Thursday, September 9, 2010

SkyWatch Friday and August Garden Harvest

For beautiful skies from around the world
be sure to visit SkyWatch Friday.

After the rain, last evening

This morning

The coldest Portland-area summer in 17 years, says the vice president of Oregons' American Meteorological Society... "This was also the first summer since summer of 1976 that all three summer months (June, July and August) recorded back-to-back below normal average monthly temperatures... In fact, Portland has now been below average for five back-to-back months, beginning in April and continuing through August."

Despite that fact, we had a productive garden, sans the heirloom tomatoes of course.

August Harvest Total = 106.95 lbs
Year to date = 312.88 lbs

Basil 1.5 lbs
Beans Fin de Bagnol, Bush Blue Lake, & Sadie's Horse Bean 4.14 lbs
Broccoli Packman & Piracicaba 6.02 lbs
Cabbage Red Acre 16.32 lbs
Carrots Nantes and Purple Dragon 2.75 lbs
Cucumbers Lemon & Bush Spacemaster 7.14 lbs
Eggplant Ichiban and Millionaire 4.53 lbs
Garlic Chesnok Red 0.95 lb
Fennel 1.82 lbs
Wild Kale 3.01 lbs
Leeks Musselburgh 3 lbs
Marionberries 5.46 lbs
Melon French Orange 1 lb
Onion Texas Sweets 7 lbs
Onion Walla Walla 9.5 lbs
Potatoes Yukon Gold 7.2 lbs
Squash Prolific Straightneck .75 lb
Strawberries 4.0 lbs
Sugar Snap Peas .95 lb
Tomatoes Sun Gold, Sweet 100, Ashleigh,
Nile River, Russian Black Krim 9.75 lb
Zucchini Black Beauty 10.16 lbs

Green Bean Fin de Bagnol was planted this year in addition to our normal Blue Lake. The French bean is similar in taste and requires stringing; thus, I expect to plant our standard next year. Note: Not one of the Burpee bean seeds germinated.

Sadie's Horse Bean, a runner, was new for us this year, and I am quite fond of it! The vine is vigorous as are the white and dark orange blossoms. Once you shell the bean, it reveals a beautiful mix of color. It is large and meaty and oh so tender. Unusual, tasty and gorgeous. And not the fault of the bean, but as the blossoms fade and the bean begins to form, something has been nipping them off.

Broccoli Packman: the main tightly-packed and flavorful heads were harvested in July, but the little side offerings just keep on giving.

Broccoli Piracicaba (peer-a-SEA-cah-bah) was introduced to us by Thomas. It is a tender, milder tasting variety developed by the University of Piracicaba (Brazil). I am certain to have harvested more than recorded above, for I must admit to a bit of grazing as I picked the lovely small green heads and their edible blue-green foliage.

Cabbage Red Acre: the largest head harvested at the end of July was 5.5 pounds, and although the remainder were much smaller, this is an excellent variety of cabbage. I still have three heads in the refrigerator that are doing quite well but will be used soon. Don't you just love the color?

Wild Kale continues to be like the energizer bunny. Last week I cut and sauteed 3 pounds and froze several quarts for wintertime enjoyment. Who wouldn't plant this again?

Some of the Leeks Musselburgh have started to form seed heads, thus approaching harvest time. It will take a bit of time to process all these, but potato leek soup here we come.

French Orange Melon with its textured gray green rind and healthy vines is only about 4 inches in diameter, a small but mighty fruit... fragrant, juicy, and the color is as rich as the flavour. Next year I plan to plant them on hills with black plastic so as to help warm the soil and hopefully have better production. (I had a photo of the juicy interior, but not fit to post.)

Sweet Peppers: this year we experimented with growing some in pots but there truly is nothing like the tried and true traditional in-the-ground method that produces larger peppers. Hence, we will stick to the old fashioned ways.

Potatoes: my experiment with potatoes in pots did yield but proved to be disappointing, so I'm back to the traditional method next year.

Cherry Tomatoes: Perhaps our favourites are Sun Gold, a sweet golden-orange morsel, and Sweet 100 which also produces abundantly in our garden. Pick these and toss them in a salad, or cut each in half, sprinkle some balsamic vinegar, a touch of kosher salt, a little fresh ground pepper, a smidge of extra virgin olive oil (or not), and it is a great addition to any meal.

Heirloom Tomatoes: what can be said other than the weather has had a great affect on their lack of ripening. Ashleigh (3) and Nile River (1) were the first to be picked with Black Russian Krim (3) not far behind and 1 pitiful Cherokee Purple. A few of the San Marzano gigante are just now beginning to ripen. Our temperatures have drifted downward, from a high of 91 degrees F last Friday to a Sunday low of 42, so for now we wait to see what is in store, and I remain hopeful.

Experiment: Tomatoes were planted in large pots positioned around the raised beds, some in red 5 gallon buckets (with a hole in the bottom) in the main garden, and others directly in the ground (raised beds). Overwhelmingly, the latter look much better than the first two methods. Why did we put some in large pots? Because I had 100% germination and couldn't bear to not plant them.

Fruit trees: we had no plums; the few apples that are on the trees have not developed well; and yesterday I picked all the pears (although not totally ripe) for the squirrels are beginning to be a nuisance - they knock one down, eat a bite or two, then go after another. Fair is not in their nature, and I tend to not be tolerant of waste.

Strawberries: this year our fine little feathered friends have allowed us to have some for eating purposes only... none to freeze. They seem to make it to the garden before we do, but I cannot complain.

Insects: In addition to the long and abnormal freeze we had this winter and the colder and wetter than normal June, we have had more insects in the garden than ever before and that includes a never before occurrence, small white worms in our marionberries later in the season. We understand this phenomena was recorded throughout the state. I wonder why.

Grasshoppers! Never have we experienced so many... and Nasturtiums had to be pulled and discarded due to an infestation of some tiny black bug (?).

Our abundance of honey bees and lady bugs seems to have diminished, while the number of bumble bees has greatly increased. However, as I worked in the vegetable garden, there were honey bees working on the Sadie's Horse Bean blossoms, so that gave a smile.

One final note on seed starting materials: earlier this year I used the few remaining small peat pots I had on hand from previous years, but overwhelmingly I made soil blocks. For the first time I purchased a few of these fiber pots, and in my experience should be avoided. Seedlings sat dormant for weeks on end, but once they were removed from this material, their rapid growth was amazing. In my estimation, soil blocks are the best means of starting seeds.

I wish you all happy gardening and bountiful harvests.