Archive for ‘Veggie Garden’

September 17, 2013

Urban Farm September Update

I checked my blog today to see when I last posted about my Urban Farm project.

June?  No!  I must have posted something since then, I thought to myself.  I surfed a little and realized that sure enough, the last you heard I planted 40 straw bales in my front yard.

Well, shame on me!  I do give myself a little slack because I have at least been posting periodical photos on Facebook.  If you want to catch up a little of what’s happened between June and now, be sure to checkout the Walnuts n Pears Facebook page.  While you’re there make sure and “Like” my page (if you haven’t already) and you can keep up with events, postings and photos of all that’s going on.

So… Let’s doing a little catching up, shall we?

Last you saw, my yard looked like this:


With this innovative raised bed from Organic Bob.


Well, seeds got started, transplants got planted, it rained for forty days and forty nights and then we went into a six week drought.  I fought aphids on eggplant, squash vine borer on zucchini and some evil critter on the watermelon.  Despite the challenges the garden or farm, rather, started to look like this:



And I harvested and harvested… and now it looks like this:




But it’s kind of hard to see what’s going on from this angle, so let’s go on a virtual tour, shall we?

The June-bearing strawberries are done, but spreading quite nicely.  The late Nicotiana (Flowering Tobacco) is just getting ready to bloom and some Romaine lettuce is making a return.



Brussel sprouts have taken a spill because the bales have decomposed enough that they can no longer support their weight, but they aren’t damaged, so they should keep growing (I may try staking tomorrow).  They still have some maturing to do, but I can hardly wait for a few hard frosts to bring them to the table.  Redbor Kale is continuing to produce but the Romanesco Broccoli has yet to form a head (bummer)!



Up next we have the second set of Brassica family plants with more Brussel Sprouts on the left, Arugula in the middle and Cabbage tipping off to the right side.  In the lower right corner you can spot one of our two Pumpkins.



Russian Kale in the foreground, not to be forgotten!  My favorite kale is still producing nicely.



Cabbage up close and personal.



I decided to make the raised bed the Children’s Garden this year.  My son and his friend planted, cared for and harvested from this bed this summer.  I helped seed the sides, but with the drought and intermittent watering they lost a number of the seedlings.  No hard feelings on their part though, they had plenty to harvest from their garden this summer including tons of Sun Sugar Cherry Tomatoes, Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherries, some beautiful Zucchini, Sugar Snap Peas (which you can see in the dried format on the right side for saving seed for next year), peppers, radishes and their Ring of Fire Sunflowers were gorgeous!  Okay, you can’t tell here because now they are just seed heads…



… but THIS is what they looked like the majority of the summer.



On to the squash and melons… This bed is where most of my frustrations came from this summer.  It started with squash vine borers attacking the Zucchini.  I did some “surgery” slicing into the vine and mutilating the buggers with a knife which allowed the plant to continue producing, but it was never quite the same.  Next, some dirty little rats, squirrels or rabbits severed all of the watermelon plants leaving me with next to nothing.  Lucky for them I never caught them in the act!  Finally, we have more squash vine borers attacking, hence the sickly, wilty leaves, but since it’s so late in the season I’m choosing not to battle them because I’ve already harvested quite a bit of squash.  Oh, and Cantaloupe!  Well, so far the score is 1-1 Rodentia vs. Us but the one we had was wonderful!



The other Pumpkin.



Up next: Swiss Chard, Globe Artichoke and Celeriac… along with some migratory squash.


Sadly, one-by-one over the past few days, my Globe Artichoke were decapitated and left for dead.  This was pretty disappointing because Globe Artichoke is a perennial here in Minnesota and it’s the first year I’ve grown it so I was pretty excited to have it be a part of my garden.  I still have a lingering hope that the root, still in place to my knowledge, may still produce some leaves and try to survive.  It’s a stretch, but you never know.



This set of bales was interesting.  They get far more shade than the rest, they were last to heat up during the “conditioning” process, but also spiked up to 140 degrees.  I had to wait longer to plant them because they retained the heat as well.  The Lettuce is long gone (except for the couple I’m allowing to go to seed), Carrots are still doing well and the pickling cucumbers are still going strong.  If I counted correctly I should have quite a few ready in the next few days.  I’m trying to decide what to do with this set next year.  There isn’t enough sun for the majority of crops so it may have to begin a crop rotation of its own of part-sun crops.



And finally, Tomato Alley!

Home to about 13 different varieties of tomatoes, half a dozen or so peppers, a few varieties of eggplant and bunches and bunches of basil.



I almost forgot!  Another Cantaloupe, hanging out under the crib-rail trellis on the backside of the squash bales.  Not too much longer and I’ll be racing the critters for the harvest.



Well, that completes the tour for today.  I think it has progressed nicely, don’t you?

Oh, and in other news, I had my final walk-through evaluation two weeks ago and assuming things continue to go well I should be a certified Urban Farmer in a couple of weeks!


July 28, 2013

Cover Thy Buds

Another cool night is forecasted for the Twin Cities, lows are to hit 52 degrees tomorrow around 6:00 a.m.

Grab some plastic or (row) covers and pull them up over your plants. Just like last night, if you live in the Twin Cities you need to Protect your tomatoes, peppers and eggplants tonight!. Make a mini greenhouse to keep them warm and keep the fruit coming.


July 27, 2013

Protect your tomatoes, peppers and eggplants tonight!

Brrr… It’s been more like September or October the past couple of days, with our cool, wet, windy days and chilly nights. But more than it being out of character for a summer day, it has an effect on our veggies too.

I’ll make this short and to the point, the Twin Cities are expected to have lows reaching 52 degrees tonight which means your tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are vulnerable to blossom drop, meaning the blossoms will drop off the plants prior to being pollinated and not produce fruit.

Tomatoes and eggplants are susceptible to blossom drop when evening temperatures drop below 55 degrees, peppers below 58 degrees.

Although it seems crazy to be saying this at the end of July, it would probably be worth covering those plants tonight (and possibly the next couple of nights) to limit the risk of loosing the flowers and missing out on tomatoes in a few weeks.

Just remember to pull the covers off later in the morning so the flowers have the opportunity to be visited by our pollinating friends.


July 22, 2013

55 Days – 10 Things to Plant Now for Fall Harvest


I don’t want to be the one to break the news, but we have about 55 days left until our average first frost hits the Twin Cities.  Now before you get mad at me for mentioning frost, keep in mind that I’m actually trying to give you good news.  That means it’s time to do some succession planting!

“What’s that?” you say.  That is where you take places in your garden where you once had lettuce or radishes or peas… and now have holes and fill those holes with plants that will mature and be harvest-able in the 55 or so days.  You’re looking for plants that prefer warmer soil temperatures for germination, but will also do well when they mature when the days are shorter and nights are cooler.  Think fast growing warm season crops or longer growing cool season crops.  You want the warm season crops to be wrapping up (beans, beets, etc.) and cool season crops to be beginning to peak, because cool season crops actually grow and taste better with a little cold snap (it brings the natural sugars out).

Below, I’ve listed plants that could be planted now for fall harvest and some that should wait a couple of weeks.  You’ll notice I have some duplicates under different time frames.  Why do I have radishes at 20 Days and at 50 days?  Well, it depends on the radish.  Check your seed packets for the “Days to Maturity” section, this number will tell you how many days it should take (on average) for your plant to go from seed to harvest.  Also check for “Planting Tips”, “Green Thumb Tips”, etc.  A lot of times they will provide the information you need on when to plant right on the seed packet.  Take the French Breakfast Radish, for example, (which has 26 days to maturity) the packet notes that it germinates best when the soil temperature is 80 degrees, which is where our soil temperature in the Twin Cities is right now.  Other packets will say “Best grown in cool weather.” Or “Warm days, cool nights.” All of these are flags telling us the best time to plant for optimal harvest.  The trick is really to read the packet, determine what conditions they grow best in and then check the days to maturity to see if we have enough time to grow it.

Examples in order of days to maturity, meaning if you can’t get them all in the ground today, start planting those with the most days to maturity first, followed by those with the least days to maturity.  You can also do a series of plantings with faster growing crops like radishes and arugula, then you’ll be able to harvest some about 3 weeks from now and some about 6 weeks from now, or plant a little each week for harvest 3, 4, 5 and 6 weeks out.

If you were to plant all of these today, you would have something to harvest every week starting 3 weeks from now, through fall.

20 Days: Beet Greens, Radishes

35 Days: Arugula

45 Days: Lettuce, Beets, Spinach, Broccoli Raab, Peas

50 Days: Beets, Beans, Red Malabar Spinach, Carrots, Radishes, Broccoli, Pickling Cucumbers

55 Days: Golden Beets, Broccoli Raab, Beans

55+ Days: Carrots

One more thing to keep in mind is that the average first frost is not necessarily the end of the gardening season (many crops will do well in cool weather) it’s just another tool to use to help us grow as much as we can in our gardens.

So, while the days are still warm and we still have nearly 2 months of summer weather, grab your seeds, get out there and fill those holes!

Happy succession planting!