Where have all the summer squash leaves gone?

Today I bravely fought the mosquitoes and got a few things done in the backyard. Twice I watered the newly planted grass, a mixture of Kentucky Fescue and Rye, that was sown in the bald patches the yard has developed. I’ll admit that I don’t care for growing or mowing grass, and as long as the yard is green I couldn’t care less if its fescue or dandelions. The problem is that the yard has developed bald spots, which led me to reseed the entire yard.

FullSizeRender (7)

The vegetable garden is starting to produce  – tomorrow swiss chard, jalapeño peppers and banana peppers will be picked. The peppers will go to the freezer, the chard into salads and soup. (Can you freeze chard? I need to research this…)

FullSizeRender (6)

While mulching and checking on the garlic, i noticed an issue with the squash plants that were put in the ground a few weeks ago. Every leaf is gone. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration – there is one leaf left.  My first thought is that worms ate the leaves, but with no remains its hard to judge that. There is another pest that lays eggs inside the stem, which leads to the leaves drying and falling up, but the stems look fine. I looked for signs of rot, but found none. The plants look great other than the leaves are gone. This leads me to think that a critter ate them (mice, possums, squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons are common) but no other plants were touched. There are loads of green tomatoes, strawberries and beans within feet of the squash. Why would they pass those up?

I’ll continue to research, but at this point I think it was an insect that left and quickly as it came, or my dog, who is adorable, but who ran directly to the squash this morning when I opened the gate. Why would she eat the squash leaves? No clue, but I have caught her chewing on nails and a lightbulb before I’ll admit its possible.

FullSizeRender (5)

 

Rest in Peace, Uncle Joe.

The garden is doing well, and there are cabbage plants waiting to be put in the ground, but this post will be about my uncle, who passed away yesterday.

We are a stubborn group, and for over 10 years our families didn’t really speak.  At another uncles funeral a year or two ago, we started chatting.  Surprisingly, neither of us acted odd, or really seemed to acknowledge that things had been off. My dad ended up speaking with him, and they continued to speak and build up their relationship. They went in the woods together, talked about hunting together and traded gardening tips. Dad and I would send him deer bait and cool flashlights we found on the internet.  I hadn’t talked to him in person since the funeral, but we grew closer via dad, and exchanged items from the garden. My canned peppers and beans went to him in West Virginia and his venison and fresh sausage came to me in Georgia.  Even though we didn’t speak often, he became my closest relative on my dad’s side.  I am grateful that he and dad reconciled their differences, and even became good friends again – in fact, I doubt that dad is closer to anyone else in his family now.

Our family is no stranger to death, and at some time I hardened myself against it, but this one feels like a two-day punch in the gut.  As I get older, I try to be more spiritual and live with less negativity. Instead of being angry at the man that took his life in order to steal his car, I’m praying for his murderer, who is now gone also, the families of both men, and whatever situation led up to yesterday’s events. That’s pretty much all I know to do at this point.

 

About the photo: The mountainous area in West Virginia where the family is from. The flat area is part of the coal mine that most of the men in the family worked at.

Spring Garden – halfway full.

Atlanta’s average last frost is around tax day, but since the weather has been so nice its probably safe to start planting the spring garden. Last fall the garden was enlarged, more than doubling the size. We also added a drainage ditch that cuts across the garden in roughly the spot where the “old” garden ended.  The layout above isn’t pretty, but it worked in helping me prioritize what I want to grow.

So far we have planted:

Nantes Carrots

Swish Chard

Chard (can’t remember the type)

Strawberries

Garlic

Red Onions

White Onions

Potatoes – 1 hill of red and kennebec (i think)

Brussells Sprouts

No beans yet, but I’ve set up the bamboo supports.  Most of the remaining section will be filled with tomatoes and peppers.

How many escaped goats can you fit in the backseat of a police car?

Today was supposed to be about cleaning and gardening, which it was, but ended up being about goats.  This afternoon, a herd of goats and two herding dogs escaped a yard and ate their way around the neighborhood until a group of cops, locals and kids corralled them in a neighbor’s backyard.

It turns out the goats, maybe 30 by my guess,  were escapees, brought in as an environmentally-friendly way of taking care of overgrown yards.  They drop them in the morning and return in the evening after the goats have grazed all day.

Someday I hope to have goats, or a donkey, or ducks, so of course I went to check out the situation. Little did I know I would spend the afternoon helping to corral them. The cops at one point tried putting them in a police car to get them to a safe yard – you can only fit 2 goats in a cop car, and that involves quite a bit of work. By the officers remark and how quickly he rolled down windows they quickly smelled up his ride. One of the goats even went down a toddler slide while waiting to be picked up.

Funny how something so random can lure people out of houses and get them talking to each other. We all got a good laugh out of it all. It was a good day.

The little tomato that could.

Back in the fall, when most of the garden was starting to slow down, this tomato plant started growing in the middle of one of the walkways.  One night, when the temperatures had dropped quite a bit, the little guy was on my mind, so around midnight I grabbed a shovel and dug it up. It had two yellow flowers, and was about 8″ tall.

Three months later, the tomato is about 3 feet tall and is living in my bedroom window. It should be warm enough to put it back outside in a few weeks. Honestly I’m surprised that it made it though the winter, but even more shocking is that it’s slowly produced two tiny tomatoes, that are now ripe. They are smaller than a marble, but still an accomplishment.

Earlier this week I noticed 2 more blooms on it, so I picked up 2 other tomato plants that are blooming in hopes of pollination. We will see how that goes. Either way, I’ve enjoyed having the little guy in the house to care for over the winter.

Can you identify this bloom?

This is one of the first bloomers of spring here in Atlanta, Georgia, and is one of my favorites, but I have no clue what it is.   It reminds me a bit of a brier bush when it’s not blooming, growing about 7 feet tall on leggy branches. The next project on the front yard list is to build a bamboo trellis for it, but it would be nice to know what it is so I can properly take care of it.

Can anyone out there help identify it?

Planting, growing and freezing the winter crop of Nantes carrots.

Dad always seemed to have a knack for growing vegetables. We kept the garden watered and hoed, but everything just seemed to grow. When I moved to Georgia I expected everything to grow – but better- because its warmer than West Virginia. Boy was I wrong. It seems that vegetables, shrubs and flowers are always suffering from drought, flood, grub worms or flocks of blackbirds.

One of the first things planted in my Georgia garden were carrots. Mound the dirt, cut a trench, plant, and water – easy enough, or so I thought. Until fall 2016, I grew only a handful of carrots, but this year everything came together and the carrots did very well!

For garden V.2, planted in September, we spent more time preparing the ground for plants. First off, the garden was in the wrong place for years.  The backyard has a slight slope, and lies downhill from several other yards and a road. Several times a year I have flooding of 5″ or more. This has washed all the topsoil away from most of my yard, leading me to construct a series of drainage basins, ditches and elevation changes to divert the water through and out of the yard. After studying the water flow, I found a 20x30ish section of yard that retained quite a few feet of topsoil. We removed grass and weeds,  added manure and plowed it twice.

In addition, I read that gardeners in my area have good luck with Nantes carrots. They are shorter than what I have been trying to grow- and sure enough they gave me a crop 10x better than the closest competitor.  Dad also told about my Grandfathers trick to raise carrots. After he plants the seeds, he laid a piece of wood on top of each row to apply pressure to the row.  When you can pick up the board and see seedlings about 1/4 long you remove the boards and water. The reasoning was that having that board prevents early plant growth and promotes root growth. Whether or not that is sound advice I don’t know, but I do know that my crop was great this year, and I did follow that advice.

Part of the crop was cleaned up and taken to lunch in place of baby carrots from the store. The other part of the crop was cleaned, cut up, and was put in the freezer. For freezing the carrots, I followed a process outlined in this article by Getty Stewart. Don’t bypass the ice bath step. I ran my carrots under cool water but they were still warm and it made it much harder to get all of the air out of the bags before freezing.

After seeing the results of the garden after amending the soil, I remembered how much time dad spent working the dirt. That’s probably the reason I remember everything growing so well and so easily.