Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Garden on September 20, 2011

It  wasn't until I started reading garden blogs that I fully realized what an unconventional climate I live in. The conventional garden calendar really just doesn't apply. Yes we have something called winter, it's cold at that time of year, I have to turn the heat on, wear warm clothes, and I can't grow tomatoes and other summer veggies outside. We get a touch of frost now and then, and the peaks to the south often get a coat of snow.  Spring comes around mid-February or or early March, and it seems to last about 6 or 7 months here on the coast. Our night time temperatures don't stay above 50°F until late June or early July, more like late July this year. I've been ogling the tomato harvests of other garden bloggers all summer whilst mine were barely setting and sitting on the vines like little green rocks. But this week it seems like summer has finally settled in and the tomatoes are finally starting to ripen. After a warm day here and there, we've had three days in a row of this:

Warm days and clear mild nights, sleeping with the windows open and a fan on (all the A/C that we need). It looks like it might stick around for a few days (whoopee!). A few weeks of this (hopefully) and then it's fall with shorter days and cooler nights. But we can get some really beautiful warm days in the fall (and winter too) and the garden continues to produce, gradually slowing down, until we get the first hard frost sometime around the end of November or the beginning of December. If the rats give me a break I might be harvesting tomatoes into early November. After that the garden produces a trickle of slow growing greens - lettuce, kale, chard, broccoli, cabbage, etc.

I try to photograph my vegetable garden about once a month and write a post to document what is happening out there. I've found it to be interesting and informative to go back through the monthly updates since I started them about three years ago. I didn't get around to publishing a September post last year since I was traveling at the time, but I did take a bunch of photographs of the garden before I departed, so at least I can go back and take a look at the garden last September (sorry, you can't, the photos aren't available for pubic viewing). Here's the September 2009 tour which isn't as detailed as the later tours. Anyway, here's the September 2011 tour.

The Marina di Chioggia squash plants are slowly dieing back. On the left are 4 potted Pimento de Padron pepper plants that were just not happy this year, all but one of them is quite stunted. I think that there were at least 2 problems, probably three, with these plants. First, I think that they were infected with something fungal, possibly powdery mildew which looks different on peppers than on other plants. Second, the plants needed to be fed more often, and third, the black pots may have cooked the roots early on before the squash leaves grew into that area. I leaned a couple of boards up against the sunny side of the pots to keep them cool. I've been feeding the plants once a week with a fish emulsion based fertilizer and I've treated them a couple of times with Actinovate (both sprayed and soil drenched) and the plants are looking better. I'm actually getting a few peppers off the best looking plant now and the others are sporting some tiny new leaves and flower buds. Next year I need to keep a closer eye on my pepper plants and break out the fungicide earlier in the season.

Here's one of the Marina di Chioggia squash. I had to protect the first squashes to set by wrapping them in light weight row cover to keep the rats from eating them. Now that they have tough skins the rats have moved on to easier targets. It shouldn't be any problem getting these to cure for the winter.

The zucchini are slowing down but still producing a few fruits every week. I have to treat them and the Marina di Chioggia about once a week now for powdery mildew. The Tarbais beans on the trellis behind the zucchini have set a lot of pods, the question is, will the rats pillage before I can harvest the dry beans?

There's a couple of dead bean vines at this end of the trellis. Some soil borne pathogen started infecting the plants a few weeks ago and started moving down the row. Another plant in the middle of the row also shriveled up and died. Yikes, was I going to lose all my Tarbais beans to some yucky disease? I drenched the soil with an Actinovate solution (my new fungicide of choice purchased just for this problem) and the infection was brought to a screeching halt. (Sheesh, I wish the stuff would repel rats too.)

The Slenderette bush beans are on the way out. I lost a lot of these beans early on to the rats but was able to rescue the rest of the crop by covering the plants with light weight row cover. I'll be pulling these soon and putting in some lettuce seedlings.

These are the Musica pole green beans. Looking tired but still producing some beans. I'll leave them in place for now.

And the cucumber vines - looking sad but they may produce just a few more cucumbers. I fed them and am seeing some new blossoms and baby cucumbers forming. They've been getting a bit of a spritz for powdery mildew, whatever is left in the sprayer get applied to the new growth.

On to the solanum bed. Rat central at the moment, not to mention a few other problems. If you've read any of my latest Harvest Monday posts you know that I have to harvest my tomatoes half ripe or greener to get them before the rats do. The rest of the problems have to do with other pests and diseases. The eggplants have been infected with spider mites and...

some caterpillar, probably tobacco bud worm, has been chewing on the new growth and flower buds so the plants have become stunted and haven't bloomed much in a while. I didn't have these problems last September so I was harvesting a lot of eggplants.

One Rosa Bianca flower resisted the caterpillar attack so I will get one more of these beauties (the rats don't like eggplant - hooray!). Oops, I didn't say that, really, I don't want to jinx my eggplants...

These are the Diamond eggplants, they got sprayed for spider mites earlier on which may have also taken care of the caterpillars at that time. They are just showing signs of chewing but have a few eggplants that are close to harvestable size now. There will be a gap in the harvest since a lot of the new flowers disappeared before I noticed the damage. Gotta keep a better eye on the pest problems in the eggplant next year.

Late planted pepper plants that are not growing - bleah! I think I'll rip these out and put in some fall greens.

The New Mexico peppers seem more resistant to the fungal crud that is slowing down most of the other pepper plants. There's actually a fair number of chiles that are maturing.

The Shishito and Fushimi plants were hit hard. I stripped the plants of all their crummy little pods recently and hope that the TLC that I've been giving them lately will produce something of a late crop. They do have some new growth and tiny new flower buds. These both produce peppers that are supposed to be harvested immature so I might have a chance to get something.

The Pimento de Padron plants are definitely responding to the TLC.

Lots of new flowers developing...

So, there it is, my sorry little Solanum Row. Ah well, better luck next year.

Across the way the napa cabbage patch. I started four varieties this year but only three survived to transplantable size. From left to right are Tender Heart, Green Rocket, and Hybrid One Kilo.

The Green Rocket looks like it will live up to its name. I hope I didn't start these too soon, I don't want to find them bolting in the heat. This is my first time trying fall grown napa cabbage so I'm still figuring out the correct timing for my climate.

The beet patch - I'm growing 4 varieties - Flat Egyptian, Baby Ball, Chioggia, and Golden. These need to be thinned. I've started another flat of the same varieties to plant out in a week or so.

My first ever try at growing regular stem celery, I've done leaf and root celery, both of which are less fussy. The plants are growing like crazy. Again, I hope that the heat doesn't make them bolt early. These need more thinning also.

The Tender Green leaf amaranth has suddenly taken off. It is staying short, at least for now, as I hoped this variety would. I think we'll be sampling some of this for dinner tonight.

Some  Sweetie Baby romaine seedlings for fall green salads.

Here's a couple of late planted pepper plants that are actually happy.

A late planted Fushimi plant that is being engulfed by the amaranth but is still looking better than the ones in the Solanum bed. Hmmm, these got the fungicide treatment soon after they got planted out, I think that that will become standard treatment for future pepper planting.

Here's a new experiment. This is my third attempt at getting Hibiscus to grow this year. The seeds germinate quite readily, but the first two times that I've tried to get the plants to survive outside this year they have curled up their toes in response to the cold nights and expired. So for attempt number three I'm trying to grow them in their own little mini green house.

I keep it closed 24/7, it stays relatively warm at night but doesn't get too hot during the day because it is topped with a double layer of light weight breathable row cover rather than the clear plastic that covers the sides. I doubt that I will get any significant number of flowers, but this experiment warrants a retry next spring.

And the final bed. Let's start with the ugly Golden Chard. The ants have been farming aphids in the tender new leaves. I've cut the plants down to the nubs and thoroughly sprayed with insecticidal soap which killed off the aphids.

But the soap doesn't have any residual effect so the ants and aphids are back. There are some aphid mummies in there but it's obvious that the beneficial wasps just can't control this mess. I'm tempted to just yank the plants out and start over. I've got seeds for a new variety of chard to try, Flamingo, you can guess the color...

Flower buds on the Di Sarno Calabrese broccoli.

The Di Sarno broccoli was planted very early this spring and just refused to grow, it was so disappointing as I noted in my June garden update. I found out later when I dug the other end of the bed that the oak tree roots were invading and outcompeting the vegetables for water and nutrients. The broccoli took off after I severed and removed a great deal of the oak roots.

The Piracicaba was planted earlier than the Di Sarno and is still plugging away and putting out a lot of shoots. For some reason it wasn't as bothered by the oak root competition as the Di Sarno broccoli, but it has produced a lot more shoots since the competition was eliminated. I have a hard time keeping up with the Piracicaba harvest now.

Late planted pole beans. On the right are Stregonta borlotti beans, they seem to be half runners, very bushy at the base with a single runner or two climbing the trellis. They are just starting to bloom so I doubt that I will get dried beans but I think I have a chance for shelly beans. The more thickly covered trellis to the left is Neckarkƶnigin green beans. They are just starting to set baby green beans.

Profuma di Genova basil from Renee's Garden Seeds, this is my favorite variety of basil, very productive and very flavorful. This patch got pretty well picked over the other day for a delicious batch of pesto. I planted a Purple Sprouting broccoli plant in the middle which hopefully won't overshadow the basil before it decides to poop out.

More trouble in the garden. There is or was a gopher running around in this end of the garden. I trapped one gopher here the other day and now I'm not sure if a new gopher has moved in or if a vole has moved in. I haven't been able to catch it. Grrrr.

My poor little celery root. šŸ˜¢

A patchy patch of Rolande filet beans. I had a difficult time getting these plants started, first the critters munched the seedlings, then I fried the remaining seedlings when I left them covered on a rare hot day that took me by surprise, then the replacement seedlings got munched. Sigh.

I looks like I might get a handful of beans, if the rodents don't get them first.

A few shots of selected pot grown peppers. This group is a 3 year old Manzano in the back, a new Aji Angelo in front, off to the right is a 2 year old Suave Orange, and you can see a couple of little red chiles on the 2 year old Puerto Rico No Burns on the left. The older plants are not terribly happy and the Aji Angelo is looks scraggly but it producing a lot of nice peppers in spite of wanting to be in a larger pot. Next year I clean out all these pots and start over again, although I could probably move the Aji to a larger pot or into the ground and get another good harvest.

This is Aji Habanero, not a habanero (C. chinense), this is a baccatum chile, supposedly mild but I haven't tasted one yet. The peppers are supposed to be red when they are ripe.

This is a mild chinense pepper called Havana, but it is also not a Habanero. Confused yet? This plant seems to be affected by whatever is stunting a lot of the chile plants in my garden. It started off beautifully, with large leaves and pretty purple stems, and then the older leaves started to yellow and drop off and the new leaves came on small. Ah well.

This is a baccatum chile called Rain Forest. The poor thing is wilting in the reflected heat off the walls behind it. Other than not liking an unusually hot day this plant seems to be healthy and thriving and has set a lot of good looking pods. This is another mild chile, I don't do very many hot chiles these days.

Chiero Recife, another mildish chinense chile. Just starting to set chiles. I'll have to move it to a more protected spot to get ripe chiles late this fall or early winter.

Two more of my pot grown Pimento de Padron peppers. These are less affected by the fungal crud and have been putting out a respectable amount of chiles. I can't say the same for the Fushimi and Shishito peppers flanking them.

That's it for the latest garden tour. What have you got growing in your fall garden?


  1. Dot Maley, Old MG friend
    I have been enjoying your blog for the past few months now. It seems you can grow fall veggies almost year round, how wonderful. Here in Milpitas everything is slow, small, less or not very vigorous. Now a heat wave and some of the fall starts have gone to flower. Odd year. Thanks for writing the blog, I only wish I could keep records as good as yours. Well done Michelle.

  2. Hi Dot, it's so nice to hear from an old MG friend! It has been an odd year. Late rain and not as warm as usual. I hope we have a more normal year jext year.

    I think of my old MG friends often, I had so much fun with you all and learned so much. It's fun to have you reading my blog, thanks for leaving a comment. Say hi to Jim and the rest of the gang.

  3. We actually have some very similar growing conditions to you. The primary difference though is that our mild/cool summer and extended mild season has a lot of rain on both ends (which brings lots of fungus and mold problems) and because our home is surrounded by very tall and dense forest, during the early spring and later fall the sun is low enough on the horizon that it begins being largely blocked by the trees. So while we have the same extended growiing season you have, the sun is not really available for growth during some of those months and our producitivity starts rapidly dropping as a result. I still manage to grow year round, but cannot quite manage the success you have with that.

    I am going to have to try that fungicide. Is that what you are using for the powdery mildew as well? I have a lot of powdery mildew this year and I have just not been trying to treat it at all. I really should be more proactive with it though and was wondering what you have found successful for that.

  4. kitsapFG, I have been experimenting with the Actinovate for PM on various plants. It is very effective, but it is also expensive. I think that I will go back ro using a 70% extract of neem oil for PM on things like squash - that has worked really well. But I think that I will try the actinovate on snap and snow peas, it doesn't leave a weird taste on veggies like the neem oil can. The actinovate also seemed to help control a fungus that was attacking the stems of some of my tomato plants.

  5. Thanks Michelle for the reply. I use the 70% neem oil (when I get my act together and actually use it!) but was curious about the aticnovate. I went ahead and ordered some to keep on hand as fungal issues - particularly with the tomatoes and peppers - is a real issue in my region. It would be nice to have another more effective organic control in my tool box.

  6. Michelle, yes you do an unconventional growing climate but that's partly why I love your blog so much. In ways, it's almost as if you have in European...say somewhere in France. I would love to be able to garden year round like you do.

    Oh, I really like the idea of covering the sides with plastic but the top with row cover. Brilliant!

  7. My purple Serrano chili plant seems to like the fall weather up here. I don't have a rodent problem but I do have a Labrador retriever, squirrel and racoon problem. I am gardening in pots and the dog eats make that sieves tomatoes through deer netting. He got all of the Earl of Edgecomb and many of the Black Krim. Fall peas have been done in by squirrels burying acorns. As for the rCoons, they compete with the dog for tomatoes.


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