July 4, 2015: Garden hoops and row cover

Birds and bugs, beware. My vegetables outgrew their original hoops last week, and since then have been open to the air. Exposed to flies and sparrows and even squirrels! But now, the taller plants will be protected with these so-called super hoops, which are double the height. Earth staples secure them to the ground and zip ties connect the hoops as well as anchor the summerweight row cover. This fabric screens out pests without trapping heat, while still transmitting 85% of the light. 

    
    
    
    
 

June 29, 2015: Green tomatoes and under the hoops in the raised beds

The pink Brandywine, Japenese trifele, and black cherry tomatoes are forming what will be the first of this year’s harvest: each plant is laden with several green, and quickly growing, fruits. This weekend, I removed the initial, shorter hoops over the raised beds in order to replace with taller ones, but need to get zip-ties before I install them. In the meantime, I stabilized the beans and trellised the cucumbers, weeded the few small grass seeds that had found their way in, and generously fertilized with Dr. Earth. The first box contains beans, zucchini, and yellow squash, the middle box has cucumbers, peas, and eggplants, and in the last one, I am growing romanesco, kale, and chard. Among all the vegetables are marigolds, to keep the pests away. What began as tiny specks in seed starting trays in March, or were directly sown in May, are becoming vegetables that actually resemble what they’ll look like at maturity!  

                           

June 25, 2015: Vegetable flowers

What’s the difference between a vegetable and a fruit? In botanical terms, a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the flower, whereas vegetables are all other plant parts, such as roots, leaves, and stems. Think carrots, kale, and celery, for instance. In my garden, the following “vegetables” are flowering: I have squash (pumpkin, zucchini, and yellow squash), cucumber, and tomato flowers all blooming right now, all in a bright golden hue. In the same palette are the day lily and California poppy, and the sage offers a deep pink in contrast to all of the orange. The pumpkins were completely accidental! Old ones were discarded as compost after Halloween, and despite being exposed to the elements over the winter, they came back with a vengeance in springtime, and are now taking over from the center bed.

                     

June 23, 2015: Blackberries

With the recent loss of the cherry tree and the end of strawberry season, I couldn’t be happier to see ripening blackberries out front. The gaillardia sunflower or “blanket flower” is doing well, too, as are the “Lemon slice” variety million bells, both continually putting out new blossoms. Even the creeping Jenny has flowers!

                   

June 18, 2015: WOLF-Garten tree loppers

German-engineered WOLF-Garten loppers were just the tool for the job. I’ve had them for a couple years and have used them here and there, but tonight, I cut down all of the branches of the cherry tree in preparation for its complete removal, which will happen once the to-be-borrowed root cutter arrives. Powerful yet comfortable, these bypass loppers, as they’re called (vs. anvil loppers), use a scissor action and curved blades to make clean, precise cuts. Within minutes, I felled the branches…then realized I needed something other than a bin to put them in. So, off to Target to get some of those 30 gallon brown paper bags. I’m thinking I’ll replace the Montmorency cherry tree by planting a donut peach tree in 2016! 

             

June 16, 2015: Dog and insects vs. cherry tree 

The cherry tree lost. McBaine’s habit of relieving himself against the trunk of the cherry tree affected the bark, the roots, and the top soil, to the extent that it weakened and was susceptible to wood boring insects. This sad outcome revealed itself quickly: within the past two weeks, the tree died. When I harvested the fruit on June 1, everything was fine. Then the leaves shriveled and turned brown. I looked closely and noticed larvae had infested the base of the trunk where the bark was thin, cracked, and burned from the daily, toxic dose of nitrogen. After consulting a specialist (ahem, Michael) at Urban Jungle, I learned that there is no hope and that I should remove the tree and wait to replant anything in that spot until spring. I searched Google on the topic and this “Why you shouldn’t let your dog pee on trees” article proved to be quite helpful. Hindsight is 20/20.