Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hornworms: Where is a parasitic wasp when you need one?

I knew they were there even though I couldn’t see them just yet. I could however see the damage they left behind:

I’ve been finding a few small hornworms on tomatoes in another part of the garden, so I knew one had to be in there somewhere. I searched among the foliage for him carefully. It took a while to spot him, then almost as an optical illusion he appeared on the stem he was perched on all along:

It was almost like drinking a magic potion that gave me special abilities to see invisible things, because just then another one appeared on a leaf near the first one. “Ah, two!” I thought as I ran inside to get a fresh jar of soapy water and the camera.

As I scooted down on one knee to focus the camera on the hornworms, I was alarmed to see two more!! There were four very large hornworms on one tomato plant!

Now these guys creep me out, so after taking a few hurried pictures, I donned a glove and reached in, snatched them off the plant, and quickly dropped them into the jar of soapy water.

I’ve been watching my tomatoes carefully for signs of disease and have found and killed quite a few small hornworms over the last few weeks. I don’t recall ever having such a population. Curious about their lifecycle, I did some research and was surprised to learn that their eggs hatch in only 3-5 days. Also, the ones in my garden are tobacco hornworms, not the expected tomato hornworms. The difference is in the horn color and markings on the body. Tobacco hornworms are usually green with seven diagonal white lines on the sides and a curved red horn. Tomato hornworms have eight V-shaped marks on each side and their horn is straighter and blue-black in color. Both feed on the foliage of various plants from the Solanaceae family.

The eggs can be found on the underside of leaves and sometimes even on top. They are translucent green and measure about 1 millimeter in diameter. Tobacco hornworm life spans over 30 to 50 days. The eggs hatch into green larvae which can grow to 70 millimeters long. The larvae become the tobacco hornworm pupa that finally matures into the adult Sphinx moths or hawk moths.

A new task has been added to my evening routine. Now armed with gloves and a large jar of soapy water, I hunt hornworms to keep my tomatoes safe.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Harvest Monday: July 26, 2010

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas.

Here in the Garden Spot, the Early Girl Tomatoes are living up to their reputation by ripening the first in the garden. The ones pictured below were allowed to ripen on the vine before harvesting:

Since the danger of Late Blight is near, all other tomatoes will be picked at first blush and placed on a windowsill inside to finish ripening. I know from my devastating Late Blight experience last year that this disease hits fast. Once you detect the tell tail signs, it will be too late to save any tomatoes. I would rather have a few ripen on a windowsill than lose them completely. I will consider them a harvest and include them in Harvest Monday photos once they are red.

Cucumbers pictured above were combined with those left over from last week’s harvest and made into Granny’s Bread & Butter Pickles.

It is a great year for blueberries. We are picking a bowlful every day and eating them by the handful, in our cereal, and as dessert topping:

Almost 5 pounds of Dark Red Norland Potatoes were harvested this week:

Again with Late Blight near, I didn’t hesitate to harvest whatever we could consume in a week. We enjoyed garlic-mashed potatoes, hash brown potatoes and onions, oven fries, and potatoes baked on the grill.

Not pictured are onions, celery, and herbs that are harvested as needed. It is so nice to run out to the garden and pick what is needed to use right away. Some cucumbers also missed their photo opportunity as I gathered them quickly to give away. I definitely overdid it with cucumber plants this year.

We are between lettuce crops now that we have cucumbers and tomatoes for salads. The last of the lettuce harvested several weeks ago and stored in the fridge was composted this week. There wasn’t much left. I am amazed at how long the lettuce stayed fresh in the refrigerator. It will be a while before the new lettuce is large enough for salads.

The melons are growing, the pole beans are flowering, and the peppers are finally forming. I am trying to keep a positive attitude, but the fact that Late Blight is in the vicinity is weighing heavily on my mind. There are 34 tomato plants and 32 feet of potatoes in the garden. All can be lost in a matter of days if Late Blight hits the garden spot.

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tomato Update

We had some wicked thunderstorms work though our area last Wednesday evening. Tornadoes even touched down in several locations in southern Maine. The National Weather Service has confirmed three E1 tornadoes so far.  Surprisingly no one was hurt but there was some damage. One story in particular touched my heart. A barn collapsed in Gorham, ME. As soon as it happened, the community rushed to the site to help rescue the animals trapped in the fallen debris: Portland Press Herald “Farmers find friends indeed.”

No tornadoes here at the garden spot, but we did have some strong winds that knocked over most of the Early Girl Tomatoes in the garden:

The tomato cages bent right over. We propped them up, pounded in additional stakes, and secured them as well as we could. It’s not pretty, but it will serve for now:

So far, there were only minor casualties. Only a few stems were damaged and trimmed off and about a dozen green tomatoes were lost. The tomatoes in the Square Foot Gardens (SFG) and in the Self Watering Containers (SWC) are fine.

San-Marzano Tomatoes in the SFG:

 Roma Tomatoes in SWC:

 Bush Boy Tomatoes in SWC:

If I decide to grow tomatoes again next year, I will have to plan on a more secure support structure for those grown in the ground.

Wait, did I say “if?”


Well, it seems that Late Blight is creeping its way through the area once again. Earlier this week, MOFGA reported that Late Blight was confirmed in Waldoboro, Maine. Since then, a fellow home gardener and blogger in my town has also discovered late blight on some of her tomatoes. Late Blight spores can travel on wind, I fear it may be only a matter of time. So now I wait and watch and try to hope for the best, but prepare myself for the worse.

Unlike last year, at least we will enjoy a few ripe tomatoes this year:

Info on Late Blight:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Succession Planning: Getting the Most Out of the Garden Spot

Last weekend was dedicated to cleaning up the garden a bit and replanting more crops. This year I am trying to keep every spot growing. Once something is pulled from the garden, compost is added to the spot and something else is transplanted or seeded.

The lettuce had bolted and the Swiss chard had overgrown its area and has only been serving to feed the slugs:

Two Swiss chard plants remain and some of the unblemished Swiss chard was harvested. The rest was composted along with the bolted lettuce. New Lettuce and Swiss chard transplants will be planted into the squares where these were pulled. I am just waiting for the seedlings to get a little stronger before hardening them off.

I am growing a couple zucchini plant in a pot this year because I ran out of garden space. They don't look very happy:

I have been harvesting the new potatoes little by little along the edge of the potato patch. Some summer squash and zucchini seedlings will be transplanted to the area of the garden where the new potatoes have been harvested:

 The largest replanting this weekend was the Sugar Snax Carrots which were planted in the 4x4 SFG that the garlic was harvested from last week.

Several weeks ago, while it was too hot to work in the garden, I made carrot seed mats (Granny’s Seed Mat Tutorial at Annie’s Kitchen Garden). These were planted last weekend:

First a generous amount of fresh compost was added to the old garlic bed and mixed in along with a few scoops of Garden Tone fertilizer:

The SFG is 6-inches high but according to the package, Sugar Snax Carrots can grow 10-inches long. I loosened the soil beneath the bed with a garden fork by sinking the tines to the hilt in the soil and wiggling the fork back and forth. The objective is not to mix the native soil in with the SFG soil, just to loosen the soil below so the roots can penetrate easily:

Some of the soil was removed and mixed with vermiculite to cover the carrot seed mats:

 The carrot seed mats were laid out and sprinkled with some soil to hold in place:

 Then covered lightly:

 And watered generously:

There are still maybe 70+ days left to our growing season before the danger of frost threatens and I am going to try to make the most of it. I don’t think I want to try winter gardening just yet, but I will be using frost protection on two 4x4 SFGs in attempt to extend the growing season.

I also plan on overwintering some crops such as scallions, spinach, carrots, and maybe others. In the mean time, seedlings are also being started in soil blocks for herbs such as dill, basil, cilantro, and some cool weather crops that will go in the garden as the summer crops finish up: Spinach, Swiss Chard, Lettuce, and Broccoli. This is much easier to control for me this year since I am growing my own seedlings instead of purchasing transplants.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Harvest Monday: July 19, 2010

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas.

This was an exciting week in the garden spot as more variety of fruits and vegetables were harvested. The warm weather has continued and with some supplemental watering, the growth has been abundant.

We will begin with a few pickling cukes and small carrots:

I pulled a couple carrots to see how they were growing. I believe these are Little Finger Carrots. They were about 4-inches long and skinny but tasted great. Hopefully they will fatten up soon.

A large bunch of cucumbers were harvested on Thursday:

I left some small cucumbers on the vine and by the following day they were also ready for picking:

The harvest of cucumbers from the two days amounted to about 6 lbs of cucumbers. I weighed them because I wanted to use them for “Granny's Favorite Bread & Butter Pickles.”

Some of the last of the Swiss Chard that was planted in the spring. There will be more planted for fall:

More young Dark Red Norland Potatoes. We are really enjoying these:

The Blueberries are beginning to ripen up. We are now harvesting a small bowl full each day:

Celery and more Cucumbers:

The first Zucchini and some small Red Onions:

The first Raspberry from the new Heritage Raspberries planted this spring:

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pizza Pie Me Oh My

Fridays are traditionally pizza dinner night in my house. Sometime I make our pizza crust from scratch, but most times we purchase Portland Pie Pizza Dough at our local Hannaford Supermarket.

Summer is the best "Pizza Pie Me Oh My" time because of the fresh herbs and vegetables that are available. Lately, we have been making mini pizzas that measure about 6-inches wide, so we can enjoy a variety of toppings. Below we have the toppings all prepared: mozzarella, grilled chicken, sautéed mushrooms, precooked, ground sirloin, sautéed garlic scapes, fresh basil, and rosemary:

Tonight we have divided the pizza dough into four mini pizzas.

First, we have one of my favorites. Basil pesto topped with fresh, sliced mozzarella, grilled chicken, sautéed garlic scapes, fresh basil and rosemary:

Second is one of K’s favorites, Mexican Pizza. Salsa topped with shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, ground sirloin, cilantro, and an added dollop of sour cream at serving time:

The remaining two were the same. Homemade tomato sauce topped with fresh, sliced mozzarella, ground sirloin, sautéed garlic scapes, fresh basil and rosemary:

Leftovers are usually consumed throughout the weekend for lunches along with a salad made from fresh veggies from the garden.

Garlic Harvest

This is my first year growing a large crop of garlic. In the past I have planted a few grocery store bulbs here and there that resulted in some small bulbs. Last fall I dedicated an entire 4x4 Square Foot Garden to Romanian Red and Purple Glazer garlic.

I was unsure when to harvest. I have done my research, but there are conflicting views. Some say when leaves begin to yellow, or when 1-2 leaves turn brown, or even when the tops fall over. The longer you allow the garlic to grow, the larger the bulb. If you harvest too late, the bulb may begin to split apart into individual cloves.

Fellow garden bloggers close to my growing area began posting their garlic harvests a week ago. So I decided to dig one up and see what was happening:

It was beautiful and looked ready to me. I used this bulb to make pesto, it was good sized and the cloves were filled out. The garlic was ready for harvest.

While pulling the garlic I noticed most bulbs were quite large, only a few here or there were a little smaller. I tied them in bunches and hung them in the shed to cure:

Once the bulbs are cured, they will be trimmed and stored in mesh bags. The largest bulbs will be planted in the fall for next years crop.

I am delighted at the success of this garlic crop. I have no idea how much garlic we can consume in year, but I suspect I will be more generous with adding garlic to my cooking.