Saturday, July 18, 2009

Of Muskmelons and Pumpkins

I was out checking the melon bed this morning because it has an ant mound or nest in it somewhere, when I lifted the melon that's been laying on top of the bed and it popped off in my hand! Imagine my surprise!! I had read that when melons are ready, they'll slip off the vine, but I wasn't really prepared for them to be ready. I gently tested the other melons to see if they were ready and I ended up with another melon. Here's our total harvest for today:

The melon on the right is the one that unsuspectingly popped off in my hand! We cut into it this evening and had some for dinner. I'm guessing it's a Hale's Best cantaloupe. The other cantaloupe I planted was an Israeli cantaloupe and their flesh is supposed to be green.

Two days ago, on 7/15, I planted 2 hills of pumpkins with 5 seeds in each hill. This morning as I was peeking out my bedroom window, I noticed what appeared to be sprouts on those hills. Upon closer inspection, this is what I found.

One seedling on each hill!! This is the first time I've grown pumpkins, so this is going to be a learning experience for sure!

Some views from the flower bed in the waning evening light for you.

Blanket Flower

Rudbeckia "Herbstonne"

John Fannick Phlox

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Today's Harvest & Time to Plant!

A Sugar Baby watermelon (that may or may not be completely ripe), some Park's Whopper tomatoes, a Ponderosa Pink tomato, some cherry tomatoes, and more okra. We're going to have fried okra tonight and I'm thinking of making a BLT sandwich and using one of those tomatoes, too!!

I'm trying to gear up for the fall garden. I'll tell ya', it's hard to think about anything outside when it's 103º (or hotter) outside! However, now is the time to start planting if you live in north Texas and want a fall garden. Here's what you need to be planting now and in the coming weeks:

Southern Peas...July 1-August 1
Hot Peppers...July 1-July 25
Bell Peppers...July 1-July 25
Potatoes...July 25-August 10
Pumpkins (small)...July 15-August 15

I planted my Sugar Sweet pumpkins yesterday, July 15th, outside in one of the beds in hills. I put 5 seeds per hill, watered with some fertilizer (John's Recipe) and then lightly covered the hills with mulch. I also put mulch, LOTS of mulch, around the base of the hills. The seeds should germinate in 6 or so days. We'll see! Maybe the cooler temps will help keep them alive.

I've got some bell pepper seeds to plant. We're getting a second setting of fruit on the plants we planted in April, so I'm not sowing too many seeds.

I'd like to grow some red potatoes in a garbage can or pile, but I've got to see if I can find some starts. Not exactly sure where to look, so I'll call around and see what I can find.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some Lessons Learned

Not every plant will survive a string of 100º plus days. Go ahead and cut your losses. It's less painful that way.

Now then, having said that, the #1 lesson we've learned this spring/summer with our garden is that you MUST install a drip irrigation system OR use soaker hoses to water your plants. Watering by hand just doesn't cut it and watering from overhead can create havoc on your plants. They can develop diseases, suffer from burns on the leaves if the water stays on them, and a host of other things.

Lesson #2: Erect your trellis or support system prior to or at the time of planting. Do not think that you have all the time in the world to do that before the plants really need it. It just doesn't work that way. I have tomato plants with branches falling all over the place because my DH wanted to build his own tomato cages. I'm still waiting for them to be built.

Lesson #3: You can't have enough mulch. Mulch is absolutely essential in Texas. Not only does it help retain moisture and cut down on weeds, it helps cool the soil. If the soil gets too hot, the plants' roots will burn up, thus killing the plant. You can use native pine bark mulch, grass clippings from the yard, or hay. Whatever you use, use it generously. Your plants will love you for it.

Lesson #4: Have a plan. Don't do like we did this year and plant willy-nilly. Make sure you give those zucchini plenty of room to sprawl.

Lesson #5: Keep good records. Not only should you keep a list of what you planted and where, you should also know when you planted it so you know when to start looking for fruit to set and then appropriate harvest time. We were very clueless about this and kept no records this year. We had no idea when stuff should be getting ready to set fruit, much less know how long to wait for a good harvest!

Lesson #6: Be prepared for bugs and disease. Plant it and the bugs will come. Aphids, ants, squash vine borers, tomato hornworms, and a host of other problems. Know if you want to be all organic or if you want to use chemicals and have items on hand to combat the beasts.

Lesson #7: Celebrate the little things, like peppers setting fruit in the hot July temps and tomatoes setting fruit when it's warmer than 92º during the day.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Heat is Taking a Toll

It's been over 100º for the past week and the garden is really feeling the heat. Prior to that, the temps were in the upper 90s...a big cool down! Not!! We've had to up our watering just to keep the plants alive. I'm not too sure it's helping the zucchini, though! My poor zucchini plant has been suffering from incomplete pollination as well as getting very, very droopy in the middle of the day. We've been watering it daily. Everything else gets watered every other day. I don't know if the zuke will make it. I told my husband this morning I was just about ready to pull it up.

The watermelons have three almost ripe melons on them, but it looks like some kind of disease has attacked part of the vines. Not sure what has gotten them, but they've stopped producing flowers and the leaves are dying. Once we harvest the three melons, we're going to yank the vines.

The cantaloupes are doing well, but they wilt in the hot afternoon heat as well. There are currently 5 melons on the vines. I thought there were only 4, but I found another one this morning when I was perusing the garden.

The tomatoes have pretty much been wiped out by some disease or something. It could also be the heat. I'm babying my 50 cent heirlooms we got in May and hoping they produce in the fall. The others are still producing, but dying a slow death. I did see one cherry tomato plant that had new babies on it today. One of them was above the bird netting!!

Now remember, the beds are 18" high, the cage/frame on the bed for the tomatoes is approximately 3.5' high with bird netting draped over the top. The baby tomato in the last picture above is about 4" to 6" over the netting. I didn't think maters set fruit when it got to be this hot, but I guess this little (!) plant doesn't know this!

The okra is handling the heat very well. It's continuing to produce a harvest daily. The bell peppers are also doing well, but the fruit is suffering from sunscald on the yellow peppers. They still taste good, but look ugly. The bell peppers are even starting to produce flowers and more baby peppers!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Harvest Basket

Shortly after the garden started to take off, we figured out we needed something to put our harvest in. I found this basket, which I've had for eons, and decided it was the perfect basket to hold our "haul". It's had many uses in its life, so I knew it was up to the task. It's a hand-made wooden basket. I watched the basketmaker weave baskets similar to this one and I love it! It's easy to wash when it gets dirty. I just hang it in the shower and let the water run over it. When the water runs clear from the bottom of the basket, it's clean. Then I just leave it hanging in the shower to dry. We have another basket that is just a tad bit bigger that we sometimes use if we have lots to harvest. So far, the only thing this basket hasn't been able to hold is our watermelon! Here's today's harvest:

Just the cherry tomatoes: