Urban Homesteading on a Small City Lot: The First Full Week of May: 90 degrees every day

Monday, May 13, 2013

The First Full Week of May: 90 degrees every day

This past week was one of those weird hot weeks that came too early.  All of my early spring veggies are suffering, but I took full advantage of it to get a jump on my hot weather plants like cucumbers, squash, peppers, tomatoes, beans and corn. The only plants I didn't get into the ground this week are the tomatoes that are being saved to go in where the cool weather crops will come out. Everything is looking pretty good. I might have mentioned in an earlier post that my tomatoes were getting very tall and spindly in the greenhouse at work.

You can't see it very well in this picture, but I found a nice post on GrowFoodNotLawns Facebook page that showed how to plant spindly tomato starts and give them a larger root base.  I, basically, dug a long trench and laid the root ball sideways with the stem buried underground for about a foot alternating for each tomato plant the direction the plant went.  Then I carefully bent the stem and staked it upwards.  One of the types of tomato that I started did not bend well and broke off, so I will not be attempting this technique with any more of those.  It just so happens that all of the tomatoes of that type have much less spindliness anyway.  They are the potato shaped leaf ones that have a lot of branching already.  I also transplanted the gourds that my daughter planted in peat pots a few weeks ago.  Just for comparison's sake I also planted some from seed right next to them on the trellis.  I did the same comparison two years ago in my community garden plot with cucumbers.  It turned out that transplanted cucumbers took so long to recover from transplanting shock that the direct seeded ones actually performed better.  Those were store-bought starts, though.

We were very busy last week building trellises and pulling weeds from our lawn.  The cucumbers and gourds both have 6 feet tall trellises to climb on.  We built them from regular stud 2 by 4's and welded wire fencing using deck screws and U-shaped nails.  We then fastened them onto the outside of the raised beds.  I have never trellised cucumbers before, and I am not sure that the varieties of cucumbers I have planted are the best for that, so we will see how it goes.  None of them say bush or spacesaver in their name.  They should be fine, or so my mom says.  She is a master gardener, after all.  That warm weather this week really got the new seeds off to a fast start.  the cucumbers, pumpkins and squash all came up within 6 days and the nasturtiums are starting to show their seed leaves everywhere.  I have always felt that nasturtiums take forever to sprout.

On Friday and Saturday this past week we finished our trellis projects with a big pole bean trellis and some pumpkin and corn hills.  We have a pretty large area in our back yard where we have just been keeping a big pile of extra dirt and composting yard waste from our big clean up last summer.  We are reluctant to haul it away just yet because we have a few low spots next to the house that we will be filling in after we raise the basement window wells, and we are not really sure that we won't want to build another raised bed or two.  I asked my husband what he thought about planting the pile with pumpkins this year and letting it cover itself up with green and he was kinda reluctant.  I think he felt that if we plant the pumpkins there we are pretty much saying to ourselves that that pile is going to stay there at least until the first frost when the pumpkins are done.  I had to concede that was probably true, but I really feel that the pile might be there that long anyways.  We compromised.  We moved part of the pile over to the north and built a big L-shaped trellis/screen for the beans.  This gave a large flatted, level area where he said I was free to plant my pumpkins and squash.  I also put in a few 2 foot wide hills for my painted mountain corn for a few three sisters garden experiments.  I will plant pole beans there after the corn sprouts up.

I think that pumpkins and squash come up out of the ground with such impressively huge seed leaves.  When I have thinned them and pulled a few out, the stem and roots under the ground are equally impressive.  These are the zucchini I planted last weekend. I will thin this to one plant once there are a few true leaves

Here are the cucumbers next to the trellis I am hoping they will climb up.

This bed has three types of Kale, onions garlic, radishes and salad greens including a tangy mescalin mix, arugula and romaine lettuce.  The kale plants are starting to get big. I need to harvest them.  How about kale for dinner tonight?

This bed has the peas on their hand made trellis, onions, garlic, broccoli, brussel sprouts, another salad mix, and a brand new section of carrots.  I planted them over a week ago.  They are just starting to show their little heads above ground.  I really need to pull up radishes and trim back and thin the salad mix to leave more sun for the carrots. 

This is that same bed from the other side.  You can see the broccoli and brussel sprouts in a row down the middle.

This bed has the cabbages, fava beans, and the fingerling potatoes.  It is really an experimental bed.  On the other end, which you cant see, there is a sungold cherry tomato plant that my mom started from seed and gave to me. I was not sure that any of mine came up, so she gave me one of hers.  One of these plants goes a long way. They make loads of delicious cherry tomatoes.  If one or more of my unknown tomato plants turns out to be this same kind I will have way to many.  I will have to share.

This is the strawberry and herb bed with a few fava beans in the middle and two red cabbages.

Next we will look at some bugs.  I am an entomologist after all. I have loads of ladybugs, which is awesome except for the reason I have so many is that I am having a bit of a problem with aphids.  Go, lady beetle, go!

These aphids are all over the buds of my fava beans, which happen to be starting to flower right now

In this picture you can see a little syrphid fly larva, or maggot. They also eat aphids.  It is hard to see them because they like to hid in the cracks between leaves and stems, but they are usually the first to arrive it you have an infestation of aphids like this.  You can see the beautiful bee/wasp mimic flies hovering around laying eggs in or near the aphid colonies.

These are fava bean flowers, aren't they pretty.  If only they weren't mostly covered with aphids.  Actually it is probably good that I am building up a good healthy population of these aphid predators and parasitoid insects now so that the rest of the year I will have some built in resistance to aphids on my other plants.

These beautiful girls are everywhere I look a out there.  I have seen some eggs and larvae, but when I went to get pictures I couldn't find a single one.  Guess they are camera shy.

This beautiful native bee is helping me pollinate my strawberries.  Thank you little lady.  She is a very small bee.  Thanks to my hubby's new camera I can take super macro shots like this, if I can get my subjects to stand still long enough to get them in focus.

My strawberries are going to make quite a few nice strawberries considering it is the first year,  I just planted them in March.  Look at all those green strawberries.

My daughter is so excited about this.  It is our first pea.  She loves peas fresh from the garden. I was worried about the peas with all of this hot weather, but it was cooler today.  According to the forecast, it will be cooler for the next ten days, so I think they will be all right now.

I am about to start a crazy project.  I saw on http://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/ that Mavis was keeping track of exactly how much produce she was harvesting from her garden with a goal of a ton of food produced.  I don't know if I will get a ton.  Probably not, but I will try keeping track from now on to see how much I do grow.  I did miss out on weighing about four family sized salads and two small crops of radishes, but you know what we scientists say:  if you didn't measure and record it, it didn't happen.  Well, something like that.   I am planning another harvest of radishes and salad greens. I will also be thinning out the onions, kale and cabbages.  I will weigh and record all of this and try to keep a running tally.  I will have to decide on some categories.   Hmm.  I will be making this up as I go.  I will also try to keep a log of how we eat them with some recipe notes and maybe, if I can get them before the food disappears, some pictures.

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