Saturday, June 29, 2013

Potato Harvest 2013

I just harvested my potatoes, but I really should have done it about a month ago. Just been too busy, and thought they would be fine waiting in the ground.

Lesson learned. Next time I'm harvesting them as soon as the tops are mostly dead. For one thing, it was hot, sweaty work digging them up when it was over 100 degrees. For another thing, they didn't look so good when I did get them out.

Some of the potatoes had already started to sprout, as you see in this picture on the left. On the right is a good example of the many potatoes I dug up that had holes in them from bugs tunneling into them. Yuck! Some of them had also rotted. I threw those away, but kept the sprouted ones, and the ones that has some holes in them, if the rest of the potato seemed OK.

Last time I grew potatoes, I hardly got out more than I put in. Central Texas isn't a very good potato growing area, but I've read that you can expect about a 5-fold yield here. However, that's much less than in good potato growing areas where you can get a 10-fold yield.

This year I planted 3 pounds of two varieties, Purple Viking and Red Pontiac, and got about twice that much back. That's an improvement, so I hope that as I get my soil better and better I might finally get up to that 5-fold yield.

Just like last time, the Purple Viking potatoes were the best variety. I got 6.16 pounds of them, and they also generally looked like they were in better shape, with fewer bug holes and sprouts.
The Red Pontiac potatoes yielded 5.63 and had a lot more damage from bugs. This is a variety from Florida that's supposed to do well in the South, but I really should have dug them earlier.
A while ago I got a few yellow potatoes in my CSA bag, and they sprouted before I had a chance to eat them. I went ahead and planted them in containers just to see what I'd get. It was a bit late for potato planting at that time, but I did end up getting about half a pound of small potatoes that will make good seed potatoes next time. I'm not sure what variety they are, but they're probably Yukon Gold. They look like Yukon Golds, and it's a popular variety.

Finally, you may be wondering whatever happened to the mini-potatoes I grew from true potato seed. Well, sadly, most of them rotted. I dug the ones up that didn't rot and put them in the fridge for safe keeping. I really should have put them in the fridge right away to begin with. This is all I have left.

I've decided I'm going to stick all these potatoes in the fridge and use them as seed potatoes to plant this winter for next year's harvest. Potatoes you want to eat shouldn't be kept in the fridge because it makes them convert their starches to sugars and taste bad, but for planting that doesn't matter. The Purple Viking and especially Red Pontiac potatoes look so bad from being left in the ground too long that I really don't feel like eating any of them anyway. Since they're already starting to sprout, I think they'll make fine seed potatoes. Putting them in the fridge should make them go dormant, and then when it's time to plant them this winter, they should sprout this fine. Maybe next time the soil will be improved enough for me to get an even better harvest, and next time I'll dig them much sooner before they start to rot or get eaten by bugs in the ground.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Firefly Moon and Summer Solstice

The summer solstice was last weekend, so the days are getting shorter again. However, we're still just starting the hottest time of the year, and temperatures have been going over 100 for the last several days.

In the back garden, the Tatume squash is sending out long vines, but Squash Vine Borers are getting some of them. It hasn't set any fruit yet. I'm not giving it any special help to see if it really is resistant to SVB's. It would sure be nice to find a variety of C. pepo that can produce a good crop despite SVB's.
The Moon and Stars watermelon is sending out vines too. To be fair, I did plant the cucurbits late. I'm not sure if they're going to have enough time to make a good crop.
The Christmas Lima beans are getting very lush. No sign of any beans yet though, but the vines sure are impressive.
The Corno di Toro and Chapeau de Frade peppers I have in the back are starting to make little fruits.
The French Red Shallots are still very green, even though it looks like it's time to dig up the potatoes and garlic. I'm not sure how dead-looking the tops of shallots are supposed to be before you dig them, but probably more than this.
In the front garden, my husband has been building wire cages around the tomatoes to protect them from the deer, which keep eating the fruits and new leaves. It's helping to protect what tomatoes are left, but a lot of damage was done already. Looks like I'm going to have to go to the trouble of building a fence around the whole garden eventually.
The contrast between the Rattlesnake beans in the front and the lima beans in the back shows the kind of damage the deer can do. They've had all their leaves eaten right at deer-level.
The peppers in the front were being eaten badly too. They weren't eating enough of the plants to kill them, but were making it hard for them to grow a good crop of fruits by stunting their growth. Now that Daniel has cages around them I hope that they can catch up.
The butternut squash I planted in the front are also getting badly eaten. I'm kind of surprised deer even like squash plants, because they have those irritating hairs. I don't like touching them myself.

Weirdly, they still don't like eggplants. I'm getting a good crop of eggplants except for the occassional one pecked by the neighbor's chickens (but apparently the chickens don't actually like them either because they just peck them a time or two and then stop). No sign of any eggplant leaves being eaten by deer.
Finally, I did get a good crop of tomatillos, which I've been accumulating in the fridge to make roasted tomatillo sauce, but the tomatillo plants seem to be dying off. They were the first nightshades to be planted, but I'm surprised they're tiring out before the tomatoes.

I have decided to take cuttings from the tomatillos and tomatoes, and root them in water to try planting for a fall crop. If you'll remember, last year I tried to grow a fall crop of tomatoes from seed, but they didn't get to ripen in time. It may end up being another waste of time, but I wonder if cuttings will go faster. I have room in the back garden (where the deer don't go!), so I think it's worth a try.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Eggplant Harvest

I just harvested a bunch of Fengyuan Purple eggplants. I've never seen an eggplant this long and skinny before.

The lighting for the picture wasn't that great, but you get the idea. I stuck my hand in there for scale. The longest ones are over a foot long.

The deer haven't really been bothering the plants, but several of the eggplants have marks like these in them. Looks like marks from chicken beaks to me! The neighbor's chickens strike again. So much for that idea that chickens are good for the garden. They're almost as destructive as deer! I think most of the eggplants are salvageable. I can cut the pecked part off and eat the rest, but I also found some more tomatoes that had been pecked and earwigs were eating the rest.

I'm looking forward to making some delicious curries and stir-fries with these!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Greening Moon - belated full moon update

I'm back! Last week we went on vacation to the Big Bend area, and before that I was really busy with final exams and getting final grades in, so May's full moon post is about two weeks late.

May is supposed to be our wettest month, and we did get around 3 inches of rain, which isn't actually that much, but better than we have been getting.

Lots of things have been happening in the garden that probably deserve their own post. First the neighbor's chickens were causing a lot of damage digging up things in the front garden, then while we were on vacation the deer found it! I also got my sweet potato plants from Duck Creek Farms and planted them. I've been harvesting a few paste tomatoes, but I think the deer are eating a lot of them too. That makes comparing yields from the different varieties I planted difficult. I might have to leave out that bit of data this time around and just compare things like plant vigor and heat tolerance.

I knew I was risking things by planting my Rattlesnake beans in the front, and sure enough, the deer have been eating the leaves off of them. The funny thing is it looks like my deer are lazy, and are only eating the leaves in the middle of the vine, not bothering to bend down to eat the ones near the ground, or stand up to reach the higher ones.

The chickens dug up a lot of the beans, so in their place I planted the rest of my Waltham Butternut squash seeds. There were from Seed Savers Exchange in 2009, and I guess they were getting old because I was having trouble getting them to germinate. I went ahead and planted all the rest of my seeds in the ground before we left, and when we came back some of them were sprouting.

The deer are also eating the ends of the shoots on the tomatoes and peppers. I guess the new growth is more tender. Some of my peppers are getting fruit anyway, but I'm sure the deer have eaten a lot of the blossoms.

Weirdly, they don't seem to like the eggplants. The remaining eggplants I have that didn't get dug up by the chickens are making fruits now. This variety is Fengyuan Purple, and the eggplants growing on it are really long and skinny! The biggest one I have so far looks like it's over a foot long. Guess I need to make some more Thai Green Curry paste to make these into curry with.

The tomatillos aren't looking so good. I've harvested a lot of them, but now it looks like they're starting to die down. I don't know if it's because they aren't getting enough water or something else. The deer haven't bothered them either, even the ones outside the wire cage my husband made for them.

I should be harvesting lots of tomatoes now, but the deer have been mostly beating me to them. When I got back from vacation there were hardly any ripe ones to be found, except for a few that look like this. This is a nice big Red Brandywine with a big chomp out of it. Another annoying this is it appears deer don't know the difference between a ripe and an unripe tomato. Maybe because they're colorblind? I found lots of green tomatoes, including a really nice Opalka that was the size of a Poblano pepper with bites out of them.

The only thing I have left to plant is my okra. Some of them took a really long time to come up, which isn't that unusual with okra. I got three varieties from Native Seeds/SEARCH, all from Texas: Beck's Gardenville, Eagle Pass, and Hill Country Red. I know I'm a bit late on okra planting, but okra can really take the heat, so I think they'll be OK.

Taking a quick look at the herb garden, the Esperanza is starting to overwhelm things again, like I knew it would. The other plants aren't doing too bad though. Herbs really like being in the ground much more than in pots. Once I planted all my herbs in the ground, ones that had been in pots on my apartment balcony for years, they really took off. In the background here is the Mexican oregano flowering like crazy. To the gnome's right is marjoram, while to his left is thyme. Elsewhere in the herb garden I've got Greek oregano, rosemary, peppermint, orange mint, catmint, catnip, lemon balm, yarrow, skullcap, horehound, parsley, and now a few different kinds of basil.

I'm still waiting on the potatoes to die down. It's taking longer than I thought it would. I also haven't harvested the garlic or shallots yet. The garlic still doesn't look good, but the shallots are still pretty green.

This is Tatume squash, a Mexican heirloom that is in the C. pepo species but is supposed to be more resistant to squash vine borers. I planted five, and it looks like the borers already got one, but the others are doing pretty well, so we'll see.

The Moon and Stars watermelon plants are also doing well. I planted four of them. I also just planted three Melon de Castilla plants, a cantaloupe from Native Seeds/SEARCH. 

The Christmas Lima beans are in the back, so the deer aren't eating them, and they're doing great. They're just starting to get blossoms.

Here are my sweet potatoes I just planted right before we went on vacation. They probably deserve a post of their own. They've just gotten settled after transplanting and are starting to grow.

The fava beans just aren't doing too great though. It started getting hot just as they were making pods, so I think they just didn't have enough time. This fall I'll have to plant them much sooner.

OK, that's my update. By now I should be getting my summer crops in if it wasn't for the darn deer.