit trees in my yard and I have never had as much trouble with insects before as I have had here.  The apple trees that I bought from ArborDay several years ago did not set on very much fruit, and it's time that they should be.  But they are not the variety of apple that they were supposed to be.  Several people warned me about ArborDay, and said I wouldn't be getting very big trees.  I didn't really mind that, as trees are always sent bare root and I figured they'd adapt better if they were younger, anyway.  But I really wasn't prepared for the trees to be something other than what I paid for.  One tree was supposed to be Red Delicious and the other was supposed to be a yellow, and in that way they would be good pollinators for each other.  Well, I've had apples from both trees, and the apples are red, and they are kind of like Rome apples, except that Rome apple trees are supposed to be self-pollinating and I don't think these are, or they'd have more apples on them by now.  To say I'm disappointed in these trees is an understatement.  I got a BraeStar from Stark's last year and I'm confident it will be what they say it is, but it is still too young to bear.  Maybe, though, it will help to pollinate the other two trees.  There are lots of pears on both the Asian pear tree that I've had for six years, and the Bartlett that I've had for four. 

Both have fruited for the past two years.  It's a shame that more people don't like pears, because pear trees are so disease resistant that you really don't have to do much to get something from them.  This is the first year that the Moorpark apricot tree has made fruit, although they are mostly falling to the ground.  The fruits look like they're supposed to so maybe ArborDay sent me the correct one in this instance.  It's supposed to be disease resistant and self-pollinating so maybe I'll get SOME fruit. 

That's rain on the fruit.

There's been a lot of buzz about whether we should go out and thin out the fruit on our trees, and Oklahoma Gardening (the OSU program on Saturday's educational station) had a good segment yesterday where they addressed that very thing.  They said that there is a natural thing called "Fruit Drop" that happens in June.  You wait till after that happens.  Then you go through your tree and pick off fruit so that there are about six inches of space, along the branch, between fruits.  They stressed that you choose the fruits that are smaller than the others to pick off, as they'll probably fall off anyway, and any that are joined together.  If you'll do this, the fruit will be bigger, and there will be less stress on the tree branches.  I've had peach trees break under the weight and just one good harvest comes at a high price if the tree is broken.  Lots of people put supports under fruit-laden branches and I do that, too, but you have to be careful where you put your supports and they have to be secure enough not to fall over in the wind.  Also not such that they rub the bark off the branch where the two touch.  That's a pretty tall order sometimes.

There has been too much rain for grapevines and they have started looking sick again.  I will go out and spray with some Neem Oil if it'll just quit raining long enough to let them dry out some.  There are lots of cherries on the Hansen's black cherry bushes and lots of wild plums.  They'll ripen in a couple of weeks, if everything goes OK.  The blackberries are blooming.  I have managed to propagate three new plants from the one raspberry plant that I bought at Tractor Supply this spring.  They are little but maybe they will yield something next year if they make it through this one. 

The big worry now is disease caused by too much rain, or just out-and-out rotting in the ground.  But the good thing is that seeds are sprouting better and I've had some things come up out in the garden that I haven't seen in a couple of years.  The Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate, for instance.

And so we will persist, like we all must, coping with the ups and downs, the shortages and excesses, of this world.  I praise God every day that what we are dealing with is so much less serious than what some are faced with, and my prayers go out to them.  Hubs and I count our blessings every day, and they are many.  The message today is, "Look At The Big Picture".  If the garden fails, we have at least had another year of experience and opportunities to enrich our soil.  If the fruit trees fail, they can be replaced, and we chalk it up to "Education Expense".  And so it goes.  My Arkansas-raised Grammy Britt used to say, "Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining", meaning that no matter what happens to you, there will always be something good that will come out of it.  Sometimes I see it and sometimes I don't.  Sometimes we (Hubs and me and all of you) have to be the ones to make the good come out of the bad things that happen.  I see that a lot.  So rock on, my dears, rock on.  Hugs xoxoxo


  1. It is raining a lot here too. Some days less but all in all, plenty of rain. No hay of course!

    A heavily loaded peach in the orchard split in half so I may loose it. It is a Gloria and my Sis says they are tasteless so it may not be much of a loss. Raising fruit seems so much harder than in my Grandma's day. They always had peaches and apples and I don't think ever sprayed for anything.

    1. Glenda, read up on Red Haven and see what you think. It's my favorite kind. The peaches are dark yellow with almost a burgundy red. They peel easily. Freestone. Ripe in early July. They can up nice, I don't even use Ascorbic Acid, I slice them into a gallon of water that has a couple of teaspoons of canning salt in it, and then when they fill up the pan so I know they'll fill seven jars, I just use that slightly salty water as the liquid in the jars. By then it's more peachy than salty, anyway. Get it hot and ladle it into jars. The little bit of salt improves their flavor, we think. That's what I thought I was getting when I bought my Hale Haven, but turns out Hale Haven doesn't ripen till fall, so they hang on the tree all that time, through the heat and the beetles. They are freestone, but skins are hard to remove. When this one bites the dust (or maybe a year or two before) I'm making sure to get a Red Haven. Peach trees are so easy to break, I don't think we can count on more than five harvests from them, maybe less, since they don't always bear because of late spring freezes. Also, don't get them from the box stores. There's too much danger of getting one already infected with peach tree borers. And be sure to paint your tree trunk with Latex house paint with some plaster of paris mixed in.


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