Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Garden in August

It's time for a summer garden tour before summer is gone!

Beds #1 and #4

First a couple of big overview shots from the hillside above the garden. You may notice the newest garden defense that I recently installed - 1/4-inch hardware cloth surrounding the entire garden for rabbit deterrence. There's rabbits all over the place this year and they love the goodies in my garden. I wish the mesh was effective at blocking rodents as well but those pests always find a way in.

Beds #2 and #3

Bed #1
Bed #1 is home to tomatoes and peppers. The plants are big and as healthy looking as they can be. I train the tomatoes up a remesh trellis, trimming off excess shoots and a lot of leaves as I do so. Some of the plants are susceptible to foliar diseases and I try to remove as many of the old and sick leaves as I can. I think that removing a lot of foliage keeps diseases from spreading more quickly and the better air circulation keeps the newer leaves healthier. All the trimming certainly doesn't seem to slow the plants down. The plants are in desperate need of another round of trimming and training.

Petite Marseillaise
There are lots of peppers that have set on the plants but only one is showing signs of ripening so far, Petite Marseillaise is fairly large, thin fleshed, yellow and sweet. This is one of the few that I got to enjoy last year before the rodents attacked.

Violet Sparkle starts out bright green, then turns purple, and finally ripens red. It is a sweet pepper that I tried for the first time last year and I got to enjoy 1 pepper that ripened in the garden. Last year a lot of peppers succumbed to the gnawing jaws of rodents and/or rabbits just as they started to ripen. It got to the point where I ripped out most of the sweet pepper plants before I got to enjoy any ripe ones, it was actually preferable to toss the pepper covered plants into the compost than to feed the beasts. I'm just paranoid that I may go through the same experience this year.

So here's my weapons of choice when battling rodents - good old fashioned snap traps.

I go out in the early evening after the birds and lizards have settled in for the night and set traps wherever there's been rodent activity and where I suspect there's danger of activity. And hopefully when I go out in the morning this is what I'll find...

I have found that it helps to make the bait hard to get to so I secure the bait to the paddle with some adhesive tape.

I'm hoping to be able to keep a few select plants safe from the rodents by keeping them enclosed in individual cages made of 1/4-inch hardware cloth. The only plants that are enclosed though are the ones that I want to save seeds from which is why the cages are currently covered with fine mesh as well. As soon as the plants started to pop some blossoms I added the fabric mesh to keep pollinators out. A lot of peppers have set on the plants and some of them are trying to burst out of the tops of the cages so it is time to remove the fabric.

Some of the squash vines in Bed #4 are threatening to block the center path. I keep directing them along the side of the path as they try to grow across it.

That's Kurin Kabocha squash on the trellis at the end of the bed. It has set a few squash and is still blooming and setting new squash.

Kurin Kabocha Squash
Next in the bed is the sprawling Terremoto squash. It is growing all over the place! It too has set some squash.

Terremoto Squash

Not long ago I also had a number of Crane Melon vines growing in this bed but when I discovered that the mice or rats were eating the female blossoms before they even had a chance to open I ripped out all the vines and threw them in them compost. $#!T

I trained 2 Tromba D'Albenga vines up another trellis and they quickly engulfed it and have now started to take over the center path. I keep cutting it back so that it won't overwhelm the cucumbers growing on the adjacent trellis. The cucumbers have engulfed the Persian Basil in the corner of the bed and are groping for the neighboring Corsican Basil.

The basil needs a hard trim!

Bed #2 is home to 3 varieties of flour corn and 3 varieties of dried beans, and 4 varieties of snap beans.

One corner of the bed also has a few pepper plants that came back from last year which I had intended to move but never got around to. In the foreground is a stand of rabbit trimmed Cilician parsley.

The Baby Aji Amarillo and Mareko Fana plants have come back incredibly well and have set a number of peppers but the 2 Aji Amarillo Grande plants are sulking.

Cilantro Successions
Another corner of the bed is where I've been experimenting with growing cilantro in succession plantings. There's 6 short rows, each row planted about 11 to 14 days apart. I just sowed the 8th succession the other day. It's working pretty well so far, I'm not getting huge amounts of cilantro but am able to harvest a small bunch every few days which is enough to keep me happy.

Batavia Broccoli
Batavia has become my favorite variety of broccoli. I've been growing it for at least a couple of years, maybe more but I can't remember and I'm too lazy to check my records at the moment. I consistently produces good main heads and then a long series of side shoots. Every time I think it's on the verge of giving out it starts to pop out a bunch of new side shoots and not just piddly little ones. That's the patch of broccoli that I grew for winter harvests and it's still growing strong.

Summer Greens
One of the newest additions to the garden is a few rows of greens that are meant to harvest as babies. The biggest plants are Ethiopian Highland Kale (actually a mustard), in the center is Baby Tuscan Kale and the other greens are Special Baby Leaf Chard.

Various carrots for fall harvests are further down the bed. Between the greens and the carrots is a patch where I sowed some old parsnip seeds that failed to germinate. I sowed fresh seed the other day, it's a bit late for parsnips but with our long mild fall I hope to get away with it.

The spring sowing of Aspabroc (aka Broccolini) keeps on giving.

Batavia Broccoli
The spring sowing of Batavia broccoli had a setback when rodents or the rabbit got into the cage (my fault because I left it open for a while) and gnawed off the developing side shoots. I think it is recovering but the loss wasn't too badly felt since the older broccoli plants never gave up producing.

Pink Plume Celery
My patch of Pink Plume celery is growing so slowly that I've not harvested anything yet.

Gustus Brussels Sprouts
The Brussels sprouts are growing quickly though. I'm growing only Gustus this season. Last year I tried Hestia also and they were ok but Gustus produced better sprouts. Beyond the Brussels sprouts are the newest addition to the fall/winter lineup and then beyond that are newly planted out Broccolini and Fioretto Stick Caulifower seedlings.

Kalettes are a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale and produce frilly purple tinged sprouts. They start off looking like the kale side of the family but are supposed to grow tall and produce the sprouts on a stalk like Brussels sprouts.

Cilician Parsley
The rabbits really enjoyed the Cilician parsley that is growing along the edge of the bed. I think the hardware cloth addition to the garden fence may be keeping them out for now because the parsley isn't disappearing anymore. Speaking of rabbits, the other day I witnessed the delightful sight of a couple of big bobcats on the hillside above the garden. The best part of that sighting is that one of them had just captured lunch - a rabbit! Go Bobcats! Stick around gang, there's more lunch living in the neighborhood...


  1. This is just so wonderful looking at all your luscious vegetables, I don't know what to say!
    First. I love the two overviews. The hills look such a healthy green. Is that oak?
    I hope the mesh works. It is not ugly.
    The half and half colored pepper looks unreal, like photoshopped.
    The rats are so disgusting. I don't know how you deal with it mentally. I think I would throw up.
    Good work on the cilantro.
    I bought a small celery plant and it is the fastest growing thing I've got. It has very thin stalks which is all right with me because I just use it for flavoring soups and such. It is Utah because I couldn't find the right kind, cutting celery.

    1. Yup, primarily Coast Live Oak and a smattering of Valley Oaks. They are looking pretty good this year after all the rain.
      Wouldn't it be fun if the pepper ripened half one color and half another, but not likely.
      Rats are totally disgusting, but my primary emotion toward them is hate - grrrr. Such destructive little bastards.
      I wish I could send you a Pink Plume celery plant, they are incredibly flavorful, like celery X2 and pretty too when they get to be larger.

  2. How great to have bobcats close by as pest control. How strange that Petite Marseillaise is a large pepper. You certainly have lots of crops to choose from despite the rodent activity.

  3. Oh me, I may need to rethink my tromboncino strategy for next year after seeing your vines spilling out all over the path! Is the step ladder to get at the high up ones?

    I do think your rat problem is worse than our deer issues. My fencing does keep them out of the main garden, though I have to be careful about anything that's not protected. I know how you feel about feeding the rodents too. We ripped out our hostas one day and put them on the compost pile rather than have the deer keep on eating them. And your rabbits are eating the parsley? That's not right at all!

  4. I don't know what they are called, but I have two 'mouse motels,' small metal contraptions about the size of a hardcover book. They have two openings and since mice like to explore they go inside and can't get back out. One of them caught about a dozen mice in a few days in the crawl space.
    Great tour.

    1. I do have one of those and it's been effective when I put it in the right place. I find that the snap traps are more effective in the veggie garden.

  5. Loved the Garden tour! It's always great to see the veggies spotlighted, but there's nothing quite like a 'big picture' shot to put it all in perspective. I had no idea how expansive your garden was!

    I also bought violet sparkle seeds this year, but voted them out in favor of some other variety that I'm now regretting. So I'll be checking back to see how the violets do for you by end of season. And that harlequin violet is a riot! If it does ripen half and half, it be awesome if you saved seeds. Might be a chimera, and though I don't think that would genetically effect the next generation, it would still be a fun experiment. I'd happily trade you seeds with anything I've got :)


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