Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Garden Tour on May 3, 2010

It's time for what's turning out to be the monthly tour of the garden.

Let's start with the tomato and pepper bed. There are 11 tomato plants along the back of the bed, all of them under wraps in an effort to get some tomatoes to set before July. Our night time temperatures tend to get below 50F most nights until mid to late June so in the past I haven't harvested an appreciable amount of tomatoes until September. Last year my tomato harvest peaked during the last week of September and the first week of October. I draped 9' X 12' plastic painters drop cloths over the 5' tall cages and clipped them on with binder clips. I let the cover gape open at the top at each end and there's a gap halfway down the run for ventilation. The good bugs seem to have found their way inside also. I set the peppers out almost 2 weeks ago. If you're curious about what varieties of tomatoes and peppers I'm growing they are listed on my side bar.

Here's a peek looking into the tomato tunnel from either end. The plants are growing quite nicely, they've at least doubled in size since I set them out about a month ago.

Most of the plants are blooming already.

There's already a tomato set on the Gigantesque plant! This variety was one of the earliest, most productive, healthiest, and tastiest of the tomatoes that I grew last year. If it performs that way again this year it could earn a yearly spot in the garden.

The spring planted brassicas are thriving. I've started to harvest some small Piracicaba broccoli shoots and the Romanesco looks like it's developing some small heads as well.

Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage. I looks like it could be starting to make a head.

Further down in that bed, Devoy beets have quite a bit of variation in their leaf colors, they are in the row on the left. To the right are Chioggias.

This Devoy beet has beautiful red and orange stems. These beets don't seem to be developing bulbous roots yet though.

Renee's Golden beets have been struggling a bit, some of them were hit with powdery mildew or some other fungus. The ones that weren't affected are developing some nice roots.

The Pimento de Padron pepper plants left from last year aren't leafing out very well. I'll give them a bit more time before I yank them. I've got five new plants going which will produce plenty of peppers, but I was hoping that last year's plants would give me an early crop. There's lot's of tiny leaves and buds, but they just aren't growing.

The Golden Corn Salad behind the beets is in absolute full bloom, I'll have plenty of seeds to share this year.

Monticello poppies are about to burst into bloom. I'll be making all sorts of things with poppy seeds this year . . .

Across the main path, lettuce, ready to harvest. Salad anyone?

And there's enough Gala mache for at least one salad.

Azur Star kohlrabi. The seeds for these plants were about 10 years old, amazing.

A volunteer poppy (Shirley?). It's also about to burst into full bloom. I remember when I grew them in the garden at my last house that the beneficials loved it.

The favas from the first planting are sprawling all over the place. Every year I know that I should fence them in a bit to keep them from taking over the paths, but I never get around to it. You can see the yellow blossoms of the kale in the next bed beyond.

Here's something totally new in the garden, a purple snap pea, this is one of the first to set.

Sugar Magnolia purple snap peas have beautiful flowers also.

I also have some Green Beauty snow peas and Yellow Giant snow peas growing, but they won't start blooming for a few weeks yet. The Green Beauty snow peas produced lots of huge delicious peas for me last year. The Yellow Giant are another new variety for me.

The Golden Chard and Gigante kohlrabi that I transplanted from the tomato and pepper bed are hanging in there. There's a couple of Senposai plants just beyond the chard on the right, they aren't very vigorous this year. I don't really mind, I've got more than enough vegetables coming out of the garden right now.

Alyssum, sweet alyssum, a favorite of the good bugs, is trying to take over the path on this side of the bed. Fine by me.

Here's the blooming Portuguese Dairyman's Kale again. There are a lot of seed pods maturing.

I mentioned in my bug post that the cabbage aphid population is thriving on these plants, blech!

Garlic, garlic, garlic . . .

Scapes are forming, I know I should cut these off but I'm wondering when I should do it. They are supposed to be good cooked, what the best time to cut them off if you want to eat them? Should they fatten up a bit? I am going to let a few of them grow to maturity, they are pretty.

There's a pot with some potatoes growing in it between two of the beds.  Most of my pot grown potato experiments have been quite disappointing, but there's at least one spud growing in this pot.

The pot was overshadowed by the leaning fava plants and that seems to have prompted this odd growth on one of the stems. Funny how those little spudlets are purple. I decided to continue the experiment and added more soil to the pot to cover those little things. If they grow or don't, whatever, I'm curious.

Outside the gate, the volunteer squash plant is now confined to a spare tomato cage. It will have to grow up and over rather than sprawl all over the place.  It continues to bloom, first a female blossom, then a male blossom, then a female, but not the two together. So, no squash have set yet, it's still the mystery squash.


  1. I love those purple pea pods. Do they keep their color when cooked? I know purple beans don't, but I've never seen a purple pea before. You will have to let us know how they taste too. I love the idea of a non green pod since I have trouble seeing pods to pick and sometimes they get too old. I tried to find colored short ones though. Last year I couldn't take the really tall pea vines. This year I'm going for 3' max.

    I wish my Golden mache had overwinted, but it didn't. It died in the spring. I'm going to try again at the new house since it ought to be a bit warmer.

  2. Ooo, do you remember where you got those tomato cages?

  3. Turling, me too...


    Daphne, I'll have to report back about the purple peas since there was no information from the seed source about whether the color keeps when they are cooked, I suspect that they will turn green like other purple veggies. The purple podded vines are tall, they are topping my 5' trellis.

    I'm sorry about the Golden mache, I hope it survives in your new garden, otherwise I guess your search continues.


    Djuna, I made the cages from concrete reinforcing mesh that is 5 feet wide with 6-inch spaces. They are much sturdier than most cages that you can buy.

  4. Michelle,
    Might be my pc but your comment link appears to be white text on a white background. Enjoyed the tour as usual. That garlic patch is awesome! You know you can eat those kale blooms in your salad.

  5. Regarding garlic scapes: In my experience, it's good to wait until garlic scapes twist over and make a loop in the neck and then cut them right away after that. If you wait too long they get so fibrous and hard that they aren't edible. They are great steamed or boiled in the way you would do thin green beans. They are my favorite part of the garlic, actually!

  6. You want to eat garlic scapes when they are young and tender, otherwise it's lIke gnawing on garlic-flavored wood.

    I can't believe how beautiful those purple peapods are!

  7. We have the same issue of night time temps being too cool to really progress tomatoes - so they are in a grow tunnel for quite a long time before it is warm enough consistently to take them out from under wraps.

    The purple cabbage is a beauty.

  8. I grow lots and lots and lots of garlic, so I always have scapes this time of year. Tonight, we had a room temperature potato salad with potatoes, carrots, blanched 1" lengths of garlic scapes, and kalamatas, with a white wine vinaigrette. I also use them in stirfries and spring veggie sautees.

    I cut them off when they've grown enough to curl down, but definitely before they've straightened back up. There most tender when they're young; if you wait until they straighten up and get ready to bloom, they'll be fibrous. I think you're going to enjoy using them in your kitchen.

  9. I love those purple podded peas as it's so difficult to see green ones amongst all the leaves. I have to really concentrate. Everything in your garden looks soooooo lush!

  10. I'm in awe - it all looks amazing...and as I have said before I am a big admirer of your wire and plastic 'tunnels' - particularly like the tall narrow ones. Here in Sydney we are just going in to our winter - and it is freezing tonight for here (getting down to 10 degrees C tonight). ALways enjoy your posts.

  11. Randy, Hmm, the text for the link is white, but it should be on a green background.

    I probably would add some of the kale blossoms to a salad, except that there are so many aphids in there. :( But the chicken love the aphids . . .


    Anne, Thanks for tip, some of the scapes are just starting to go sideways so I'll keep my eye on them. I can't wait to try them.


    Lisa and Robb, Yuck, garlic flavored wood :( I"ll be sure to pick those babies young.

    Those peas are pretty, I hope they are good tasting too.


    kitsapFG, It was really cold when I got up this morning, 39F, no tomatoes set last night. I'm thinking of adding some water jugs in there to warm up during the day and perhaps keep it a tad bit warmer at night.


    Christina, there seems to be consensus on when to pick garlic scapes - thanks! Your potato salad sound delicious. I made one the other night with my 3 colored potatoes, favas, tuna, eggs and scallions, dressed with seasoned rice vinegar and olive oil. Some scapes added to the mix would probably be good too.


    Jan, the peas do stand out well amongst the green foliage, they should be easy to pick.


    Lanie, the tunnels are nice to have even though we are well into spring already. Last night it got down to 39F, which I think is about 4C. The tomatoes seem to be happy in their tunnel, but the peppers are uncovered and their growth has slowed quite a bit.

  12. Wonderful tour.
    I had that same aphid problem. A blast of water from the hose would knock them down. The ladybugs should be zooming your way soon.

  13. Can't quite express how beautiful your garden is, Michelle. The crops, the layout, the luxuriousness of it all. I love it !

  14. I'm mouth agape at the stature of your tomato plants already!

    In other years I've planted mine out as early as March 15. This year I decided to start seeds later... I thought last year's poor showing might've been due to starting too early. Well, it took forever for seeds to even germinate this year. Three weeks! Ugh. So now I'm behind where I thought I'd be. I can't win.

    I'd given up on kale (and all brassicas) due to insect pests but this year one came up "on its own" and seems to be living unmolested. Anyway, I have kale. What a concept.

  15. I absolutely love your garden Michelle, even though the picture of the aphids gave me the chills.

    Do you ever worry that the tomatoes might overheat? I really should utilize my hoops until the plants get bigger.

    I can't believe how bushy your favas look. Mine are just growing straight up. Hopefully they will branch out like yours.

  16. maybelline, the funny thing is that the ladybugs just don't seem to have an appetite for cabbage aphids. They are all around garden and I've seen them munching aphids on just about everything, except the kale.


    miss m, thanks :)


    chuck b., I did give the tomatoes an early start this year. I used a smaller tunnel with a heat mat for night time heat to coddle the seedlings for the transition outside and now the larger tunnel to encourage early fruit set. The tunnels seem to have made a big difference.

    Isn't it funny how the garden makes its own decisions about what you should be growing, or not . . . Enjoy your kale :)


    Thomas, I haven't been worried about the tomatoes yet, the day time temps haven't gotten above the mid 70F's yet and I made sure that the tunnel wasn't sealed tight, there seems to be plenty of ventilation. I am curious about how warm it gets, I'll have to buy a min/max thermometer for in there.

    Some fava varieties tend to be single stemmed but the ones I'm growing this year put out multiple stems per plant, they are bushier than I expected. I also used an innoculant that helps the plants to fix nitrogen, perhaps that encouraged bushier growth also. And I've also found that the plants tend to put out more stems if you give each plant plenty of room, mine were sown 18 inches apart.

  17. I am impressed! I don’t know where to start - at little tomato fruits (already?)? There will be a long time before I see any flowers on mine.
    Kohlrabi looks amazing. I have sowed green one, but I have seeds for purple one also...

    I also have a lot of lettuce; it will be my main harvest crop for the next month or more.
    I love how you let veggies flower.

  18. So beautiful, and with the mystery squash and amazing potato, even exciting! I love these tours.

  19. Oh, and I can't believe I forgot to mention the peas! Both of the colored varieties are so intriguing. We are greatly enjoying ours -- and the Green Beauty are setting 7" pods! They're huge!

  20. The purple snap pea looks lovely - I haven't seen them before. And your tomato plants are huge, and flowering as well! Ours are much smaller, but we usually harvest the first tomatoes in the last week of June or first week of July. I thought your climate was warmer than ours, but perhaps not. The night temperatures here probably make the difference - not sure of the exact conversion, but it's usually 15 - 18 C at least from now on. This year is so strange, though, anything could happen!

  21. vrtlarica, it seems that I'm a month or two ahead of you, spring starts earlier here. I'm going to be out of lettuce soon, I'll be envying your salads unless I sow more right away.


    Stefaneener, those Green Beauty snow peas are pretty amazing, not at all like those petite little peas you see at the store. :)


    chaiselongue, your nights are much warmer now than what I'm getting. It seems that the weather is more mild here than what you experience, warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

  22. Thanks, I enjoy the garden tour, you have tomatoes already, wow!

  23. Just discovered your blog and it's been an absolute pleasure to read the posts. I was looking for layout and then found your tomato protection for setting fruit..inspiring.


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