Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Garden in May 2013

It's time for the May garden tour. These tours may be boring for those of you who follow my blog, but I find it fun and informative to compare the current garden to the garden in years past at a similar time. Last year, practically to the day, I was setting the tomato plants out into one of the newly constructed beds. There wasn't much else growing in the garden in May of last year, only two of the four beds were completed and I had barely started to fill them with vegetable plants. This year the tomato plants are still awaiting their places in the last of the beds to be constructed. There's the photo of the area for the new bed. The good news is that work started yesterday! The other three beds are in various states of production. The bed you see in the photo below is home to the curcurbits and most of the legumes growing (or not) at the moment.

I'm growing two varieties of zucchini this year. This one is Ortolana di Faenza, an Italian heirloom. That's the very first squash to set on the plant and I harvested it yesterday along with all those beautiful blossoms.

This is Italian Romanesco zucchini, an F1 variety that is supposed to be more disease resistant. It also produced the first fruit this week.

I set these baby pack choi out just after I set out the zucchini plants and they are ready to be harvested just as the zucchini plants are about to engulf them.

I have four varieties of cucumbers started, Green Fingers baby Persian, Tasty Green Japanese, Garden Oasis beit alpha type, and Tortarello Abruzzese. Last year I grew both the Persian and Japanese cucumbers and had more than enough of each for fresh eating (I don't make pickles). This year I decided to grow the same number of plants but dug out some old seeds to try to get a bit more variety in the harvests. The Tortarello Abruzzese seeds were about 10 years old and I managed to get one seed to germinate. The other varieties germinated readily and I set the plants out weeks ahead of the Tortarello. Unfortunately, I think that my gamble to try an early start with the cucumbers has not gone well, the plants have been languishing. Except for that Tortarello - the one seed that germinated produced a rather weak seedling which I planted out on a lark. Well, look at that thing, it's the nice healthy looking plant in back.

Also languishing, much to my surprise, are my runner beans (sorry David). The Moonlight beans on the right side of the trellis are especially unhappy, but the St. George on the left, in spite of starting to climb the trellis, don't seem to be particularly vigorous either. I'm taking a wait and see approach with these, perhaps they'll perk up when the nighttime temperatures warm up a touch (they're still dropping to the high 30's and low 40's).

My attempt to get my pole snap beans is pretty much a bust also.

I've grown this variety of bean (Spanish Musica) a couple of times before and I know that once they get going that they produce huge vigorous plants and loads of big beans. But these babies are staying babies, or worse, they plants keep dying. So, I'm writing these off. I've got their replacements already germinating and I've got the last trellis in place and ready for them. Once I get those in the ground I'll tear out this planting and start the seeds for the Italian beans that Stephaneener sent me (thank you!).

It's really been a crappy season for most of the legumes in my garden. At least half of my sugar snap pea plants have died, here's what is left of that planting. I think the problem here is that the drip lines got kinked and the plants dried out when we had some early heat waves. By the time I figured out what the problem was it was too late for most of the plants. The harvest is so meagre that I'm not even bothering to tally it. I'm going to rip these out soon and replace them with some Australian Butter Beans that Alyse sent me (thank you too!).

The snow peas, on the other hand, have been producing quite nicely. This year I divided my planting into two. Here's the first planting which has produced a lot of peas in the last two weeks.

And here's the second planting on the other side of the trellis. I remembered to plant them on the south side so that the seedlings wouldn't be shaded by the first planting. They are just starting to bloom so I hope to be harvesting another round of peas in a couple of weeks. The problem with this variety of snow pea (Oregon Sugar Pod II) is that the plants produce the entire crop in about 2 weeks. I really prefer to consume the harvest as it is produced, I don't like preserved snow peas, so that's why I split my sowing in two this year and I think it's going to work out OK.

Below, in the foreground is a small planting of Early Rapini. I lost a few seedlings when we had a couple of hot days just after I planted them out, but what's left should give me one nice harvest that will be enough for the two of us. This variety grows really quickly once it gets established. It's time to start the next set of seedlings now. Beyond the rapini is an attempt to grow some Fagiolo del Purgatorio dry beans. I made three successive sowings in paper pots. My seeds are a bit old, which is one reason why I want to get a planting going, I need to replenish my seed stock. But I've been getting poor germination (all the more reason to replenish the seed stock) and on top of that the seedlings keep dying after I set them out. I've probably been trying to get these started too early also, so I'm going to start yet one more round of beans.

This is what is left of the Dou Miao planting. I got one good harvest of shoots and then the plants started to die. There wasn't enough left to bother with harvesting so I planted some kale in the empty spots and left the peas to grow. They are producing pea pods but I don't find them worth eating, this variety of pea was bred for the shoots. The kale doesn't seem to mind the peas so I think I'll let the peas set seeds and collect them.

So that's it for the marginally successful legume bed, let's hope the curcurbits do better. On to the bed which is dominated by the Greek Gigante beans which are going into year 2 now. The vines are starting to top the trellis.

And there are blossoms and a few beans setting already.

And one of the plants that I thought was dead has decided to pop a shoot after all.

The Lorz Italian garlic is ready to harvest.

The broccoli is starting to produce. The first Purple Peacock broccoli produced a head and lickety split it started to bloom. There it is on the left. I harvested it and cooked it up and found it to be quite tasty.

Here's a very nice head of Di Ciccio broccoli forming.

Here's another Di Ciccio head ready to harvest already. There's quite a bit of variation in head size in this old heirloom variety. This used to be one of my favorite broccolis, but it's been a few years since the last time I grew it. I'll see if I still like it as much as I used to. It used to be a very productive variety for me, producing lots of shoots over a very long season. I've not grow it in this garden though so it will be interesting to see if a different microclimate makes a difference in the performance.

Another head of Purple Peacock.

And one more Purple Peacock. There seems to be quite a bit of variation in this broccoli as well.

The carrot planting at the far end of the bed is coming along nicely. I keep harvesting a few carrots here and there, continually thinning out the patch. The Spanish Black variety is already starting to bolt. I'm going to try to save the seeds for that variety and then I need to figure out how to grow them so that I get some carrots and not just seeds. I hadn't intended to harvest those carrots because I had so few seeds germinate (they were a bit old) that I wanted to let all of them produce seeds that I could save, but I didn't expect them to all bolt so soon. Well, I hope to get enough seeds to allow me to continue to experiment with this variety. Beyond the carrots is what remains of the beets. I harvested most of the spring planting of beets and there's just a few left. Once those are gone and the garlic is harvested then half of this bed will be open. What to plant...

Across the way in the third bed, here's the spinach just before I harvested another pound of leaves. The plants are just starting to bolt.

Alongside the spinach are the Little Jade napa cabbages, most of which are ready to harvest.

And next are the resprouting and blooming Early Rapini plants that I harvested a couple of weeks ago, and a few baby bok choi, and some Sweetie Baby romaine.

And a lot of Sweetie Baby romaine...

Iceberg lettuce, still hanging in there in spite of a few hot days. I've been reading lately how difficult it can be to grow iceberg lettuce, it has a tendency to bolt before it produces a good head. I guess I've been lucky.

The butterhead lettuce needs to be harvested. It has grown so quickly! But not without problems. Perhaps you can see that the edges of some of the leaves are a bit brown. And the head that I harvested yesterday had some browning around the edges of the inner leaves. I did a bit of research and I believe that my butterhead is suffering from tipburn. That's a problem caused by a calcium deficiency in the leaves, much like blossom end rot in tomatoes. It's not likely caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil, it's an uptake problem caused by water stress, in my case probably because we've had some hot days and perhaps because of inadequate air circulation around the plants which slows down evapotranspiration. Time to eat more salad!

My little planting of fennel is coming along.

The fava plants are finished producing and are declining. It's time to remove the cages and cut the plants down.

One final surprise, my potted artichoke has decided to bloom. I won't harvest this. It will be allowed to bloom and be a magnet for bees. The last time this plant bloomed I had a lot of fun watching the bumble bees "swim" through the flower. I hope the bumbles come again.

One last view over this end of the garden.

How's you garden growing this May?


  1. I love touring your garden! I'm glad I wasn't the only one suffering from some germination issues. My peas did awful this year and my beans are stunted and just languishing. Thank you forp ousting the lovely photos of your garden.

  2. Garden tours are always fun. Too bad about the snap peas drying out. I would be so sad if mine didn't produce at all. But I'm also not growing snow peas this year for the first time. So if they don't produce, no peas for me.

  3. Hi Michelle, It is always a pleasure. The Zucchini Romanesco we sell is not a hybrid.

    I wonder if Renee's is the same thing? They do have the distinctive ridges.

    Dan Nagengast
    Seeds From Italy.

    1. Hi Dan, the seed packet clearly states that this is an F1 variety. This is supposed to be a more disease resistant variety, which I hope is true, powdery mildew always hits hard in my garden. I have grown Romanesco zucchini from Franchi seeds, but that was about 10 years ago and before I found your seed company...

  4. You grow so many different variety of veggies it's always fun to visit your garden, tanks for the tour. My beans are just beginning to sprout, have couple volunteer squash/cucumber, not sure what they are, carrots are beginning to sprout, the purple pod sugar magnolia peas are going strong, thanks for the seeds.

  5. Hello Michelle, I have just found your site via Suburban Tomato. Love your garden tour - it's just wonderful. I have had little success with carrots, and have decided to try again, this time with a hopefully much more suitable and more well draining sandy soil in a tub. I am now wondering how many seeds to sow. Square Foot Gardening recommends 32 seeds per sqaure foot (2 per 'hole'), but I see from an earlier post that you sowed 'way too many' at one stage - but it seemed to work out just fine. With experience behind you, what do you now recommend? (Sydney, Australia; Fairly similar climate to yours, I believe.)

    1. Hi Lesley, I must say that I'm far from an expert on carrot growing, but here goes anyway... The last time I grew carrots I grew them in rows and after thinning them it seemed like there was a lot of empty (wasted) space. So this time I very unscientifically just scattered the seeds over the area, they are so small that it's difficult to judge how thick or thin the sowing is. I thought I was sowing them rather thinly over the area, so my advice would be to use even less seeds than you would think is necessary. I would aim to sow the seeds with about an inch or so between each one, but don't worry if some get too closely spaced, the seedlings pull very easily without disturbing their neighbors so thinning won't cause any harm to the remaining plants. The thinnings are delicious at almost any size, even the tops are tasty on the youngest plants so I include the whole things in my salads. I've been continuing to thin out plants as they get larger, removing plants that are closest together, eventually leaving just enough plants with enough space to grow to mature size. So I really think it's not a big problem to sow somewhat thickly if you enjoy true baby carrots and have the time to thin on a regular basis, about once a week has been working for me.

    2. Michelle, that sounds like a wonderful system. I had't thought about using the 'thinnings' in salads etc. What a great idea. I'm looking forward to putting your ideas into practice. Thanks so much.

  6. I wonder if your legume problem is just soil temp? I usually don't plant beans until first week of June so soil is warm enough to germinate without rot, but I find they sit there looking kind of jaundiced until temperatures get consistently warm. The soil bacteria that fixes nitrogen is inactive below certain temperatures. After a week or so of warm days and nights, the beans green up and take off. I do use an innoculant.

    1. Hi David, I think soil temp is definitely part of the problem, and this year I think the big swings in daytime temps aren't helping, the plants have been getting stressed by unexpected hot days before they are well established. I use an innoculant also. Some of the plants seem to be recovering to a certain extent, but others seem to be permanently set back. There's plenty of time to do a reset, so I think it's better to start over. I've learned a lesson, I can't really start my beans this soon.


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