Busy, busy, busy

I have two activities I try to do each summer in the kitchen, both of which are pretty time consuming. One is to can some green beans and the other is to make some zucchini crisp. For some dumb/smart reason, this year I decided to do both in the same afternoon/evening/night. Needless to say, I am looking forward to going to bed tonight. On the plus side, I got them both out of the way.

Making use of the giant zucchini

Making use of the giant zucchini

Final product being sliced up and made ready to take to work

Final product being sliced up and made ready to take to work

Fat chef supervising the loading of the mason jars

Fat chef supervising the loading of the mason jars

Quite the production

Quite the production

Ten new jars of green beans

Ten new jars of green beans

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Beetle Bucket O’Death

Stupid Japanese beetles. They are attacking the sweet corn this year.  I’m finding them burrowing into the silk and making a mess.  Tonight I decided to take a bucket of soapy water and see how many I could collect.  By the time I got out to the garden, there weren’t as many in the corn as there were earlier.  I did find a pocket of them on the pole beans and another 10 were in the marigold flowers by the deck.  Side note, don’t people plant marigolds to keep insects away? Anyway, the mother load of the pests were in the weeping cherry tree.  All I had to do was hold the bucket under a branch and tap it to have them all dive for the ground only to be plunged into the “Beetle Bucket O’Death”.

Unfortunately, I know that I have barely scratched the surface of the total number of beetles out there.  I imagine I could do this every day for the rest of summer and still not make a real difference.  I did try to offer the kids a job.  A nickle a beetle in the bucket.  So far, no takers.

Beetle Bucket O'Death

Beetle Bucket O’Death

July Update

Umm… ya. It has been a month since the last blog post. Sorry about that but it has been busy. Here is a catch all post with pictures from the past four weeks or so.

First up are some pictures of the garden from June 13th before we left on vacation.

Here is a shot of the corn.

Here is a shot of the corn.

Three cucumber plants starting to climb

Three cucumber plants starting to climb

Sweet potatoes are taking off. Starting to leave the raised bed.

Sweet potatoes are taking off. Starting to leave the raised bed.

Golden egg yellow squash still look like two separate plants.

Golden egg yellow squash still look like two separate plants.

Some nice green tomatoes on the Brandy-Boy.

Some nice green tomatoes on the Brandy-Boy.

This year we headed back to the mountains. We spent 10 days in Colorado visiting Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Boulder, Ft. Collins, Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak, Canon City and many other points in between.

Pet turkey at one of the Airbnbs on our trip. Kids loved it.

Pet turkey at one of the Airbnbs on our trip. Kids loved it.

Panoramic shot of Emerald Lake in RMNP

Panoramic shot of Emerald Lake in RMNP

A stop along Trail Ridge Road in RMNP

A stop along Trail Ridge Road in RMNP

Eventually, as with all vacations, we had to come home. Also, as with past vacations in June, the garden grows by leaps and bounds while we are gone. This year we had over 4.5 inches of rain while we were away and the temperatures were in the 80s-90s. Very good growing weather as is evident by the next couple pictures.  I didn’t bother showing the rest of the garden as it is just a overgrown jungle.

Corn after vacation

Corn after vacation

A ripe cherry tomato!

A ripe cherry tomato!

Nemesis bugs, Japanese Beetles

Nemesis bugs, Japanese Beetles

A week or so after getting back, it was time to start harvesting some vegetables! So far I have gotten peas, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers and green beans. The peas just finished up but I expect the rest to continue producing for a bit longer yet. At least until the bugs and disease start killing the plants. Squash vine borers and spotted blight seem to shorten the squash and tomatoes before they are ready.

Not too bad a harvest.

Not too bad a harvest.

And finally that takes up to today. The shots below were taken in the garden tonight.  Bush green beans are moving into their second week and pole beans are just about to be ready. Corn is fully tasseled and producing ears. I’m guessing another week or maybe two until we get to try some.

They don't call these cargo shorts for nothing. Pocket full o' Green Beans.

They don’t call these cargo shorts for nothing. Pocket full o’ Green Beans.

New weather station for the garden

For an early Father’s Day present I received a new weather station. This makes the third weather station I have had in the garden.  The latest edition is the Ambient Weather WiFi Osprey WS-2902A.

For information about the two previous weather stations (WS 2080 and WS 1400-IP), you can read about them here.

There were two main reasons for upgrading.  First was that the rain sensor had failed to properly record rainfall for over a year.  The second was that the size and weight of the WS 1400 was pulling over the fence post resulting in the garden fence becoming loose and sagging.  The new weather station is more aerodynamic and will hopefully be more stable in strong winds.

The new weather station has arrived

The new weather station has arrived

Assembled weather station

Assembled weather station

Since the garden post has already started to lean, I decided that it was time to install a more stable mounting solution. Nothing real fancy here. Just a 6 ft 4×4 post with a 5 ft 1 in metal pipe.

New mounting pole

New mounting pole

Digging a hole

Digging a hole

New mounting pole braced and ready for concrete

New mounting pole braced and ready for concrete

Waiting for the water to be absorbed into the Quickrete

Waiting for the water to be absorbed into the Quickrete

New weather station ready for operation

New weather station ready for operation

The station has been up for almost a week now and seems to be operating as expected. We have had a couple decent rains so far and the amount of rain being reported has matched that of the simple plastic rain gauge also in the garden.

Spring planting for 2018

Over the last two weekends I was able to get all but one vegetable planted in the garden.

First off though, is this years diagram of the planting plan.  Nothing too radical this year, pretty much most of the same from past years just rotated so I don’t have things in the same spots.

Garden plan for 2018

Garden plan for 2018

The first weekend (May 5/6) was a bit rushed because I had to first get the second garden bed replaced.  I also had to move the lettuce from the back two beds to the second replacement bed.  All of that took a while. In the end, I had time to get the peas and radish planted and get the tomatoes out of their tiny pots and into the ground where they can have all the root and head room they could wish for.

In the years past, I never provided the peas and beans anything other than water and occasional fertilizer.  This year I am giving an inoculant a try.  When ordering seeds this year I threw Burpee Booster into the cart.  We’ll see if I notice any difference.

Giving the beans and peas a boost

Giving the beans and peas a boost

All six tomato plants with ladders

All six tomato plants with ladders

Two Brandy Boy tomatoes

Two Brandy Boy tomatoes

Two Happy Day tomatoes

Two Happy Day tomatoes

Two Happy Day tomatoes

Two Cherry Baby tomatoes

Pea tower with a few left over lettuce plants I did not move

Pea tower with a few left over lettuce plants I did not move

Transplanted lettuce and bean tower

Transplanted lettuce and bean tower

For the second weekend (May 12/13), the goal was to get the rest of the garden planted. The weather forecast looked like this.

Not a good forecast for planting

Not a good forecast for planting

As a result, I was up and in the garden before 8 am in an effort to get as much planted as I could before the rain arrived.  I’m happy to report I was able to get the garden planted.  In fact, it didn’t actually rain until Monday afternoon.  I had time to go to Lowes and get some sweet potato plants and get them in as well on Saturday. Between the vegetable garden and other needed yard work, we ended up being out until dark.  I was beginning to wish for the promised rain so I could be chased inside.  🙂

So, what all was planted this weekend…

  • Sweet corn
  • Zucchini
  • Yellow Squash
  • Green Beans – Pole
  • Green Bean – Bush
  • Cucumbers
  • Basil
  • Carrots
  • Sweet Potatoes
Twelve sweet potato plants

Twelve sweet potato plants

All that remain are the onions. I’m still waiting on Burpee to process that portion of my order. I am tempted to just cancel the onions and try and find some locally.

Out with the old. In with the new.

After 12 years, it is finally time to start replacing the original raised garden beds. I’m starting off this spring by replacing two of the original four beds with a plan of replacing the remaining two this fall.  The two beds added six years ago are holding up quite well and I decided to construct these replacements the same way.  I bought enough 12 inch raised bed corners from Gardener’s Supply to build two new beds.  After that, I needed to get 12 cedar boards for the sides.  I picked up these 2 x 6 x 8’s from Menards.

Enough cedar boards for two beds

Enough cedar boards for two beds

I used 8 of them for the long sides and cut the remaining 4 in half to form the shorter, 4 ft ends for both beds.

Cutting the 8 ft boards in half to make the ends

Cutting the 8 ft boards in half to make the ends

I found I could save a bit of money by buying the 12 inch corners but continue to use the 6 inch lumber. The corners hold both boards just fine and I drilled two extra holes and added two more screws.

12 in corners with just two pre-drilled holes

12 in corners with just two pre-drilled holes

Two more holes and screws for good measure

Two more holes and screws for good measure

Continuing assembly

Continuing assembly

Completed bed awaiting its new home

Completed bed awaiting its new home

Digging out the inside perimeter

Digging out the inside perimeter

It turns out, building the new bed was the easy part. Removing the old beds was a bit of a back breaker. The 4 x 4 cedar posts  and sides were pretty easy to remove as they have been there for some time and the bottoms were mostly rotten. The 2 x 2 pressure treated support posts I drove in over the years to help hold the bed together were another matter all together. After a lot of digging and prying with a shovel I managed to finally get them all out or broken off below the soil line. After a week of resting my back, I tackled the second bed. The second bed being replaced was not going to be so easy. That bed had four repaired posts secured with some Quickrete and the 2 x 2 support posts screwed into the 4 x 4. If I was going to build this style of bed again, this is how I would have done it. For this task, I borrowed my neighbors spud bar and while my back didn’t hurt any less than the first bed, it did make the job possible without breaking my shovel.

Original garden bed completely removed

Original garden bed completely removed

New bed maneuvered into place

New bed maneuvered into place

Remains of the old garden bed

Remains of the old garden bed

New bed with soil returned

New bed with soil returned

Rinse and repeat. Do it all over again on the second bed.

Rinse and repeat. Do it all over again on the second bed.

Both completed beds

Both completed beds

Now… let’s hope that these new beds last at LEAST another 12 years.

Freeze Warnings and Frost Advisories

This year we are being reminded why the safe planting date isn’t until a week or two into May. Last night we had a Freeze Warning where the temperatures reached a low of 30 degrees. Tonight we have a frost advisory with temperatures expect in the mid 30s.

All the tomato plants outside in the small plastic greenhouse have survived so far.  Looking at the forecast seems to indicate that this might have been the last of the cold weather.

Tomatoes surviving the cold nights

Tomatoes surviving the cold nights

Two other items of note. I stopped back at Walmart and pick up some more cheap 6″ pots for the remaining plants.  It makes it easier to distribute them around the shelves and seems to help reduce the moisture loss from the disposable pots.

Also, if you look at the bottom of the shelves you’ll see an old brake rotor from the minivan.  I was worried the whole thing might blow over in the wind and thought that some weight in the bottom might help hold it in place.