Friday, October 14, 2016

Garden Update - October 14, 2016

Sunrise on Snively's Ridge

First I'll entice you in with a shot across the valley this morning. The clouds are gathering with the promise of the first significant rain event of the season. Good news so long as it's not too much of a drencher which could cause significant erosion in the areas burnt by the Soberanes Fire.

And a couple of overview shots of the garden.

So, if you're not in the mood for a mostly downer post than you should stop reading right now. Just leave, I'll understand.

I've been struggling to get any blog posts done because I've just got too much going on right now. (Fortunately some of it is good - like a backpacking overnighter with friends). There are baskets of tomatoes and bags of peppers sitting around that I have to do something with. My dehydrator seems to be constantly running. I can't keep up with critter protection in the garden. My priority in the garden right now is to just deal with what's there and I just can't take the time to plant much of anything new that would require protection from the rats or the rabbit so I haven't sown any seeds or planted anything in weeks. It seems like every time I get something protected from the rats they just move on to a new tasty treat which means I have to waste more time figuring out a way to preserve the veggies under attack or yank them out and do something with them. I just want to get through the fall harvest season and then clear out the old stuff and take a break and reassess.

The curcurbit bed is winding down. All the cucumbers and squash other than the Tromba d'Albenga vines are dying.

The Romanesco zucchini is quickly succumbing to powdery mildew. There's a few blossoms left to open but I don't know if the vine has enough oomph left in it to support one to harvestable size.

Tromba d'Albenga Squash Vines
The Tromba d'Albenga vines however are the most productive they've been all season so I don't have a shortage of zucchini yet.

You can see the bush winter squash in the foreground and trellised squash beyond, both dying back as the squashes mature. The Kiwano Melons and Vine Peaches on the left never did do anything, two vine peaches set and no Kiwano Melons. The melon vines on the right are still somewhat healthy.

Candystick Dessert Delicata
I've brought in some winter squashes but most are still on the vines.

Crane and Alvaro Melons
The melon vines have fruit but I doubt that I'll get any to ripen. Perhaps I can come up with a use for unripe melons.

Tuscan Melon
The Tuscan melons were the first to set but are the smallest of the bunch. They sure don't look like they are on the verge of ripening, and I suppose if they do start to ripen the rats will beat me to them.

Hestia Brussels Sprouts
The Hestia Brussels Sprouts are not promising. I've been pulling the first sprouts off and discarding them because they are just loose and full of aphids.

Hestia Brussels Sprouts
Gustus Brussels Sprouts
The Gustus Brussels Sprouts that I successfully grew last year look better, at least so far, they are a little slower to develop and the small sprouts seem more firm.

Caged Chard
This is what I have to do to grow tender greens at the moment. I'm slowly putting together a number of hardware cloth covered frames (screens) to create cages to deter the rabbit and rats. The screens will be a longer term solution than fabric tunnels that tear by the end of the season or before.

Tronchuda Beira Cabbage and Russian Hunger Gap Kale
Other greens are still confined to cloth covered tunnels but they are quickly getting to be too large for them. I plan on setting up more screens to surround them. Then I'll probably have to erect fabric over them. I have in mind something like a tunnel over the tops of the frames.

Jericho Romaine Lettuce
I did manage to get some lettuce seedlings into the garden a while back and they are close to being large enough to harvest. I did cut a couple of small heads of Jericho that I had squeezed in for harvesting as babies.

Manoa Crisphead Lettuce

And I had to sow cilantro inside the tunnel (now with new and improved screens!) to get anything to harvest.

Romanesco Broccoli
The Romanesco broccoli is home to a new aphid infestation. I really don't have the patience to deal with this mess so I think I'm going to take the plants out because I can buy really nice heads of Romanesco broccoli at the farmer's market.

Baby Aji Amarillo peppers
I cannot buy Aji Amarillo peppers anywhere so I covered an old tomato cage with 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth and managed to slip it over the plants without too much damage. There's fabric enclosing the top of the cage too. So now I hope the f-ing rats don't figure out how to get under the cage to the goodies inside. The Aji plants, both the baby and Grande versions of Aji Amarillo are much more resistant to powdery mildew than the other pepper plants, perhaps baccatum peppers are in general more resistant than annuums, although the Mareko Fana plant which is an annuum is holding its own against the PM.

Turkish Pimento Peppers
And I had a small cage to enclose the Turkish Pimento peppers without too much fuss and hassle so it's enjoying some protection also.

Aji Amarillo Grande
The Aji Amarillo Grande peppers are only protected by fabric bunched up around the base of the plant. I *think* the rats don't like to crawl over the fabric, so far no munching, but the peppers aren't ripening yet either so they aren't as tempting.

A few more remaining plants with ripening peppers are tucked in with more fabric and so far the rats haven't bothered them. But why go to the trouble when there's big beautiful tomatoes that are easy munching? The rats seem to be really lazy, they go for the easy targets first.

L to R, Pomme d'Amour, Jaune Flamme, Reisetomate
The small fruited tomatoes other than cherry types seem to be much more susceptible to foliar diseases than the beefsteak types. The Pomme d'Amour and Reisetomate From Transylvania especially so and poor Jaune Flamme was stuck in the middle. I learned last year to not use 70% Neem extract on tomatoes, it just finished the job that the fungal diseases started. Serenade seemed to slow the progression of the diseases without harming the plants and remaining fruits, so there's still good tomatoes to harvest and the less intense sun of fall isn't scalding the tomatoes for the most part.

Beefsteak type tomato plants
The beefsteak type tomato plants grow quickly enough that the new foliage is helping to protect the fruits from the sun. The larger tomatoes seem to be more likely to get sunscald than the smaller ones. There aren't many fruits left on the vines now, I had to go through and harvest most of them because the rats discovered how delicious they are. Fortunately most of the fruits were ripe or nearly so, so there wasn't much loss in terms of quality. (Do you see all the rat traps? They aren't helping much...)

Cherry tomato plants
The cherry tomato plants are still growing and setting tomatoes. The vines are loaded and the harvest hit its peak in the last couple of weeks.

Piccolo Dattero

IPK P  852 (Italy)
I may get to sample one pepper from the late planted IPK P 852 (Italy) pepper plants that were left out of the main bed and stuck in a fabric pot.

Puhwem Corn
The Puhwem corn seems to be developing some ears. It's set so late that I'm not sure what its fate will be.

Brinker Carrier Bean
The beans are making a half-hearted attempt to bloom and set beans again, but I doubt they will produce a second crop. Fodder for the compost bin.

Zuni Tomatillo
I can't be bothered to glean the tiny tomatillos that have set on the Zuni Tomatillo plants. I tasted one that fell off the plant, usually a sign of ripeness, but it was sour and not tasty. The plants were hit hard by powdery mildew which may or may not have effected how the fruits developed, I'm not sure.

The rabbit discovered the few Rosso di Lucca bean plants. Oh well. I can buy more seeds.

I'itoi Onions
I am grateful that the critters don't seem to like the I'itoi onions. They are certainly a bright spot on the gardening scene.

That's the mess that is supposed to be the fall pea crop. I haven't removed the protective fabric because the instant I do the critters will start to munch and I haven't had time to deal with putting a larger protective cover over the plants so they are all mashed up.

Hopi Chinmark Corn
If I don't wrap each and every single ear of the ripening corn than this is what happens. Just another big time waster.

Blue Speckled Tepary beans
The rabbit hasn't breached the barricade around the tepary beans, but when I got in there to gather the beans that had dried on the plants I found that the rats have decided that it's a cozy place to build a nest. Yuck.

Sweet Potato Pots
There might be some sort of sweet potatoes developing. When I poked around in the soil I touched what felt like a fat root. We'll see at the end of the season when I empty the pots.

So that's the latest and not so greatest from the garden. Now I have to get back out there and harvest some tomatoes and dried beans before it rains.

Yay for rain!


  1. Yes, yay for rain. You need a break, a really long one to discourage the rats by not offering them a feast. But they always come back, don't they? I've got bees again.

    1. No, not in my case. The bees' flight path is across a garden walk and I can't garden within about 6 feet of the hive which is in a stucco wall. It costs about six hundred dollars to get the hive removed without pesticides. My near neighbor has a koi pond. Dead bees dropping into the pond=dead fish. I hate them, the bees. Such a painful nuisance. There's no shortage of pollinators here. I was commiserating with you about pests.

    2. That's why I said "I hope". I recently had a friend comment about the appearance of bees from her neighbor's hive, a welcome addition since she did have a lack of pollinators around. I've been through the hive removal thing, they had invaded a space under the roof. Had to have someone come out to lift off part of the roof, then vacuum the bees out, and then repair the roof. Yeah, I get it!

  2. Well, what a tale of woe! I think your frame structures sound like the only way to go. If it makes you feel any better, round my way the Badgers have started their winter digging antics in earnest. They don't seem to dig much in the Summer, because presumably food is easier to find. I saw a dead Badger (looked like an adolescent) about 100 metres from my house this week. It was hard to know whether to be happy or sad! Is that hardware cloth stuff you use actually made of cloth? It looks like metal in the photos.

    1. Hardware cloth has a strange name, it's not cloth at all, it's wire mesh. It's very sturdy stuff that rats can't chew through. There's always something attacking a garden because it's such easy and delicious pickings. But yes, I always cringe to see one of the poor critters dead. Ideally I just want to be able to keep them out and let them do what they do elsewhere.

  3. Well, I made it all the way through. And I am so thankful my garden fencing keeps out most of the critters I deal with, other than voles. But they do less damage than your rats, for sure! The hardware cloth covered frames do sound like a good way to go. I've thought of something similar to cover my cold frames which aren't inside the garden fencing. Those I'itoi onions do look pretty too!

    1. One of my planned projects is to put up hardware cloth along the perimeter of the garden. That should keep the rabbits out if they don't figure out how to dig under it. The rats are another issue, the things they like will have to go into cages and tunnels. And I need to improve the defenses on the compost bins also. And maybe it's time to put up the owl nesting box that's sitting in the garage.

  4. Oh boy, you weren't kidding about the bad news :( Thankfully there are still a few bright spots in your garden, but what a lot of hard work to keep it that way! Do you think there's a specific reason why things are so bad this year? Would the fire have anything to do with it (i.e. an influx of animals as they flee burning/scorched areas and/or more disease due to the poorer air quality)?

    1. I don't think the fire had anything to do with it, I noticed an increase in rat activity before that. It's probably because we had close to normal rain this year which produced a bounty of food for the wildlife, lots of acorns for sure, and when the normal summer drought came along and a resulting scarcity of food the critters turned to the garden.

  5. A bright spot indeed ... those l'itoi onions look wonderful. Sorry to see the critter damage - I'm grateful to say I don't get a lot of aphid damage here but I'm sure they'll come around some time with organic gardening, everything eventually comes around).

  6. Wow, sure seems like the pests are getting out of control. I was going to say rat traps, but looking at that picture of the tomato seems like you need something more. Hate to say it but maybe try poison bait? Otherwise those cages look like the best solution. Hang in there.


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