Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lazy blogger

I've been pretty lazy this month in terms of blogging, but rest assured, the garden is still producing. I've pulled a total of about 175 tomatoes (have canned a lot of sauce and salsa so far), 10 pounds of green beans, 3 slicing cucumbers (with 2 dozen baby cucs on the vines), and 10 pickling cucs (made 4 pints of refrigerator pickles), to mention a few crops.

The bell peppers have been strange -- I have 4 plants, only 2 of which have yielded some peppers. The others flower, but no peppers. I think I read somewhere that if peppers are exposed to temps below 55, the season is screwed up. We had a number of cool nights in June, so maybe that explains it. The Cayenne peppers are doing great though.

My tomato plants are all aflicted by what looks like early blight (although it's showing up late in the season). Yellow leaves with dark spots, that eventually shrivel up and die. The new growth still looks good (for now), and I'm still getting tomatoes, but this might be the beginning of the end. Walking around town, every garden I've seen with tomatoes has the same thing to varying degrees of severity. It's been a good run with them though, and I'm pretty pleased.

I transplanted my Fall brocolli and cauliflower today. I've been hardening them off this week in some pretty bad heat, and they've handled it pretty well so far. Considering I'll have to shut the garden down early this year to finish the backyard restructuring, I may not get any yield from these, but it's worth a shot.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's been a while...

I know it's been a while since the last update, and I have no new photos, but I wanted to post a quick entry to try to bring things up to date.

The tomatoes are coming in heavily now. Pulled almost 60 tomatoes (plus nearly 60 cherry tomatoes) so far. I've canned several pints of sauce and salsa, used some fresh spaghetti and pizza sauce, and used sliced tomatoes for salads and sandwiches. Even the plants in the SWC's, which look awful, are yielding some tomatoes, so maybe that endeavor won't be a total loss after all.

The cucumbers are coming steadily now. Made 3 pints of refrigerator pickles so far, with more to come. Two good sized General Lee slicing cucumbers have been picked as well.

Picked my first two bell peppers this week. Also picked a few carrots, which while fairly small, were good none the less.

The yellow onions were a bit underwhelming. Ended up with about 30 smallish onions from 4 squares (16/square). Definitely usable, but I was hoping for larger onions. They may have been slightly crowded, or it may have been poor quality sets I bought (from Walmart).

The next round of bush beans are well on their way. Probably about 2 weeks away from being knee-deep in beans again.

I think that brings us up to date. I'll try to get some photos taken this weekend for the next post.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tomatoes, cucumbers & pole beans

This is what I pulled from the garden this morning. An Heirloom Beefsteak, 7 cherry tomatoes, and four pickling cucumbers. Not bad for a Monday morning! I plan on making "refrigerator pickles" from these cucs and see how they turn out.

I'm also knee-deep in Kentucky Wonder pole beans. I harvested 3.5 pounds of them already from just 2 squares. And there are a lot more nearly ready beans on the vine, as well as the next wave starting to form. I had so many, I had to freeze most of them.

I've been keeping track of my harvest to get an estimate of the value of the produce I'm growing, using average store prices as a guide. So far, I've pulled about $80 worth from the garden. I'm pretty pleased with that, especially considering the tomatoes (a high value crop around here) are just starting to come in.

Friday, July 17, 2009

First tomatoes!

Pulled my first few tomatoes today! I found 6 ripe cherry tomatoes buried in the foliage near the bottom of the plant. I hadn't noticed them ripening due to the dense leaves and the fact that this plant is caged.

They look good and are hopefully the first of many.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stlll waiting on Tomatoes...

I know it's been a while since my last update -- I've been busy with other stuff. And sorry there are no photos again, but since upgrading to a new version of my OS, my computer and camera aren't communicating very well. I hope to have it working soon, then I'll edit these older posts to include the photos I've been taking.

Anyway, since my last post, I've pulled out the peas which have run their course. I was a bit disappointed with the Mr. Big shelling peas. I only got about 7 ounces of peas from the 1 square. Not enough for a single meal really. The sugar snap peas were better (almost 2 lb. from 1 square) and we used them in salads, stir fry, eating raw. Next year, I think I'll skip the shelling peas and plant 3 of 4 squares of sugar snaps.

My first wave of bush beans are wrapping up now. I got one large harvest then a smaller one a little later -- about 2.5 lbs of beans from 4 squares. I have 8 more squares of them at different stages of growth for later harvests. My Kentucky Wonder pole beans are doing very well also. Another few days and I can start picking some of them.

My second batch of radishes were a flop. Not a single radish formed. Maybe it was too warm for them, plus I had something munching on the leaves. And my carrots don't seem to be developing. I pulled three and none were longer than 2 inches, and these were in the ground for 76 days when I pulled them. I have a few more squares going with them, so maybe there's still a chance for carrots this year.

The cucumbers are really taking off now. The National Pickling cucs have 2 or three cucumbers on the vine, and the General Lee's have some baby cucs forming as well. And the plant I nearly gave up on looks healthy as can be now, so all is well on the cuc front.

Still not a single ripe tomato yet. I have an estimated 175 tomatoes on the vine right now and, boy, are some getting big. A few have *just* started to change color a bit. And the ones in the SWC's are doing very poorly. The leaves are all turning yellow with crispy brown edges. I don't know what's getting them, but I'm not holding out much hope for them at this point.

So overall, things are going well. The cauliflower and broccoli I started indoors is germinating on schedule and progressing. The only issue I'm facing now is what to plant in vacant squares as I harvest. I don't really have anything I can put in right now in Mid-July, so I don't think I'm really optimizing my space at the moment.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Green beans

The first harvest of bush beans is in full swing. So far have pulled 28 ounces of them from 3 squares worth. And I have 9 more squares of them well on their way, so we should have plenty of them for a while.

After a nice harvest of sugar snap peas a couple weeks ago, the next wave of them are coming in now. The shelling peas however seemed to have shut down. That's okay since I wasn't all that impressed with them. The yield was really too small to do much with. I don't think I'll grow them again next year.

The cucumber plants are really taking to the warm and sunny weather. The pickling cucs are heading up the netting. And the the slicing cucs are looking a lot better. The one I assumed was dead, is now putting out nice new growth too.

I also started a few broccoli and cauliflower seeds inside. With all the rearranging we have on the table for Fall, I'm not sure we'll get much of a harvest before we have to shut everything down, but there's no harm in trying.

Aside from that, not much else to report. I've just been watering/weeding/pruning for the last week or so. Still waiting on some tomatoes to ripen. I have a TON of them on the vine, though. If even half of them are usable, I'm going to have to learn how to can really quick!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I have begun transitioning to Summer crops now that the Spring ones are finishing. I harvested the last of the lettuce earlier this week. Cut and washed it. We should have enough to last us through the weekend, and then that's it for fresh lettuce for the season. Planted bush beans, carrots and radishes in their place.

Also harvested what side shoots I could from my four broccoli plants and pulled them. Had about another half-bunch worth from the sideshoots. Planted some more bush beans and carrots in their place. My cucumbers have responded very well now that they're getting strong direct sun after being shaded by the broccoli for so long. Also cut the second cauliflower head (which was a bit smaller than the first, but still good), and replanted bush beans in that square.

Here are the peas (which partially blew off the netting during some wind last night), cucs next them, replanted squares where the broccoli were, peppers, carrots and bush beans.

Tomatoes, pole beans, bush beans, cayenne peppers, basil, swiss chard, parsley, cilantro, and not pictured -- carrots and bunching onions.

Tomatoes, bush beans and yellow onions.

This is the former lettuce patch. Now it's tomatoes, bush beans, carrots and radishes.

I have my money on these beefsteaks being the first ones to ripen.

The pole beans have grown past the top of the trellis. The one on the right reached over and is now growing along the top rung of the neighboring trellis.

After all the rainy and cool weather, it's finally starting to feel like June here in NJ. The warm weather crops should perk up now.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Harvested the first of my two cauliflower heads. This one measured about 9 inches across and looks great. I could have waited a bit and seen if it got a little bigger, but I was impatient to have at least some cauliflower.

Here are some Ultimate Opener tomatoes. They look to be doing well. Might have a tomato or two by the 4th of July, which would be great!

Bush beans, flowering.

Here's my tangle of determinate tomatoes. Rutgers on the left, Romas on the right. I pruned a bit and that helped make some sense of the mess. Impossible to see, but there are some blooms in there.

Also spotted a ladybug crawling on my pole beans. Tried to get a picture but it was too blurry. I'm glad to have the help controlling my aphids. They seem to love my swiss chard and my peas. They're leaving everything else alone. I've been using a jet of water to wash them away and that seems to be keeping them at bay.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rain, rain, rain

It's been raining and raining and raining so no new photos to post. But I will summarize what's been happening since my last post.

The tomatoes continue to develop. I have small tomatoes on nearly all the indeterminate varieties now, and blooms on the determinates. I'm afraid though, that planting 2 determinate plants per 18 gal SWC was a mistake. They're starting to look like a big tangled mess. Also, one Ultimate Opener is starting to worry me a bit in that the leaves are curling a bit. I'll have to watch it.

The lettuce seems to be nearly finished. Just harvesting the last of it this week. The unseasonably cool weather has kept it from bolting so I think we'll get a roughly 6-week harvesting period from it, which isn't too bad.

We're getting a steady harvest of sugar snap peas and I picked the first of my Mr. Big peas today. I only have one square of them so the harvest will be rather small, but I'll know better for next year.

Both the bush beans and pole beans are growing quickly. The pole vines are about 4 feet tall now and most of the bush plants have tiny beans hanging from them.

I don't think the peppers enjoy this cool weather much, but they seem to be hanging in there.

Hopefully, this rain will let up soon and I can get some pictures taken for my next post.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's starting to crank up now

Starting to really get some crops going now. Harvested the first batch of sugar snap peas, three heads of lettuce, the first bunch of broccoli and more spinach. My first square of spinach started to bolt, so I quickly harvested the rest of the square and froze it.

Here's a head of buttercrunch and two heads of heirloom iceberg lettuce (including one freakishly large head). Also the first broccoli of the year. (And my daughter's lunchbox.)

My Ultimate Opener tomato plants have some small, marble-sized tomatos on them now. My Mr. Big Peas have lots of pods with peas starting to form inside. One tiny bell pepper, 1/4" in diameter, is hanging from one of my California Wonder plants. So things are really starting to come in now.

Besides all the harvesting and gazing in awe as the plants are starting to take off, I also tied some larger leaves around my cauliflower heads to blanch them. One of them is about the size of my fist and the other is a bit smaller.

Still battling some aphids on a few plants, but a jet of water from my water bottle seems to be keeping them at bay.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Peas & Pinching Suckers

I spent the weekend pinching the suckers on my tomato plants -- all of which have flowers on them now. Hopefully soon I'll start to see some fruits starting to form.

The peas are just about ready to start being picked.

And the cauliflower heads are beginning to form as well.

I haven't done much else with the garden this past week except water it and scan for pests. I've been busy with another backyard project involving digging out a gravel section and sodding it. This will be the new garden location for next year. A lot of work, but the end result should be fantastic.

Monday, June 1, 2009

June Update

Been busy with other things and haven't updated in a while. But everything is going well with the garden. Still having regular salads and keeping an eye out for pests. Something is still chewing on my cauliflower and now a few broccoli leaves. I haven't caught them in the act yet and have been spraying BT.

Here's a broccoli head with a quarter for scale.

Those are pickling cucumber transplants on the left, which seem to be doing okay despite the shade it gets from the broccoli. On the right are General Lee cucumbers that I direct sowed after the transplants died. They seem to be doing fine also so far.

Tomatos, pole beans, swiss chard, cayenne peppers, basil, parsley, cilantro and spinach.

Tomatoes, cauliflower and onions.

Tomatoes and lettuce.

The peas are starting to flower.

I forgot to get a shot of the SWC's, but they are growing well, too. So, overall, no complaints and things are progressing nicely.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Aphids & radishes

The aphids have arrived. Found a few clusters under my swiss chard leaves. I sprayed them off with water and will watch them closely.

With the help of my 5-year-old, I harvested my square of radishes. Thirteen of them -- about 6 ounces. Cut a few up and threw them in a salad for lunch.

The broccoli has begun to form heads.

The General Lee cucumber transplants have shriveled up and died. I direct sowed a couple replacements in this square.

The National Pickling cucumbers seem to be doing better.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Not much new happening with the garden. I put the peppers in today (after I took the photos), so now the garden is fully planted, save of 1 square I haven't decided what to do with. I did discover a problem with my layout -- I have my cucumber transplants sitting in the row behind my broccoli plants. They're getting shaded pretty bad. I just hope they get real tall real fast to get out of the shadow. I'll know better for next year. I think I'll probably direct sow them too, rather than transplant since they don't seem all that healthy.

Box 4, prior to planting the bell peppers. You'll notice you can't see the cucumbers, as they're behind the right two broccoli plants. The radishes in the front row are almost ready -- I can see the top of the root poking out.

Seems like the leafminers are leaving my spinach alone for now.

Lots of green here.

Lots of lettuce here. We're having salads on a regular basis now.

The SWC tomatoes seem to be doing well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


We had a light frost last night, and of course I took zero preventative measures. In a moment of cockeyed optimism, I believed the most favorable forecast of an overnight low of 41. Oh well, live and learn. By the time I got outside around 6:20, the only thing that was crispy with frost was the lettuce. Everything else was just wet. I'll keep an eye on everything for a few days and see if I sustained any real damage.

I also have my peppers out hardening. I'm hoping to get them out in the garden early next week. They are beginning to outgrow their plastic cups.

Harvested another few ounces of lettuce and spinach for salads tonight. Delicious!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

First harvest

Had the first harvest from the garden this weekend. Took 1/2 ounce of lettuce to put on my sandwich yesterday, and plucked 2 ounces of spinach to use for dinner tonight. Looks pretty nice.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lots of planting!

Did a lot of planting the last few days. Transplanted all my tomatoes (17 total - 7 varieties), basil and the last of the lettuce. Also sowed cilantro, green onions and more carrots. Both the bush beans and pole beans have germinated and are growing fast.

Here's a tour of the boxes...

I'll start harvesting some spinach in the next couple days.

Some leaf lettuce is just about ready for some harvesting as well.

I finished my Self-Watering Containers and planted Roma tomatoes in one and Rutgers tomatoes in the other. The jury is still out for me about these things. They are expensive to make, what with using 2 totes and and 2 cu ft of Miracle Grow Potting Mix, which isn't cheap. In the end, for the cost of making these two, I could have built another 4x4 raised bed filled with Mel's Mix and had more planting area. I'll see how it goes with them this season. It did allow me to plant 4 more tomato plants than I would have otherwise.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Beautiful weather

A beautiful spring day here in NJ. I took advantage of it by mowing the lawn and building a backyard picnic table that we've wanted since we moved here. That didn't leave much time for gardening, but I did transplant the last of my lettuce seedlings and watered everything.

My tomato seedlings, hardening off on the porch. These will go into the garden on Thursday or Friday.

The four tomato plants I bought at Walmart. Two are Celebrity Hybrids, one cherry tomato, and one Beefsteak Heirloom.

Peas and broccoli, getting big.

Two squares of spinach. The leafminers haven't gotten to everything (yet!).

The lettuce patch, looking really good.

Friday, May 8, 2009


It finally stopped raining, but now I'm getting hit with some garden pests. My spinach is being hammered by leaf miners. I know the common recommendation is to pull the affected leaves, but my plants are still pretty small. If I pulled the bad leaves, I'd be pulled 50% or more of each plants total. In desperation I hit them with some permethrin -- definitely not the safest insecticide out there, but it was way cheaper than Neem. Besides, I'm still a little ways off from harvesting any spinach. If I can find some cheaper Neem, maybe I'll try it.

Also got a bit trigger happy and killed what I now believe to be a Sac Spider -- a highly beneficial garden predator that eats problem bugs. Oh well. At least I'll know for next time.

I planted my Kentucky Wonder pole beans and my Burpee Stringless bush beans yesterday and transplanted out some more lettuce.

Finally, I realized I started four Rutgers Tomatoes, thinking they were indeterminate, when in fact they are determinate. So now I have no room for them, and will have to buy a few tomato plants at the store to replace them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Still raining

Well, it's continued to rain -- haven't seen a glimpse of the sun since Saturday. So not much to report. It stopped long enough for me to go out and take a few pictures to show how things are growing.

Here are the peas and broccoli. The broc is really starting to take off now.

Here are some radishes starting to get going.

Some spinach, well along, and a second square just started. The parsley is getting nice and bushy.

And finally, the lettuce.

I'm also hardening off some lettuce seedlings for transplanting on Friday.

I'm also beginning to plan a project for the fall that will improve our backyard in general as well as improving and expanding the garden. It involves replacing our old metal shed with a slightly larger wooden one in a slightly different area of the yard (where 2 of my current 4x4 boxes are). This will open up about a 15 x 22 area of lawn that I can fence in and build more boxes. We've learned from neighbors that our entire backyard was a huge garden for 50 years or so, so I have a hunch the soil is pretty good. Building on top of this will allow me to use bottomless boxes to take advantage of this soil (the current boxes are lined with weed fabric and sitting on a patch of gravel).

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Nothing much to report this weekend. It's been raining pretty steady and when we did get a few hours of sun, I had to mow the lawn and started clearing some of the overgrowth from the rest of our property that lies across the brook. Looks like the town may actually be close to fixing the brook -- hauling away all the old cement and rubble and stabilizing the banks to stop the erosion. So I figure it might be a good time to get things cleared over there in preparation for possibly having our access restored. Plenty of room over there for a 3-bin composter, a few more raised beds and maybe some other things.

Speaking of the brook, I decided to name our garden "Gastonbrook Farm" since the brook that runs through the back of our property is called Gaston Brook (I just found out it's official name while talking to the borough engineer at the council meeting.)

Thursday, April 30, 2009


The heat wave broke yesterday and temperatures have returned to normal. All my plants seemed to have survived it okay. One of the Iceberg lettuce plants isn't looking real healthy, but I'm going to give it a little more time to see if it recovers.

Three out of four swiss chard has sprouted. I'm a little confused with these. I planted what I'm fairly certain was one seed per hole, but it looks like 3 sprouts have come up from each. Not sure if this is all one plant or not. I guess I need to read up on them a bit more.

Spinach, also doing well. (One shriveled up and died. I resowed another seed there.)

Peas and broccoli.

I planted a second square of spinach, a second square of swiss chard, a square of radishes and started my cucumbers inside. Also finished my first SWC. It's a bit on the ugly side, but luckily no one will see the guts of it. The "one tote" design was a bit of a pain. Took forever trimming and trimming to make the lid cutout fit down inside. Walmart had 18 gal Sterilite totes on sale so I'm going to try the two-tote method with the pond basket wicking chamber for my second one.

Lastly, the fruit trees are flowering. And my new dwarf gala looks to have survived the transplant. It's leafing and I see some flower buds starting to poke out. The grape vines are also beginning to leaf.