Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer 2009 Rainfall Total

Although August was a dryer month for us than the previous two, we still had higher than normal rainfall. 5.15-inches of rain is recorded in Portland, Maine for August according to NOAA’s National Weather Service. The average rainfall for August is 2.95-inches. It is also interesting to note that in August, we only had 16 clear days. The remainder were either partly cloudy or cloudy.

Overall we have had 22.31 inches of rainfall this summer (June, July and August). The average is 9.65.

Not surprisingly, we broke the record set in 1991 of 19.04 inches of which 8.24-inches came from Hurricane Bob.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Garden Update and a Taste of Fall Already

Our summer-like weather lasted only a few weeks. The past few night’s temperatures have dropped down into the 40s and daytime temps are only in the upper 60s, low 70s. Although extremely comfortable weather to work outside, it feels like fall already. We are supposed to be getting some much-needed moisture this weekend as tropical storm “Danny” skirts by tomorrow. I hope we will have a few more warmer days in September.

The beans have continued to produce quite well requiring picking every other day. The bush beans are winding down this week though. They are looking tired and producing only small amounts of beans. The holey leaves are caused by the Japanese Beetles, but the damage didn’t affect the beans. It just looks awful.

The pole beans seem to be continuing to produce really well also. I have started blanching and freezing the beans instead of canning, as it is a lot quicker. Again, the holes are courtesy of the Japanese Beetles:

We bought a small chest freezer last winter and I love it. The extra storage allows us to store larger batches of tomato sauce, numerous bags of grated zucchini and beans. I was spurred to make this purchase around Thanksgiving last year when turkeys were on sale for really low prices. We enjoyed roasted turkey and its leftovers a lot last winter. Now the freezer is being put into good use with the garden harvest, especially the beans and grated zucchini:

The melon and watermelon plants really exploded in growth during the hot weather. They have breached the edges of the garden and grown across paths. I tried directing the vines inward, but they seemed to have a mind of their own. So I am letting them be. However, this makes weed whacking impossible right now. So the garden is looking messy.

We have enjoyed four melons so far and about a dozen melons are still in the garden in various stages:

Happily, I discovered another Crimson Sweet Watermelon hiding under the foliage:

And another Yellow Doll Watermelon:

I am sure there are more in there that I just haven’t spotted yet. The foliage seems to camouflage them quite well. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked and looked for melons and not found them, only to discover one a few days later that had obviously been growing for a while. I love surprises such as these. Although I don’t know how much time they have left to actually ripen.

The Zucchini plants slowed down for a few days when the temperatures hit high 80s, but now they seem to be producing again:

What’s left of the lettuce that was originally planted in spring finally bolted during our hot weather. I will be pulling these today and reseeding with more lettuce seeds in the same squares:

The fall planting of lettuce is doing well:

The peas are just stretching out their little tendrils looking for something to grab on to:

The Straight Eight cucumber plants continue to produce mutant cucumbers that are about 12-inches long and bitter tasting. I don’t know what is up with these:

Luckily the Sumter cukes are giving us plenty of good snacking cucumbers:

Overall the production of peppers is quite satisfying considering the cold temperatures they tolerated earlier in the season. We have been harvesting a few every now and then to add to salads or pizza topping, but mostly I am letting them grow:

Here’s a surprise...I was letting the SWCs dry out before digging up the tomato roots when I spotted some growth on the stub of this one:

Ten days later:

It even has a few flower buds on it and NO signs of Late Blight. It is possible that this plant was not affected, or if it was, it didn’t travel all the way down to the roots. None of the others have sprouted from the stumps. Unfortunately, the growing season is not long enough for fruit development and ripening. I wonder if I can bring it inside when it gets too cold?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I didn’t have much opportunity to get out to the garden yesterday as it was bottling day. One of my other hobbies is making wine from kits and I had a batch that was ready to bottle. This batch came to 28 bottles. The most time consuming part was cleansing and sanitizing the 30 bottles and the equipment needed for bottling. Here is the bottled wine; they will be stored downstairs in the basement to age:

This morning I had some design work to do. While I was working in the office, K came in to view some video footage he had shot earlier with a new camera. I glanced over to his monitor and saw some video of the garden. I saw some close up shots of some large yellow squash. I was a little surprised because I usually pick them much smaller than that so I must have missed them for several days. Then I stared in disbelief at video of my pole beans and bush beans and decided that I just had to get out to the garden to catch up with harvesting.

Three Ichiban Eggplants and two rather large Early Prolific Straightneck Squash:

Mixture of Tendergold, Royal Burgundy, and Blue Lake Bush Beans:

Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans:

This was my first substantial picking of the Kentucky Wonder pole beans. Also my first harvest of eggplant that we will use for eggplant parmesan tomorrow evening.

Ok it’s official…I will NOT be ordering transplants again from the place I have used for the past few years. I blogged here about how I suddenly realized that the five Window Box Roma Tomatoes were not Roma tomatoes after all.

Now that the peppers are growing really well with this hot weather, I just realized that what I thought were Early Jalapeño Peppers are NOT. Like the tomatoes, they were labeled as what I ordered, but obviously they are not Jalapeños. They look to be some sort of Anaheim or Banana Pepper? I harvested one and we cooked it on the grill, peeled off the skin, chopped it up and added it to chicken burritos yesterday. It was good, but not a hot pepper at all:

We have harvested a few bell peppers for salads and pizza. I believe this is a King Author Bell Pepper, it is supposed to be but who knows what was sent to me:

I am hoping the Big Chili Hybrids have time to turn red:

So much for my salsa garden this year…no tomatoes and only a few Jalapeño peppers. I do have one Jalapeño pepper plant that I grew from seed that is doing really well. None of these peppers will go to waste as they will be used for making salsa, I will just have to source out tomatoes and extra Jalapeño peppers.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tornadoes in Maine?

We were watching the skies carefully here in Maine late Friday afternoon into the evening. Two tornadoes were reported in a town only 30 miles away from us between 4 and 5 pm. The same line of severe thunderstorms moved in to our area at about 6 o’clock. We slipped outside to take pictures of the swirling clouds before the storm arrived:

The sounds of thunder and flashes of lightning were getting closer, so we watched in awe from the safety of our home ready to hightail it into the basement if things turned bad. The skies darkened and the rain began to pour by around 6:15. Luckily, it was mostly over by 7 pm and we seemed to experience only the edge of the storm. All is well this morning. There was no damage to the garden or other areas in the yard.

We were lucky, here is a link to a local TV station, the video shows damage that occurred a bit north of us: WGME 13.

The tornadoes are “unconfirmed” for now until, but NOAA has confirmed that there were a few funnel clouds detected on radar and by trained spotters.

Some great harvests from the garden this week…I’ll post more about that later this weekend.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Whew! It Was a Hot One this Weekend!

Temperatures have been in the 80-90s over the last few days. Hey, stop laughing! I know to most of you who live south of us this is nothing compared to the temperatures you have to deal with. But we are not used to this in Maine and after the awful summer we have had, this is just HIT. We spent the weekend mostly inside with air conditioning.

This weekend was similar to last in that I canned beans (10 pints), baked a couple zucchini breads, and dried parsley. I waited until late Sunday afternoon so the air conditioners could cool the house down afterwards.

I had a bunch of zucchini to grate up, place in freezer bags, and freeze for baking in the future. That big one in the back got away from me. I never saw it until it was huge! I had to scoop the seeds out before grating, but it will be fine for baking.

The bush beans are still producing a colander full of beans each day. The pole beans are almost ready for their first picking in spite of the Japanese Beetle damage to their leaves:

I cut into one of the two mutant cucumbers this weekend and not surprisingly, it was bitter. Both this one and its partner went into the compost pile.

Speaking of mutants, I found this yellow summer squash today. It looks like two fruits fused together when growing:

The peppers absolutely love this hot weather. It’s like they are saying, finally:

I’ll have to see if the farmer’s markets around me had better luck with tomatoes, as I really wanted to make a bunch of salsa from the garden this year.

The lettuce, peas, and spinach that I planted last weekend sprouted. I only hope they survive the heat wave we are experiencing.

It is interesting how quickly the lettuce, spinach, and peas sprouted. When seeded in early spring, I had difficulty getting the seeds to germinate and when they did, often times the young seedlings were inundated with aphids. There seems to be no aphids in the garden right now.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

First Fastbreak Melon was Delicious

We cut into our little Fastbreak Melon that was harvested on Thurdsay.

This was the first Fastbreak Melon to form this season and I helped by hand pollinating it. I spotted it back on July 13. I watched it slowly grow….slowly because the weather wouldn’t cooperate and melons really need warm sunny conditions. Then, as other melons began popping up in the melon patch, this one at only 4-inches wide began to cork over. I knew it wouldn’t grow any larger, but that it would be ready to harvest first.

I was worried, because Annie’s Granny mentioned that she had harvested a small melon recently that was tasteless and mealy. So I cut into it and hoped for the best.

It was delicious! I shared it with K and Bradie, our yellow lab. She loves melons. It was so small we cut it in half and scooped out the flesh with a spoon like we would a grapefruit. It was such a small taste and it left us wanting more.

It took 30-days for this small Fastbreak Melon to ripen. Hopefully the others will ripen faster since the weather is much better now.

I grew Fastbreak Melons for the first time last year. They are a variety of cantaloupe melon that matures in about 70-days. They are about 6-inches in diameter and weigh approximately 4-pounds. I was hoping to have more yields this year. Last year, my garden was so overwhelmed by crabgrass and weeds that the the yields of all of my plants were reduced. This year, I was hoping the black mulch will both suppress these weeds and help keep the soil warmer, which melons love.

Three Fastbreak Melon transplants were planted in the garden Memorial Day Weekend. They didn’t grow at all until early July when they began to vine out a bit. I am relating this to the cold and rainy temperatures we endured, as melons prefer warm temperatures. Now the Fastbreak Melons, Yellow Doll Watermelons, and Crimson Sweet Watermelons are all intertwined in the garden. Once the warm weather finally hit, they absolutely took off in growth.

I can see six more melons that are almost mature, and a lot more smaller melons in various levels of maturity. The weather has been in the high 70s and 80s this week. They are growing really fast now, doubling in size in just a few days. Hopefully we will be tasting another soon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How Things are Growing

I am picking bush beans almost every day, but tonight I noticed that my bean rows were a little lopsided as I approached the garden. The right sides of each row were shorter than the left. Upon closer inspection I discovered that the tops to these plants have been nibbled off:

I suspect deer. Bradie barked a few times last night. She sleeps in the living room where the windows face the garden. We didn’t think anything at the time, but she must have seen or heard something out there. I'm not sure how much this will affect my harvest. I was still able to get a colander full tonight:

The Sumter Cucumbers are producing really well right now:

These are supposed to be Straight Eight Cucumbers, but this one is already 14-inches long and there is one growing behind it that will be about the same size:

Remember my first melon? Well I’ve been watching it closely as it corded over early and has been changing color. Today, I stooped down to peer at the stem to see if it was pulling away from the vine when it dropped off quite easily. Then I could smell it. Yes, it was ready!

It is really small in comparison to the others that are growing, only about 4-inches wide. I have placed it in the fridge to chill a bit and we will cut into it later tonight. I have at least five more melons that will ripen around the same time. There are also still melon babies forming. Hopefully they will mature fast now that the weather is so much warmer. Here is one of the other, normal sized melon:

I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to get any Watermelons this year. The plants really got off to a very late start because of the weather and I didn’t see any little watermelons growing at all until yesterday when I spotted this one that is about 3-inches big:

Then, when I was pulling the vine up a bit to take the picture above, I spied another hidden in the foliage. THIS one is about 7-inches wide. I don’t know how I missed it, but it was a nice surprise. At least I have a chance at getting one watermelon before the season ends.

I am now hopeful that there may be more hidden in there somewhere:

First frost for my location can occur as early as mid-September. I am going to try to extend the growing season as long as I can, but there comes a time when I will have to let it go and start planning for next year. I am hoping Mother Nature will take pity on us and the lousy summer we have had and allow us to experience a nice warm fall.