Saturday, July 12, 2014

2014, year of the woodchuck

I mentioned in last week's post that I am at war with some very clever woodchucks. Let me elaborate!
There have always been woodchuck holes in two locations outside my cedar fenced yard, and just about every year the young chucks make forays into the yard by digging under the fence, and were either dispatched or driven off by Sol, and before him, Caddie and Kenji, my previous basenji's.  Often they would stand and fight instead of running, with the inevitable result a dead woodchuck.
This year the two young chucks decided on a cleverer plan--- long tunnels coming up in the midst of shrubs, sunchokes and even the raspberry patch! From these they make quick runs into nearby plantings, with a hole close by to escape to if discovered by the dog.
I found each hole by searching near each area of destruction. For example-- the pea patch by the sunchokes suddenly looked like this one morning:

The woodchucks had torn down the vines and eaten all of the tender tips. I found the hole neatly hidden in a six foot tall stand of sunchokes, filled it in, and put a cinder block on top:

I have found three holes, including the one by the potatoes that I mentioned in my video. Sol has made this spot his new vantage point for guarding the yard:

I appreciate his effort, but at 12 years old his  best days of woodchuck hunting may be behind him. 
My latest strategy is to put floating row cover over the chuck's recent favorites, including my burgundy beans-- they nipped back the tops a couple of days age.  And to think I spent all winter planning how to deal with bean and cucumber beetles, not woodchucks!  
But I try to keep a sense of humor about this epic battle with the woodchucks, and to enjoy the July bounty of the gardens, especially everything in the tomato family -- including potatoes and peppers. More on those next week.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Video Tour for July

Here's my latest video tour, recorded yesterday:

Right now it's 89 degrees and we need rain-- I hope we get some on the 4th as Tropical Storm Arthur goes by.  I'll give up playing outside on the holiday for a good soaking!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Red Harvest-- radishes, strawberries and potatoes

Here are some pics from my red harvest -- no, not the book, but the best radishes I have grown in years (the secret is good spacing, I finally realize), lots of strawberries, and the first red potatoes of the season:

And yes, more strawberries!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Planting squash and a snake sighting

I began to put my plans for a better squash season into action last week.  First I built a small structure from plastic tubing and covered it with Remay fabric. Then I planted two 'Tigress' squash seedlings inside, cosy and protected, I hope, from cucumber beetles.

Here's my little hoop house:

And inside before planting:

A view from the other end of the garden:

I've always been very comfortable with snakes, and enjoy meeting them in the garden. They are great eaters of small insects. I found this one under some lumber I moved to hold the Remay in place. I hope it sticks around to eat any cucumber beetles that show up!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fighting back -- my plan to have a successful zucchini crop this year

Every season in the garden is a bit different, and I enjoy the challenge of adapting to  the many variables and still producing a good harvest.  Despite my best efforts, every year there is  at least one  easy crop that doesn't produce well.
In 2013 that crop was zucchini.  Not just for me, either, but for everyone I talked to who gardens in the Northeast US.  OK, I know all the jokes about leaving bags of baseball bat sized squash on doorsteps, but most summers I enjoy the exuberant output of my half dozen or so zucchini plants. 
Last year there was no exuberance, and all my zucchini died young,  victims of  fungus and the crowd of nasty little cucumber beetles that transmitted it. 
This year I am fighting back!  I bought two disease resistant varieties, Tigress (I grew this for years, but not last year) and Emerald Delight.  I am also (for the first time) starting all my squash in pots inside. They won't go into the garden until they have at least one set of true leaves. This means that beetles will not consume them before they have a chance to get to a fighting weight.
 I am also going to cover the young plants with a super light spun row cover until they flower, to further protect them from beetles. I'll have to uncover so they can be pollinated, but I hope by then the plants will be big and strong, and able to survive some chewing.  
And finally, I have some Neem spray that may help control the cucumber beetles. I use spray as a last resort- it's expensive, and even organic formulations can kill good insects too, throwing off the predator-prey balance in my garden.
I've also decided to start my winter squashes inside this year. I'm interested to see if this will make a difference in the final total of pounds of squash I store next fall.

Here's a pic of the zucchini seedlings just getting their first true leaves,  and the winter squash (and Brussels sprouts) planted but not yet showing:

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Early harvest dinner ingredients

Here's a pic of last week's pasta ingredients-- fiddleheads, asparagus, last fall's final garlic head, and a sprouted red onion. I made a delicious pasta with sherry butter sauce.
No I did not eat the daffodils! These are a fragrant mini that came with the house-- I put them in a small vase on the kitchen window sill to sniff while cooking.