Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tomato Patch: Tale of two Big Mamas

Kent & his Big Mama tomatoes
Big Mama has failed me again this year.  Like last year, her paste-type fruit is affected by blossom-end rot in disastrous numbers.

If you aren’t sure what blossom-end rot (BER) is, here’s a description from the Plant Diagnostics tab at the University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center: “Blossom-end rot is a common nutritional disorder of tomato, pepper, eggplant, pumpkin, squash and watermelon that is caused by a shortage of calcium in enlarging fruits. Calcium is taken up constantly by plant roots as a dissolved nutrient and travels first to the growing points—new leaves and shoots. Fruits may experience a shortage of calcium if water becomes less available to plant roots (drought).

“This nutritional disorder typically occurs when plants are growing rapidly and the first fruits are developing,” the resource continues. “As fruit cells breakdown due to a lack of calcium, dark blemishes appear on the blossom-end of affected fruits. These may enlarge until the entire bottom of the fruit becomes dark, shrunken and leathery. Factors that encourage BER include low soil pH and low levels of calcium, inconsistent watering, shallow watering or droughty conditions, and excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers. Symptoms are rarely seen in cherry tomatoes and are most often seen in large plum or paste-type tomato cultivars and long pepper fruits.”
My Big Mama tomatoes

When the disease devastated my Big Mama tomatoes last year, Kent Phillips, another Howard County Master Gardener who had given me the plant, surprised me by saying his Big Mamas were producing well and without the disease.  I threw away my diseased tomatoes.  Kent harvested his.

This year I gave Big Mama a second chance and did my best to treat her “right.”  I started a plant from seed Kent gave me.  I made sure the plant had enough calcium when I transplanted it.  I didn’t over fertilize.  I drip irrigated.

Alas, blossom-end rot struck again.  On Friday I picked all of Big Mama’s fruit affected by BER: 30 tomatoes from small green fruits with black ends to larger ones beginning to show pink or red but clearly diseased.  Good fruit: 7. I had lost more than 80% to the disease.

Again I wondered how Kent’s Big Mamas were doing.  I emailed him: “Hi, Kent. I did a fruit count of my Big Mama today: 30 with BER and 7 without, Aghhhh! Tell me again that yours are going well and without BER!”

“Mine are fine,” Kent replied.  “I have 6 plants in and a little bit, maybe 5% of the fruit show some BER. I’m sure that most of the BER is from drought stress since most of it is showing up on the smaller fruits toward the top of the plant.  Obviously, as the plant gets larger, it requires more water.  I’ll have to increase my irrigation of my tomato row from one inch of water per week to two inches.  As for the pH of my soil, it is 7.0 and the calcium level is high at 6654 parts per million.”

My Amish Paste tomatoes don't have BER
Last winter I had soil samples tested by the University of Delaware Soil Testing Laboratory, and the results for my garden are similar to those of Kent’s.  The pH of the two samples averaged 7.0.  Calcium levels also tested very high, averaging 217 on the 100 index-value scale used by that laboratory.

Do you see the puzzle?  Seeds for Kent’s and my plants came from the same packet.  Both our transplants grew well, and we both drip irrigated regularly, though he has a better system.  Soil tests indicate our plants have sufficient nutrients, pH is the same, and calcium levels are very high.  But Kent has near-zero loss, and I have 80% loss.

I won’t be planting Big Mamas again.  Last winter I researched the idea that sometimes is mentioned in tomato literature, that there are varieties that seem resistant to BER.  I couldn’t find a simple list of resistant varieties, but by tallying observations of other gardeners, I decided to try Amish Paste, a well-known heirloom variety.  I have seven plants growing about 12 feet from the afflicted Big Mama plant.  Not one Amish Paste fruit shows signs of BER.

I welcome your Comment about the blossom-end rot puzzle. Maybe your Comment will help me solve Big Mama’s BER problem.

If you want additional information about BER, CLICK HERE to go to the Plant Diagnostics tab at the University of Maryland Extension website.  Then click on “Discolored All or in Part” and “Blossom End Rot.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A garden (almost) without stink bugs

We're participating in a stink bug trap trial at the Derwood Demo Garden.  The first count of trapped bugs and bugs on two designated tomato plants took place earlier this week.  Total bugs: zero.

Now, we have seen some brown marmorated stink bugs in the garden.  A couple of weeks ago we drowned quite a few adults that had joined their friends the harlequin bugs on the mustard plants.  And this week I saw plenty of nymphs on the chard, of all places, sucking away and leaving brown marks on the stems.  But on the whole we have far fewer stink bugs than last year at this time, and there are none to speak of on tomatoes, peppers, blackberries or asparagus, all of which attracted the bugs in previous years.

This was our harvest on Tuesday:

You can pretty much tell from this harvest that we still have problems with squash bugs and/or borers (the last summer squash plant is dying) and with cucumber beetles, though some cukes are hanging on.  Beans are still pumping out, peppers are coming in nicely, chard is still doing well; we had a couple of melons and some butternut squash; and look at all the tomatoes!  (We still pick them before full ripeness because we can't count on getting there in between workdays, and because Manna Food won't take fully ripe tomatoes for fear they'll squish.  But we may not have to pick early because of stink bugs.)

I think all we can say at this point about the dread BMSBs is "we'll see."  But even if they arrive in the hundreds later, at least we'll have had a garden without them.

Bonus: assassin bug eating a stink bug, photo by Darlene Nicholson.

Mm, dinner!

How's the stink bug population in your garden?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Joyful cherries

I had nearly forgotten that it was time to check for ripe cherries on the small bush in my front yard, when I passed it on my way to have a walk last week.  The walk was dispensed with when I saw that the 2-foot plant was bursting with sweet, dark red cherries about 1/2 inch in diameter.  Oddly, they were all on branches that lay on the ground, but still easy enough to pick.

(Yes, that is creeping juniper you see in the photo.  The bush cherry is part of my front landscaping.  It will eventually reach 3 feet in height, and the spring flowers are just as pretty as those of any other cherry.)

I'm pretty sure that this cherry is the 'Joy' variety developed by Dr. Elwyn Meader; it's self-fruitful, unlike its cousin 'Jan,' and I've only got the one.  Naturally I have lost the receipt. :)

Most of the fruit ripens at the same time, so I was able to nearly strip the bush.  This came to about 2 cups of fruit, or 1 cup plus after I'd pitted them.  (The cherries are just large enough for an ordinary cherry pitter.)  Dessert! I thought, and so I made:

Cherry cobbler.

I'll have to get a lot more bushes if I want a harvest large enough to preserve, but for now it's nice to have a July surprise in my front yard.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What is your garden teaching you?

A good time to observe--when
dew still glistens
“Grow It, Eat It” is a fantastic plan, but I’d add a step between the two: “Observe It.”

I try to check what’s happening in our gardens at least once a week, usually in the coolness of the morning, when dew still glistens.  Here are some of the things I observed or learned from my observations Tuesday morning:

Red Sails lettuce and basil seedlings I transplanted from cups into the garden six days ago are thriving.  Two of six Green Ice lettuce transplants, however, had disappeared.  Perhaps they roasted to death in this week’s record heat.  I should keep the next crop of lettuce seedlings in their sprouting cups for a few days longer before introducing them to summer weather.  The good news for fall vegetable growing is that average temperatures peak this week—88°F for highs and 64°F for lows in our area—and begin dropping slowly next week—to a high of 87°F on July 24 and a low of 63°F on July 26.  Don’t you feel cooler just reading that?

No squash vine borers on these zucchinis
Squash—summer and zucchini—are growing rapidly and show buds that any day now will open like golden trumpets.  Why did I wait until near the end of June to plant the seeds?  Sex is the answer.  Yes, this is that kind of blog.  Moths lay eggs at the base of squash plants so their hatching larvae, called squash vine borers, can dine on the squash stems, often killing whole plants.  The moths generally end their prime breeding season in mid- to late June, so there is minimal chance that the borers will attack my late-crop squash plants.

Japanese beetles were resting comfortably on raspberry leaves in the morning coolness, ready for me to flip them into a jar of soapy water.  One of the grandest sights in pestdom is that of a Japanese beetle floating in soapy water.

What kind of melon will
this volunteer be?
When I was planting three Celebrity tomato plans in late May, I noticed several volunteer plants that, from the shape of their leaves, I believed sprouted from melon seeds I had tossed there last winter.  I let one grow—“just to see what it is”—you know how that goes.

Blossom-end rot ruins
Big Mama again
Blossom-end rot is afflicting nearly every fruit on my Big Mama tomato plant.  This happened last year too, so this year I experimented by planting one Big Mama in a different location, made sure it had adequate calcium, and drip-irrigated it regularly since I transplanted it.  Sorry, Big Mama, you’re great on promise, but your rotting fruit says I won’t grow you again.

Bush cucumbers fit right into
our perennial bed
Cucumbers abound from my three Salad Bush Hybrid cucumber plants (from Totally Tomatoes seeds).  I have picked nearly a dozen already from the well-behaved plants growing in a perennial bed and sandwiched between Autumn Joy sedum and variegated liriope and storm-tilted purple coneflowers.  Two years ago powdery mildew wiped out another cuke variety—and I picked zero fruit.   Last year I bought seeds described as “resistant” to powdery mildew—but that crop died of a leaf-spot disease, and again I picked no cukes.  So this year I bought a packet of bush cucumbers because I grew them for years without problems, and again I’m wondering what to do with all the cucumbers.  Sometimes old favorites are better than heralded new varieties.

They're back!  Brown marmorated stink bug
on a blackberry leaf
Last stop was at the blackberry patch.  Yes, I do need to cut back the primocanes that are arching up and over and onto the patio—and tie them to the support wires—before they get too woody to manage easily.  But oh, no, they’re back—brown marmorated stink bugs—in several instars or development stages, from dog-tick size to half the mature size.  I had seen so few stink bugs this year that I had hoped they had abandoned Maryland and flown back to their home territory in East Asia.  My Garden Notes indicate that last year I first observed significant numbers of these pests on our blackberries on July 17, the same day as I noticed them this year.  At this point there are just a few, so for now I’ll use my blackberry picking/stinkbug squishing routine, picking with my right hand, squishing with my left.

I learn a lot by carefully observing what’s happening in our gardens.  I don’t always like what I see, but then life isn’t just a bowl of cherries, is it?  It’s blackberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash with a few Japanese beetles and brown marmorated stink bugs added to keep life interesting.

Grow It, Observe It, Eat It.  Or as another saying goes, “As the garden grows, so does the gardener.”

Harlequin bugs bug me!

Harlequin bugs (Murgantia histrionica) are one of this region's worst vegetable garden pests, and I thoroughly dislike them, but I do have to admit they're quite pretty.

photo by Darlene Nicholson
Their common name comes from the commedia dell'arte character Harlequin, and their Latin name also reflects their show-off nature.  These are not bugs that need to hide.  They descend on plants in large numbers, mating, laying eggs, and sucking on plant juices, and birds don't seem to bother them (likely they taste bitter).

They'll feed on many different plants, but commonly they attack brassica family crops such as mustard, kale, broccoli, or radishes.  Working together, they can render a plant inedible in days.

Please visit our Harlequin Bug page on Grow It Eat It for more information.  Here's what I do (especially in the Derwood demo garden where they are a serious problem) to make these pests less devastating.

1) Plant early.  Harlequin bugs don't usually appear in large numbers until July, so if spring crops go in early the plants are producing well long before the bugs show up.  Heat often spoils these plants before July anyway, but we still had productive mustard and kale when the bugs appeared.

2) Use row covers.  For brassica family plants, this is more necessary in the fall than the spring, since harlequins hang around until the weather gets cold, but I cover the plants in the spring anyway because of other pests (see Tiiu's post).  Caution: if your plants are pressing against the row cover, harlequins will feed right through it.

photo by Barbara Knapp
3) Seek out and destroy eggs (described at above GIEI link) and nymphs (young stages).  The earlier you get them, the easier.

4) Kill adult bugs, preferably by drowning in soapy water.  They tend to drop when you try to catch them, so put either a hand or the bucket directly underneath.

5) Plant trap crops which are intended to be sacrificed while full of bugs.  Cleome is one of the best, since it's harlequins' absolute favorite.  You may have to be brave and throw out a flowering plant, in that case.  What also works is to leave your spring crops in the ground and use those as trap crops.  That's where our mustard went, eventually.  The easiest way to dispose of trap crops is to put the whole plant, bugs and all, into a black plastic trash bag, close securely, and then put the bag in the sun for a couple of days, until the bugs are all dead.  Then you can compost everything.  Do not do what I just did and leave the bags for an entire week in the heat; what's inside after that is seriously smelly.

If you're putting in brassica plants for fall harvest soon, covering them until the harlequins hibernate is the best bet.  Uncover when you no longer see any bugs hanging around.  Harlequin bugs hibernate in plant debris and the top layer of soil, so cleaning up the garden in late fall and raking the soil can help prevent emergence next year.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Cabbage Miracle

Writing this blog entry feels a little like writing  copy for an outrageous internet ad that promises results that are nothing short of a miracle. But truly, would a Master Gardener lead you astray? Not a chance. This is a true story that could happen in your garden, too!

Before: Looks like a lost cause but read on!
Our GIEI demo garden in Baltimore County is doing well in its second year but we have our share of challenges.  No exemptions for Master Gardeners.  Look at this poor cabbage leaf.  The head also has a few  unsightly holes.

Had we taken action from the get-go, we would have veiled our cabbage babies in agricultural fabric, aka  floating row cover, to thwart the lovely but pestiferous imported cabbage moth who lays eggs on cabbages and whose offspring then hatch into cabbage loopers. These little caterpillars are remarkably cabbage-colored and require a close look to spot them dining holes into the leaves.  Here is one we caught in the act.

Imported cabbage moth larvae eating holes in a leaf.

What to do when the damage is so far advanced? We removed the holey leaves, sprayed with Bt -- that's short for Bacillus thuringiensis --  and, miraculously , this is what the same cabbage looked like a few weeks later.

After:  A thing of beauty.

Master Gardener Tiff shows off the 'miracle' cabbage.      


Our purple cabbage did not have damage, probably because the mother moth realizes that green babies on a purple ground are like serving them up on a platter. 

For more information http://plantdiagnostics.umd.edu/level3.cfm?causeID=374

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Carroll County MG Core Public Demo Garden Update

Humor of the Day
Two lovers discussing their future:

Heart Beet -Do you carrot at all for me?
-My heart beets for you,
-With your turnip nose
-And your radish face.
-You are a peach.
-If we cantaloupe,
-Lettuce marry.
-Weed make a swell pear.

Garden greats abound at the Carroll County CORE  Demonstration Garden

Nothing in the world is better than
Bacon & Lettuce & Home Grown  Maters

Not all Natives are good.  This Native Stink Bug  will learn that soon!
He got a bath of soapy water .... but will he like? (Read more at Green Stink Bugs
An immigrant Mexican Bean Beetle.  These little creatures did not stay long.
You can learn more about these little creatures at Mexican Bean Beetles

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Derwood vegetable teams update

Our vegetable teams at the Derwood Demo Garden have been working hard to produce healthy plants and lots of produce.  Here's how we're doing.

Bush beans have been producing like crazy.  'Provider' was our earliest and heaviest bearer (ten gallons in two weeks from two five-foot rows) but is now done and pulled out.  It will be replanted for a second crop, along with 'Blue Lake'.  'Fresh Pick' was disappointing in yield and the favorite of the Mexican bean beetles.  'Masai' is now coming into its own; I'm very fond of this dwarf bean that produces like crazy.

Pole beans are beginning to bear well now.  The scarlet runner beans are lovely on their teepee, and do seem to grow better with afternoon shade.  We've also got purple pole beans and 'Blue Lake' pole beans, both doing well and only moderately affected by beetles.  Planting fairly early and giving the seedlings some strong-smelling companions seemed to help.  Luckily our resident rabbit did not find the seedlings.

Things are not so good in the squash beds.  We've now lost nearly all our original plants, apparently to squash vine borers.  Neither covering the plants when young nor wrapping foil around the stems prevented the attacks.  We're hoping that trying again will work - there's still time to get in a zucchini crop, and hopefully the borers are all gone.  If we lived at the garden, we could use row cover on the plants most of the time, removing it only briefly for pollination, or hand-pollinate the squash.  That's not an option, unfortunately.

One of our butternut plants is dead, but the other is climbing up the cattle panel arbor very well, with lots of fruits forming.

Patti Oseroff tried several techniques to confuse cucumber beetles and prevent them feeding and spreading bacterial wilt:  straw mulch to prevent egg-laying at the base of the plants, reflective foil to warm plants and mystify pests, and planting of repellent companions.  The results are pretty good: many cucumber beetles are flying around the garden, but for the most part they're feeding on other plants than cucumbers.  Some varieties are doing well (sorry! I don't have the list with me, but I know Boothbay Blonde is producing nicely) although those in the companion plant bed are pretty overwhelmed by the companions (runner beans, rat-tail radishes, tansy, bee balm, nasturtiums, and probably others I've forgotten).

Planting in raised beds (some with plastic mulch) did help to warm the soil and give the plants to a good start, but it's proved harder to keep them watered adequately (this is one of the few downsides to raised beds).  We've lost a few plants, but others are doing well and producing fruit.  More on that later, I'm sure!

Last year's tomato crop was hit badly by stink bugs, and using floating row cover over the plants proved awkward and caused the plants to overheat.  This year, Tomato Leader David Studley is using a product called Enviromesh over one group of tomato plants (with row cover on the lower half, as shown in the photo).  We are just now facing our first wave of stink bugs, so we are hoping it will work.  The mesh is easy to remove for harvesting (which is just beginning); the only disadvantage is the need to frequently readjust the net over the fast-growing plants (David does admit he should not have chosen the cherry tomatoes for this experiment).  Next year, perhaps we'll try a tall cage.

Leafy Greens
They had a good spring run!  We've now pulled out the mustard and kale, the longest-lasting spring plants, because of heat stress and a bumper crop of harlequin bugs.  Summer greens we're growing include New Zealand spinach, Malabar spinach, swiss chard, and sweet potato leaves.

We have donated almost 100 pounds so far to Manna Food.  This is our best donation year ever!

Cherry Tomatoes=Black Bean Salad

Black Bean Salad

We have a kind of contest here on the upper Eastern Shore to see who can bring the first tomato to the table each year. The goal is to get it there not only first, but also before the 4th of July. Not surprisingly, this year, there were lots of us before the 4th, so it was almost a moot point (though I think Farmer Earl’s daughter, Amy and her husband Sean may have won the first-to-the-table contest this time around).  At any rate, due to an early season, which has brought its own set of problems (does anyone else have a recipe for the millions of slugs I’m combating this year?) I’ve been picking cherry tomatoes for a couple of weeks now. I used them and some of the cubanelle and fish peppers I’m getting in the black bean and roasted corn salad I made last weekend. Also some of the cilantro and lime basil that’s growing in the pot beside the kitchen door for easy picking. The salad is so easy, particularly since my husband grilled the corn for me.

Black Bean Salad

5 ears of fresh sweet corn, grilled, roasted or boiled for a bare 4 minutes and cooled
2 cans of organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cubanelle pepper (or a sweet red or green pepper), chopped
1 fish pepper (or whatever kind of hot pepper your heart desires)
10 or so cherry tomatoes, halved, or a couple of small slicers, cubed
handful of fresh cilantro
some lime basil
some chopped red onion or sweet onion
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Fish pepper sticking out of black bean salad
lime juice
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp adobo
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the corn off the cob into a large bowl. Add beans, chopped peppers, tomatoes, onions, herbs, spices and mix gently. Add the vinegar and oil and mix again. Stays good in the frig for several days, though it’s best the first two days, because the tomatoes tend to lose their appeal over time. The cherry tomatoes usually hold up longer than the softer slicers, which is one reason I love using them in this salad. It’s especially nice to have in the frig for the kind of searing days we had last weekend.

Grow It Eat It Demonstration Garden Update - Carroll County Master Gardeners

Visitor "Chris" pitches in to weed the CORE/Target/ARC Gardens at the
Carroll County Demonstration Garden

Master Gardener Intern Terry Willard is busy watering the "Food Forest" after a long dry hot spell.  This plot hosts an Arkansas Black Apple, two varieties of Elderberry  and two varieties of Honeyberry.

Hardy Kiwi requires a Hardy support.  This one built just in time as the Mr. & Mrs. Kiwi fruits
are begging for something to climb.

Thanks to MG Henry Lysy, our Hillbilly friend keeps a safe watch over the Arkansas Black Apple Tree while he enjoys the fruits of his labor.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Grow, Grow, Squashzilla!

For years, I have devoted one of my garden beds to two of the traditional “three sisters” grown by Native Americans.  My corn and squash have always been content with this arrangement, but the third “sister”, beans, has its own space.  Until recently, I’ve grown exclusively bush beans, rather than the pole varieties that would climb the corn. Had I interplanted the beans with the corn and squash, each would have had a role to perform.  Beans fix nitrogen for squash and corn; squash shade the soil, preserving moisture and keeping down weeds; and corn provides poles for the beans to climb.  Absent the beans, the squash still shade the soil.  Its scratchy stems and leaves also provide the corn with protection from hungry critters. The corn, however, no longer contributes to the relationship.  This year, my squash decided it had had enough of these free-loaders and set about annihilating them.

I must admit to some culpability in this situation.  First, there was the overly ambitious ordering of seed in January, which, as usual, resulted in surprises in my seed box at planting time.  This year, one of those surprises was “sweet dumpling” winter squash.  My planting-self had little recollection of my ordering-self’s thought process, but surely there was a good reason for ordering the seed, so into the garden it went.  I couldn’t bring myself to reduce my normal number of butternuts or pumpkins, so the net result was two additional vining squash in my already filled-to-capacity squash bed.

Then there was my effort to outsmart the squash vine borers.  Last year, my squash were devastated by the creepy crawlers.  Even the normally resistant butternuts were attacked.  Researching possible solutions, I found several ideas.  There was the old “slit the stem and kill the bugger” method, which I had used in the past.  While a certain amount of satisfaction can be derived from squishing the borers, I’ve never had much success with this method.  Perhaps I fail to notice the borers until the vine is too far gone.  Another method is to cover the plants with row cover.  I imagine that would be fine with bush varieties, but with large vines, especially interplanted with tall corn, it seems impractical.  Finally, I came across the suggestion to pinch the growing tips, thereby encouraging the plant to produce more vines, in the hope that one or more of them would avoid attack by the dreaded borer.  Well, that seemed like an excellent idea, so out I went to pinch squash vines!  Sure enough, each plant produced more vines, further crowding my already crowded bed.

Lastly, there was the matter of the somewhat excessive order of Leaf-gro compost, much of which ended up in the bed in question.  The net result was the creation of perfect conditions for the monster that arose from my normally tranquil garden … SQUASHZILLA!

Squashzilla started its reign of terror by outgrowing the free-loading corn in its midst.  Huge leaves loomed tall over the young corn, shading it out.  I tried to counter this by bending leaves aside, even breaking off a few, to give the corn room to grow.  After all, corn is a tall plant. With a little time, it would be above the level of the squash and peace would be restored.  After about a week of this, I abandoned the effort in half of the bed, where the corn seemed a bit weaker.  Some of the remaining corn seemed poised to pop up above the level of the squash, so I continued helping it a bit longer before deciding to leave it to its own devices and sow additional corn where I had recently pulled up cauliflower.

That stronger section of corn did eventually rise above Squashzilla, only to be knocked down by the derecho.  Oh, well, how would I ever have reached it to harvest it, anyway?  Squashzilla had erased any semblance of a path and was heading across adjacent beds.

At one end of the squash bed is a bed of potatoes.  Having squash growing through that bed is not a problem. The tops are starting to die back anyway, and I’ll be able to get in to harvest spuds.  Behind the squash is the fence separating me from my tolerant neighbor; also fine, but after climbing the fence, the vines are showing no interest in proceeding into the dense shade of her evergreens.  At the other end of Squashzilla’s territory is a bed of tomatoes.  I’d rather the squash not start climbing the tomato cages, so I’ve been re-routing them a bit, but mostly tolerating them.

In front of Squashzilla, and in the direction it shows the most interest in growing, is a bed with okra and sweet potatoes.  I’ve been diligently re-routing the vines away from the sweet potatoes, but allowing it in the okra.  After all, the okra is taller than the squash, so they should be able to coexist peacefully.  That worked fine until I started to harvest okra.  The plants in front presented no problem, but I couldn’t reach across the bed to the plants in back and there was no longer a path between the beds.  After a little thought, I arrived at a solution that should be mutually beneficial to me and the beast.  I placed boards across the bed, giving me a place to step while picking okra.  Each morning, I check under the boards for squash bugs that are hiding there and kill them.  I’ve also used the boards to reach into Squashzilla’s lair and surgically remove a few vine borers.  Did I get them in time this time?  I think I may have and the monster may live to continue its reign of terror.

Meanwhile, in the other end of the garden, another monster is rearing its ugly (but delicious) head.  My normally mild-mannered muskmelons are running amok, eliminating paths and heading into the pepper patch and across the lawn.  Year of the Leafy Greens?  Not in my garden!  More like year of the cucurbit!  Thank goodness I neglected to plant that interesting cucumber variety I ordered in January!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Post celebrates Fourth with leafy greens

What a great Fourth of July edition from the Washington Post!

The Food Section contains an article about leafy greens, with mentions (and sometimes simple recipes) of purslane, callaloo, Malabar spinach, lamb’s quarters, and dandelion and sweet-potato leaves.  The recipe page contains two “summer greens” recipes.  And as a bonus—but slightly out of the garden—the delightful lead article is about nuns in nearby Virginia who make Gouda cheese.

Maybe the Post editorial staff has caught the infectious disease caused by the “Grow It Eat It Year of Leafy Greens” virus.

Happy reading:

The summer greens you ought to know better,” by Emily Horton.

Recipe for “Purslane, Cherry Tomato and Cucumber Salad.”

Recipe for “Warm Farro Salad with Lamb’s Quarters.”

The feature story by Martha Miller about the Sister Barbara and 11 other nuns of the Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Crozet, Virginia, who make Gouda cheese.