Friday, May 28, 2010

Full Flower Moon

I'm going to call this moon by its Native American name, the flower moon, rather than the English name of milk moon, mainly because of these Black-Eyed Susans coming up under the elms in my back yard. Finally, some of that shade wildflower mix I planted is starting to pay off!

That's not the only thing that's blooming. My fence apparently came with Unexpected Bonus Morning Glories. When I took this picture today's blooms were just started to close back up. They're pretty earlier in the morning. I like how my yard was neglected for a while before we moved in and then I'm getting all these surprises coming up. (Except for the Bermuda grass. Still hate the Bermuda grass.)

Here's a wide shot of the Scarlet Runner Beans, because they're now well over my head. Sorry about the glare, it's a sunny day. They're still blooming a lot but not many pods. I hope it's not too hot for them already. They're growing up some bamboo stalks I, um, borrowed from the neighbor behind me that has bamboo growing into the alley. The stalks die every year and new ones come up, so I sorta helped myself to some of the dead stalks, tying them to the chain link fence for extra bean support. Soon I will be able to get that giant.

The regular beans are just starting to reach the top of the chain link fence. I have bamboo poles ready for them, but I don't think they get as tall as the runner beans.

Also in bloom is the squash. Under the squash jungle you can see a little yellow crookneck starting to grow. Won't be long before that baby is ready for the grill.

The cushaw squash vines are getting a bit huge. Lots of Bermuda grass coming up in the paths that I haven't put landscape fabric over yet, but these squash vines may be tough enough not to care.

I'm still waiting for my first ripe tomato, but it looks like I've got a contender! It's one of the Hawkins Plum tomatoes, and I've got lots more green ones on my plants. This is a family heirloom I got from a GardenWeb member (so it's not commercially available), and so far it's one of my best performing varieties, at least as far as how vigorous the plants are. The tomatoes are nice and big too, much bigger than Roma tomatoes from the store. But the real test is if they make good sauce. All my other tomato varieties are covered with green fruit but none have started to ripen yet, not even the small-fruited ones (Yellow Pear and Black Cherry).

The tomatillos are blooming and setting fruit as well. I hope that three plants will be enough for canning some salsa verde. Tomatillos are prolific, but I was planning on having more plants than three.

At least they're doing better than the peppers. I am having a horrible pepper year. Through a combination of late frosts, April heatwaves, snails, and cutworms, out of the several varieties I started from seed only a few stragglers have survived. My CSA farmer gave me three Jimmy Nardello plants and one has already been cutwormed! I never had a problem with cutworms before, so I didn't do any of those things you're supposed to do to protect from them. The eggplants fared abou the same, but I planted less of them, so now there are no survivors. I guess there's always next year, and for this year I will have to rely on my CSA and the farmer's market for peppers and eggplants.

I even resorted to buying a dozen jalapeno plants from Home Depot so I'll at least have something. They're sharing a bed with the Hawkins tomatoes. Only 8 of them have survived, but those look like they're going to make it.

If you'll recall, I was also having a lot of okra problems, but now I've finally got some big plants growing. I'd still like to have more, though. Maybe I'll put them in a different bed. As you can see here, I added watermelons (the viney things with the deeply lobed leaves) around the okra plants to hopefully act as a living mulch and help them along. Maybe later I can add black-eyed peas as some sort of African variant of the three sisters method.

Along the back fence I've got pickling cucumbers (seen here), luffa gourds, Charantais melons, and Malabar spinach planted. Most of them aren't very far along, as you can see here. There's a lot of dayflowers coming up along the fence as well, but they're a native wildflower and don't seem to hurt anything. The Malabar spinach is not related to true spinach, but is supposed to be an ornamental vine with edible leaves that likes hot weather, which is good since most greens don't do well in hot weather.

The Swiss chard's still fine though. I thought it should have bolted by now, but it's still going. I got a bit sick of it and haven't harvested any more in a while. In the middle of it you can see the Broadleaf Czech garlic that's about ready to harvest. I pulled up one earlier this week, but it looked like they needed a few more days.

The peas are kaput. Here's the last bit of dead vine before I pulled it up and chucked it in the compost pile. This fall I'll plant a lot more so I'll have enough to freeze. I had a good pea crop this spring, but just enough to eat fresh for a few meals. The weird weather didn't help though.

Earlier this week I also harvested the Purple Viking potatoes. They didn't do quite as bad as the Red LaSoda, but it was still a little disappointing. I ended up with 5.7 pounds, and a lot of them were split or chomped by bugs (the weigh-in was done after I washed them and threw away the ones that were too damaged to be worth saving). I'm going to go ahead and save the littlest ones for seed and try planting more this fall, but I was expecting a bit better than merely doubling the amount of potato I plant. What kind of yields are potatoes supposed to get, anyway? Well, Rio Grande is still in the ground. Maybe they'll do great.

The sweet potatoes are supposed to actually like it here, so hopefully I'll be getting more than a few pounds out of each bed for them. I've got them all planted now, all five varieties, two per bed (so one bed is half sweet potatoes and half I don't know what else yet). Aren't they pretty? They're really good looking plants. They look more like some tropical houseplant than a vegetable plant. They need a long growing season, though. I won't get to harvest them until frost, seven months from now. The good news is they'll be one of the few plants I expect to actually still be green and lush in July and August.

Finally, I leave you with a good look at one of my garden friends. I have a variety of different critters living in my yard, but a lot of them are quick and hard to photograph unless I happen to be ready with a camera at just the right time. Well, this Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) was hanging out on one of my elm trees just as I was going in. I've got several of them in my yard (another one likes the oak tree in the front), and they live all over Central Texas, though they camoflauge so well on tree bark that they're often not seen (they also tend to quickly run around to the opposite side of the tree trunk when someone walks by). It's amazing that a lizard that can get up to 11 inches from nose to tail-tip can be this sneaky, but here he is giving me that look that says, "What are you looking at? Just some tree bark here. Nothing to see. Please move along." I hope he's hungry for lots of nasty garden bugs.

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