Cherries and More

I have been derelict of responsibility to post what is happening for far too long and for that I am sorry.Washed Cherries

The garden is mostly planted but it got a late start this summer and is off to a slow beginning. Our cool mountain weather is about to change in a not so good way – getting very hot for at least a couple of weeks. This projected heat is preventing me from transplanting the last few plants, two tomatoes, the cucumbers, cantaloupes, and banana squash, into the garden. It has been something like this for the last month, although, a month ago I delayed planting into the garden because it was still too cold.

This atypical weather resulted in a few transplanting causalities, namely, tomatoes that were most unhappy with the process. Luckily, we still have quite a few tomato plants that are growing well so there should be an ample crop in a couple of months. The deer did manage to trim a few tomatoes but they seem to be bouncing back.Ripe Cherries on Tree

The big surprise Memorial Day weekend was ripe cherries. We harvested a record crop for us that weekend and the next, resulting in about 36 pounds. Some of the cherries were pitted and frozen, some were dried (very disappointing and I now have a greater appreciation for dried fruit), and some were turned into cherry bounce – you knew a liquor would find its way in here somewhere.

Hopefully the looming heat won’t overly set-back the garden and summer harvests.

Spring has Sprung

rose entry

A rose archway is an inviting way to enter the garden. Although it is still spring and none of the seedlings have been transplanted, the garden still welcomes you in to explore, to find hidden treasures, to marvel at the colors of nature.collage of garden flowers

A year ago I was wondering if the seedlings for the garden would survive the stifling heat. This year I was afraid of a late season frost. I am not sure if the frost hit, but what could be protected was protected. The cloth we used should also protect the apples from pesty deer. That will all change in a couple of weeks when the great migration commences.

Early Radishes

A number of years ago we would get great radish harvests. We grow Easter Egg radishes and we will find hues of pink, purple, and white radishes. At least we did until radish production effectively stopped for us two years ago. We never did really figure out why we could no longer grow radishes, but, after two unsuccessful years, we moved on. The radishes had different plans. When I went to check on the onions, which are growing very well, I found a host of the best radishes we have grown for years. That would be surprising enough had I actually planted radishes; however, I had not. We even turned the soil over a few times in preparation for planting the onions and beets. Anyway, the radishes were a nice surprise. We will just have to wait and see if the ones I planted over the weekend decide to grow.

green apple

Growing fruit in our garden is a questionable proposition. The area is prone to late frosts that typically kill the blossoms, resulting in no fruit that year, whether from our apple, pear, or cherry trees. This year we have not had a frost in a long time (hopefully the predicted near frost temperatures did not materialize earlier in the week).unripe cherries on tree This has resulted in a record number of apples on the trees, including one that typically never produces apples (but that is a whole different story and founded in the previous owner’s inability to properly plant anything).

The seedlings at my house are mostly doing fine. The one exception are cucumbers, I am not sure what happened. I have planted new seeds so hopefully they will do well. Before I know it we will be harvesting some of the many eggplant already starting to grow. Then hopefully beets then tomatoes. The carrot seeds have not really taken off that I planted in the garden so hopefully they will start soon.

And So it Begins

Early Garden Seedlings

Over the last few years I have noticed these posts seem to repeat themselves. Gardens are fairly structured and the various stages have to happen about the same way at about the same time every year to better encourage success. And so it is with this post.

Since the primary garden was put to sleep last fall, I have started most of the seeds, other than the cucurbits (squash, gourds, cucumbers). I did alter the seed planting order and timing a bit versus last year. Peppers, eggplant, kale, peppers, and garden flowers were all started in January. Other than one variety of flower, a hybrid lisianthus, that seems to grow on a glacial time scale, all of the early seedlings are adapting to the great outdoors. This week will provide their first taste of 90 degree heat, so they are protected from the afternoon sun.

flower seedlings

Just this week I started tomatoes and a new baby bell pepper for us, the seeds for which a friend traded me for some Aleppo pepper seeds. I had meant to scale back the tomato plants this summer. That will not be the case; I started ten varieties, all of which have grown well in the garden in the past. I did start the tomatoes about three weeks later than last year to provide more leeway if it is still cold up by the garden in May. Last year the plants had to go up to the garden in early May, instead of late May, because they were getting too big. If it had still been cold I would have been in trouble.

This past weekend we planted the red onion sets and the beet and carrot seeds. Those projects would have been easy enough, but they required getting the irrigation system up and running again. That is never as easy as it sounds. I expect a few fittings to freeze and pests to chew off a few sprinkler heads. We had those issues as well as a few more that were not brought on by cold or pests. I have not figured out what happens over the five months it is not in operation and why parts that worked when it is turned off do not work when turned back on. I know of one more inconveniently located leak, but we ran out of time last weekend for that fix. Because of that one zone is still off.

Well, we are up and running again. I will be moving plants around to new areas this year. We are drastically cutting back on some plants for this year while increasing the numbers of others. Hopefully this summer will not be as hot as last year and hopefully measures we have taken to keep the deer out will be successful. We can hear coyotes closer than the past couple of years so maybe they will force the deer to more remote areas.

End of the 2016 Season

fall garden harvest

Well, it’s about that time of year when the garden is caput. The weather continues to be ok (meaning no frosts yet) but production is way down and many of the plants are spent. There are still a number of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and tomatillos to ripen. We’ll see how many are ripe before the end of the season.

The biggest issue lately has been deer. They have done their best to eat their way through the garden, including plants I didn’t think they would like, for example, rhubarb. They ate the tops off the beets so we decided it was time to harvest the last of them. We ended up with about 5 pounds. This was made up of a lot of fairly small beets. Now I just have to figure out how to grow them larger. One thing we are thinking of doing is trying new area for them and letting where they are rest for the year. We harvested a bunch of carrots this weekend too. Surprisingly, the deer did not eat the tops of the carrots.

garden grown carrots

I think the deer’s favorite snack was the tops of the sweet potatoes. Although we had great growth above the ground, at least until they were munched, we only found one or two finger-sized potatoes. I’m sorry to say that means the end of sweet potato growing for us. The kale was a close second favorite of the deer. It is now covered with netting. Luckily, only the leaves were eaten and left the stems so it should grow back.

Now that we have all of these fresh crunchy carrots I have to find something fun to do with them. I guess that will be this week and next week’s project.

All Hail Mother Nature

hail storm in garden
Just when you think things are going fine in the garden, Mother Nature decides to shake things up. This has been a weird growing season. I have talked to and heard from growers at various ends of the state and the general feeling is that this has not been a good year to be a grower. I have heard that numerous crops have failed this summer, even for experienced growers. The number of produce growers is down at the farmers’ market which I take as a bad sign. My latest obstacle was a hail storm.

Here in Arizona we welcome rain and thunderstorms. While I have never seen it rain anywhere else as hard as it typically does here, the promise of rain is always welcome. That was put to the test on Saturday when pea and marble sized hail was mixed in with the rain. In little more than an hour we measured about 1 inch of precipitation.

hail damaged plants

As you might imagine, hail and gardens are not the best of friends. The hail ripped apart the plants with bigger leaves, like squash, gourds, kale, and rhubarb. It flattened many other plants, including the beets and lima beans. It also broke branches and knocked tomatoes off the plants. I am hoping this turns out to be mostly cosmetic damage and that the plants will bounce back with a bit of calm weather and sun. Only time will tell.

Despite all this, I harvested about 28 pounds of tomatoes this week and 21 last week. For those of you who have not grown a lot of tomatoes, that is a lot for personal use. Until I heard that many local growers are having significant issues, I was concerned about the reduced production from some of the plants. I chalked a bit of the loss up to the deer eating the tops off many plants and the extra hot July this year. Now I am thinking things are going relatively well.

bowl of homegrown tomatoes

We have been roasting the extra tomatoes for future marinara and roasted tomato soup. The peppers are growing gangbusters; the eggplant plants are the biggest and most productive we have had; and, although we don’t have a large number of banana squash, we likely still have over 60 pounds of them.

I expect out peak harvest is still two or three weeks away. We have lots of green peppers and tomatoes busy ripening and a record number of eggplant blossoms. The one crop not doing well at all is cucumbers. We have made a batch or half-sour pickles, but they are growing very oddly. Any amount of bread and butter pickles we make this year might have to come from cucumbers from farm stands that will be visited on a trip to Colorado. While I would love having a big garden in a more conducive location, I am glad I am not trying to make a living as a farmer.