Wednesday, September 23, 2009

some of the bounty

Harvest 2009
Originally uploaded by rarichard
acorn squash, garlic, cukes, melon, tomato(es).

Melon or cucumber?

Originally uploaded by rarichard
This cute little melon was the only fruit on this particular vine. I ddin't think any melon plants had made it then one day I noticed it. I picked it last night because I thought we were going to have a freeze, which didn't end up happening.

We cut it in half and tried it out. It tastes like a sweet cucumber. Alicia & John and I figured it must have cross-pollinated. But I just read in a few places on the internet they do not cross pollinate.

From The Cambridge World History of Food:

"It is a common misconception that poor-quality melon fruit results from cross-pollination with cucumber because these species are incompatible. Rather, the poor-quality melon fruit sometimes encountered is due to unfavorable weather or growing conditions that restrict photosynthetic activity and, thereby, sugar content of the fruit. Seeds are cream-colored, oval, and on average 10 mm long."

The fall garden

My summer veggies have not died yet but the end is near. Well, it's always possible we'll get some Indian summer but I'm not getting my hopes up

As I said in an earlier post, I've been clearing out a lot of the plants making way for this winter's crops. I hope that by this weekend I'll be feeling well enough so I can do some garden work: improve the soil a bit, layer compost materials on the parts I'm not going to plant this winter, and of course, put in cold hardy plants.

Crops I'm going to put in the hoophouse, space permitting:
Mache -- this green is supposed to be super hardy. You use it in salads. Very gour-met. I might try growing some outside as well. I'll probably order claytonia and purslane as well although I'm afraid if I plant purslane it will become an annoying garden weed.

I'll put in other greens as well -- mixed lettuces, mesclun greens, arugula, etc. And Swiss Chard, spinach, and kale -- Kale can last outside all winter long. It's some tough stuff.

Carrots: Hopefully I'll have time to get these going. October is usually really sunny here, so it will probably work out, they need to get growing ASAP.

Green onions.

And maybe cauliflower if it sprouted -- I have some mystery plants to set out.

I'm starting some Brussels so probably next spring I'll get some. I bought some broccoli plants at Agua Fria Nursery in Santa Fe. They had the seeds I wanted and they had fall veggies, unlike Santa Fe Greenhouses (which was having one hell of a sale to it's credit). I bought some broc and parsley. I got the traditional Arcadia broc which is good for fall/winter, and then this one called Rudolph. It is a 150 day broccoli -- you are supposed to plant it in July and eat it at Christmas. I guess 150 days isn't that odd. Most of my Brussels sprouts plants end up taking that long anyways. So I guess if it works out weatherwise I'll have broccoli in March.

My intention is to leave about half of the area in the hoophouse lie fallow so I can layer on compost materials to enrich the soil. Some areas are already planted with clover which I'm going to leave alone, it is my "green manure" -- clover fixes nitrogen in the soil, has deep roots, and then the green matter gets dug under in the spring to add more nutrients.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Obligatory end of summer green tomato post.

I had a hunch it's going to be an early frost this year. Sometimes they happen in September, but the average first frost date here is Oct 15th. Last year we made it until October 20th or so before we had one. Same the year before that. Each year I suffer through ragweed season hoping we will have a frost ASAP. This year my allergy shots seem to be working well or else my cold is masking my allergies. But I'm not miserable the way I usually have been in the past.

But it's been cold at night when it's cloudy out -- and my feeling is as soon as it clears up it'll be quite a bit colder. The coldest int he last few days in the hoophouse has been 46 degrees. I checked out the forecast today and it's calling for lows in the 30s this week, maybe even into the 20s. So we may well have a killing frost soon. And some snow, according to the forecast!! Probably just a dusting of course -- I doubt I'll be cross country skiing down my street or anything.

SO I have to start harvesting as much as possible before it's too late. The tomatoes are a big issue. There are a ton of green tomatoes. There is just no way they are going to ripen in time. If I want to ripen them, I see three ways:

1) Dig them up, and hang them upside down in the basement.
2) Wrap individual tomatoes in paper bags and store them in basement.
3) Transplant plants into pots and put inside.

The guy at the farmers market told me I HAD to put the Sun Gold cherry tomato plant in a pot. So I heeded his advice. That will be coming inside today. The others I would have to dig up and transplant. They might not like that. But it might be worth a try.

I think I'm going to experiment. I have a lot of tomato plants. One issue with transplanting is these plants are BIG. So doing the hanging thing or wrapping the tomatoes probably makes more sense for most plants. Anyways, sounds like I'm going to be doing an experiment.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

tomatoes -- a big big FAILURE!!

The tomatoes have been very disappointing. We have had some cherry tomoatoes, a bunch more are about to get ripe, and the other day I found a couple red non-cherry tomatoes. I was very very excited -- I hadn't seen them at all as they were ripening so I was totally surprised. I have a bunch of gorgeous huge green tomatoes but they are refusing to ripen.

The summer the last month or so has been very gray and cloudy, and often rainy. The days often are just in the 70s, and the evenings in the 50s. THat is one part of the problem with my tomatoes. But it's not entirely to blame -- after all, other people in Los Alamos have grown tomatoes this summer.

Despite my hoophouse, my garden is just not in the best spot. I think people with good tomatoes around here have their plants in a warmer "microclimate" -- south slope, south facing, against a wall, that kind of thing. Our house just doesn't offer up a lot of good options. When I put up the hoophouse, I was thinking of last summer, when the tomato plants just needed a little teeny bit more help. But this summer has been more difficult.

I don't have a whole lot to work with in our yard. We don't have much of a south facing area. There are a ton of pine trees. The house towers 20 feet over the backyard.

Anyways, I have a plan for next year now. The hoophouse was great for cucumbers and beans and squash and even pretty good for the chiles. So I'll use it for non-tomato plants.

The front yard is now a lot sunnier. The neighors chopped down the huge Siberian Elm (it's super invasive) and that has resulted in new area opening up that is south facing and gets a good bit of sunshine. We also chopped down our Russian Olives which were not doing well and are also invasive around here. Although they were not invasive in our yard -- they never really took off. So now the front yard is sunnier and hotter. We will put in new trees, but this gives me some options in terms of tomato gardens.

So I'm going to put in a raised bed or two for the tomatoes. I want to make it so I can set a mini-hoophouse covering over the beds to protect the plants and give them some extra heat. You know something about 3 feet tall, nothing huge like in the backyard. It will also help in controlling ants which have historically been a problem with growing stuff in the front of the house. (When the ground is kept dry from rain, you can spread diatomaceous earth out to kill the ants).

It's disappointing about the tomatoes. I keep trying to tell John that Cucumbers are the new tomato, but he doesn't believe me. And it's true, it's not just quite the same in a Caprese sandwich.