Year of the rat

This year I have had a rodent problem in the garden, two years ago it was an ant problem. Now the ants are under control but the mice and packrats are out of control even though I continue to trap them and I’ve gotten a lot of them. I’ve never had a problem like this before in my veggie garden but luckily I have had a super productive year.

Actually next year, 2021, is officially ‘The Year of the Rat’ in the Chinese Zodiac but it might as well be this year. The mice and rats have been eating holes in many of the veggies.

Rat damage on a Cherokee green tomato

Tomatoes-My tomatoes have been hit hard but thankfully I have lots of them. I think rats are destroying some of my tomatoes and on other tomatoes there are little bites so I think they are mice-either way I can’t sell them. I’d be thinking, “I will wait one more day to harvest some particular tomato”, and then the mice/rat gets it first so I’ve had to resort to taking them a few days early and let the tomatoes finish ripening inside the house. I have too many tomato plants to completely wrap each plant to keep them out. Very frustrating.

 

 

 

Pepper damage

Peppers- I have to cut out part of the peppers that has been eaten too. They eat a hole at the top of the pepper and get the seeds. They don’t seem to care if the peppers are still green or red. So I’ve resorted to tacking down the pepper bed with some hail netting and using 2″ x 4″ boards to keep the netting snug at the bottom on the ground so they can’t get under it. So far so good.

 

 

 

Butternut squash-Then there are the butternut winter squash. They are almost ready to harvest. I’m waiting for the skins to get that beautiful butterscotch color. Well some mouse has been attacking them too. They nibble small holes in some of them. So I’ve resorted to completely wrapping each butternut squash in pieces of row cover to keep them from getting them.

 

I have not been able to plant any lettuces in my lettuce shade garden this season either. They first ate all my Fava beans last spring and so I have had to forgo growing lettuces in that area. Instead I’m going to plant the lettuce that I’ve started this fall into my covered coldframe up by the house. In a few more weeks I’ll also plant lettuce in my greenhouse (it’s still to warm inside the greenhouse to put them there but I am ready when it cools down more).

So it looks like either trapping them or wrapping your plant up tight to keep them out works. I would never use poison as we have a cat that also hunts them and our neighbor’s dog too. They could die from eating a poisoned rodent. Plus birds of prey like hawks would die also.

I have heard from other gardeners in this area that they too have had rodent problems this year. How about you? Have you had problems with rodents in your veggie garden this year?

Snow!

Here’s the garden this morning at 7 am. I wasn’t expecting snow but here it is! The row cover blew off the tomatoes in those 60+mph winds last nite but they are so big and dense, I think if I did sustain some freezing damage, it will only be on the edges-the interior tomatoes should be ok.

Some flowers, rhubarb got bit pretty hard but the row covers stayed on the squashes, beans and RASPBERRIES and they seem ok! The snow melted pretty quick as it wasn’t much but it did stay cold all day. Tonight is our first fire in the fireplace. The temperature last night broke a record for earliest freeze in Santa Fe! Hope it warms up by the weekend and we get an Indian summer until mid-October. Am I dreaming?!

 

Saving Seeds Yet?

Ok I’ve been obsessed with harvesting the garden and getting ready for our first cold snap tonight. I think I’m ready for it. But now the weather people say it will be 38°F tonite which is still plenty cold for tomatoes but hopefully it won’t get down to freezing tonight in the garden and then the nighttime temperatures will go up into the 40’s. Definitely cooling off but I’m hoping we will get another 3-4 weeks without freezing weather to extend the season. I’m already FRIED with all the harvesting I’ve been doing but I always have the winter to recoup. rest. recharge-and dream of the next season.

So are you saving any vegetable seeds yet? Do you remember this past spring when COVID 19 first hit? I don’t know about you, but I remember a vegetable seed shortage not only locally at our nurseries but also many national seed companies ran out of seeds too. Plus many veggie starts were sold out right away in our local nurseries. And I heard it might happen again next spring. So with this in mind, I’m saving some of my seeds of my favorite crops so I will have some vegetable seeds for next year to grow.

I will save tomato, winter squash, lettuce, beans (both green beans and dry beans), summer squash, sweet Italian peppers and many different flower seeds. How do you save seeds? There are many online sources on how-to save seeds for you to investigate and I will have a mini-series on saving different seeds starting with tomato seeds by next week, once I film the whole process.

Besides saving seeds to replenish our supply of seeds, you can also save seeds of any unusual varieties or abnormalities within a variety that you grow. Look around your garden. Have you found anything unusual that you like?

Pink Glass Gem corn

For instance, I found 2 ears of glass gem corn I grew that were different shades of pink out of many rows of multiple color glass gem corn 5 years ago that I continue to grow to stabilize it. Now there are no other colors other than different shades of pinks. It is now an F5 (fifth generation) so it’s probably pretty stabilized. You can read about it here.

Santoro lettuce

I also save a particular open-pollinated lettuce seed that for the last couple of years I couldn’t find online anymore. It is called Santoro, a wonderful butter lettuce that melts in your mouth and produces large heads. My Santoro lettuce seed supply still germinates at 100% but I want to keep the supply fresh since I can’t find it anymore. You can read about it here.

Moby dwarf cherry tomato with anthocyanin on the shoulders

I’m currently doing a trial on a Craig Lehoullier dwarf yellow cherry tomato plant called Moby, where I’ve discovered 2 years ago some tomatoes that had a slight purple blush called anthocyanin on the shoulders and they are sweeter on the Brix scale than the regular yellow variety. This in the second year of growing it out.

I went to Italy 2 years ago and while there got some dry beans from the market in Florence that are not available here. This one is called Rossa de Lucca and comes from the Tuscany area. They are hard to find here in the states and so I did cook some up and saved some to grow out and now I have a steady supply of them.

So you can save seeds to not be caught shorthanded for next year (like we were this year) or for saving new possible varieties. Try it, it’s fun!

FREEZE ALERT!

Tomorrow night a freeze warning has been issued for our area in Santa Fe.

It could get colder or it might miss your garden, but to be safe, I will be putting row cover over any veggies/fruits I still want to protect and harvest.

The weather people have been changing the forecast everyday and sometimes several times a day lately. They think it will be above just above freezing but the wind chill will drive down the temperature to feel below freezing and I’m not willing to take that chance after spending all these months growing veggies. If it does go down to freezing, my garden will be protected. I think it will be a new record low if it does hit 32°F as the previous record for our first freeze was in October, but never in September. What a weird year-record heat one day and threat of a freeze the next day!

Medium or heavy weight row cover will give your veggies protection to several degrees below freezing. The problem is, if you don’t protect them, and we get an Indian summer where it turns warm again for quite a while, then the crops could have the time they need to finish ripening before we get more cold weather.

Remember to remove the protection in the morning so the plants can get warmth and light from the sun. I have lost many crops by not protecting them during these early freezes. I will be prepared this time!

What have I been doing?

Wow-it’s been almost a month since I last posted. How time flies! I go from posting a lot in July to not much at all in August. So what have I been doing in the last month?

 

Harvesting!  Harvesting!  Harvesting!!

 

TOMATOES
This year has been a great tomato year vs last year which sucked. When the harvesting starts in earnest, I become headless (but in a good way)! I can’t process the tomatoes into tomato sauce fast enough as it seems everyday was a new bumper crop that needed to be picked and eaten and dealt with (can’t let any of them go to waste)! Plus I’ve been selling some this year. I’ve really loved all those Caprese salads and know they will end in the not to far future.

CUCUMBERS
Most of the cucumbers have been harvested and preserved. I’ve made sweet pickle relish, Bread and butter pickles and cornichons. I tried to ferment some green DILL pickles but failed miserably (I’ll have to get my fermentation friends to help me). The dill pickles were too salty and not crisp like I had hoped. I think I left them in the crock too long and now the cukes are slowing down. Oh well, there is always next year.

BEANS
The green beans, Emerite are slowing down and the Zolphino dry bean pods are starting to dry out so I am harvesting them as the pods dry out and will shell them later this winter. I don’t wait till the end of the season but pick the dry pods as they are ready, otherwise the beans fall out of the shell if I wait too long. I’m so excited as I got them in Italy 2 years ago and last year when I planted them a gopher ate every plant and every plant I replanted. Of course the gopher had to eat my most expensive bean-it was 40 Euros/kilo (that is 47 dollars) over there as it is endangered in Italy and they are trying to bring it back. One thing is the gopher had good taste-it didn’t go after my less expensive beans.

CABBAGES
The Kalibos cabbages are ready for harvest too. All my fermenter friends will love getting one of these for sauerkraut or kimchi! I keep one too but they are so big, one does me just fine and will last for months in the refrigerator.

 

 

PEPPERS
The Corno de Horno peppers and Lava Red peppers are still green. I will wait till they turn red when they will be sweeter. There will be a bumper crop of both of these this year. Nice problem to have!  I’ll have to figure out what to do with all of them! The Jimmy Nardello peppers are turning red (at a reasonable rate for harvesting). The Shishitos peppers have been kicking for a good month.

 

BERRIES/GRAPES
The grapes and blackberries are done but the raspberries are just starting to kick in and will be in full blast harvest mode soon. We are harvesting every 3 days now. It is a fall-bearing raspberry called Polana and it is the best producing raspberry ever for me at my garden.

 

SQUASH
My summer squash is still kicking and my winter squash, Butternuts, are starting to change color to tan and will be ready mid-end of September.

 

 

SHALLOTS
I harvested 2 beds of shallots which are now curing and will store these like onions for the winter. i love shallots over onions as they are sweeter and cost a lot more in the grocery stores.

 

 

CHARD/KALE
And of course, the chard and kale are loving the cooler weather and will go to frost. But they like it hot or cold weather wise. I have too much kale. Anyone want some?

 

 

CARROTS
All carrots are ready for harvest in the next 2 weeks.

CORNI grew sweet corn this year and waited too long to harvest. Bummer. There is always next year…

 

That’s it! Busy as a bee right now!

 

 

August vegetable garden list

Harvest time-Dutch shallots harvested and curing on deck away from sun and rain for several weeks

 

August veggie gardens is the time when things get out of control in the garden. That’s when I surrender to the chaos! Growth is rampant and harvest usually goes into full blast. It’s the moment I look forward to when it’s hard to keep up with harvesting and preserving the crops.

It’s hard to believe that fall is almost here. Below are some things to do in the vegetable garden besides enjoying it (which I hope you are)!

 

STILL PLANTING SOME CROPS! In all the coming chaos, it is not too late to plant some veggies for a fall garden if you’re not too burned out. I’m direct seeding arugula and radishes outside and starting spinach seeds inside this week. Warm season lettuces that I started 3 weeks ago are now planted out and I already planted out some broccoli from transplants a couple of weeks ago.

 

WATERING
I’ve been adjusting my watering schedule depending on the weather. August can be dry and hot or wet and cool so pay attention and either give your garden more or less water depending on the weather.

 

TRIM
As plants get older, take off any old, diseased, severely damaged or dead leaves to help keep unwanted fungal diseases or unwanted bugs away. Dispose of trimmings. I never compost any diseased plants.

 

FUNGAL DISEASESLOOK at your plants.
I’ve noticed in July after I took off the row covers off the tomatoes, some of them have Early Blight (EB). This is a common problem for tomato plants.  If you have yellowing dying leaves starting at the bottom of the tomato plant, it might be EB. For more info on how to ID and control it, go here.

I know with the monsoons (what monsoons?!) and our warm weather, that Powdery Mildew (PM) will start showing up on my squash and cucumbers (and flowers) in August. If it looks like a dusty powder is covering your plants, it may be PM. I already sprayed my plants with Serenade as a preventative. For more info on how to ID it go here. For info on how to control it, go here.

 

INSECT DAMAGE-LOOK at your plants-some will start to show their age and will weaken and allow insects to
Use the following organic insecticides for insect problems.

Aphids-Use Neem or Azamax. First spray off aphids and then spray one of these organic insecticides on your plants. Avoid hitting bees by spraying at sunset after they go to bed. Also plants can burn if spraying them in the heat of the day.

Squash bugs-Ah, the nemesis of squash growers. No insecticide seems to work so you’ll have to be diligent and get out at least one time a week and LOOK for adults, nymphs and eggs and remove them by hand and put in a bucket of soapy water. If you let them get out of control, they will kill your plants.

These bugs gone bye bye by now-hooray!
Squash vine borer-It’s gone by now so no worries but I used row cover early in the season to protect my plants from this bug.

Beet Leafhopper-It left when the monsoons came, so you are probably safe with your tomatoes. I keep my tomato plants covered from May thru the beginning of the monsoons in July and uncover them then.

 

 

 

 

 

Perennial fruit vignette tour

 

Here is a vignette of a short tour of perennial fruit in my garden and what varieties work here for me in Santa Fe, NM. I forgot to show I also have a rhubarb variety called Victoria which does well here. I found it in a nursery here in Santa Fe.

More information on this vignette tour:

You’ll see I keep a 30% sunscreen on many of my plants in the video as I find some plants here in our high altitude like a little shade from our intense UV light here in Santa Fe. I’m hoping it will give the plants some hail protection as well from our summer monsoon storms. I got it at Johnnyseeds listed under shade cloth.

My raspberry variety is Polana. It is a fall bearing variety that I cut down to 3 inches high every March and it gets about 40 inches tall each year and doesn’t need trellising but does like a fence to grow next to. I got it 3 years ago from Nourse Nursery online. Another friend, Mike, turned me on to them. I’ve had some different varieties of raspberries but this one is the only one that kicks ass in fruit production here in my garden.

My blackberry is a thornless variety called Triple Crown.  I got it from Newmans Nursery here in Santa Fe but discovered it in one of our Santa Fe Extension Master Gardener gardens. I love it doesn’t have any thorns and it is also 3 years old. This year is the first year that it is very productive. It is a semi-erect variety and does need a trellis to grow on to keep it from spreading too much with runners.

My strawberries are a June-bearing variety that I got some starts from a friend some years ago and I don’t know exactly which variety it is. I like the fact it bears all it’s fruit in June so I only have to keep birds away during the month of June vs everbearing varieties that bear smaller fruit all season. There are many different varieties of June-bearing strawberries to choose from online.

My grape vine variety is called Himrod. It is a green, seedless table grape for fresh eating not winemaking. It has incredible flavor that can’t be found in the grocery store. I have one plant that is about 40′ long along a fence and is very productive. I’ve also tried other varieties of grapes that didn’t do as well here in our climate but this one is a winner.

Thank you!

WOW! Today I hit a milestone-over 500,000 people have visited this site! Half a million people! I started this blog in January of 2010 and it has taken 10 years to have that many visitors.

When I started this blog, I did it to keep track of what was going on in my garden through each season in the garden. Instead of having a written garden diary, I decided to do it digitally back then as a reference to refer to throughout the years, and I do refer back to it often.

The blog has now morphed into more than a diary as I’ve gained gardening knowledge and experience that I want to share as well as what I’m currently doing in my garden. So I hope you all keep coming back to visit or if you like it enough, you can sign up to receive an email notice of every new post that I put out. Either way I never dreamt that one day a half million of you would visit. I am honored. Thank you!

First cucumbers into pickles

I had enough cucumbers from the garden to make the first pickles of the season. Many more to come I hope!

On the left is Boothsby Blonde which will become bread and butter pickles. It is a whitish-yellow cucumber that really is beautiful when you add the turmeric in the recipe. The cucumbers on the right are Parisian which will become Cornichons, a tiny tart pickle famous in France. Here they are both soaking in salt water.

 

Left is finished bread and butter pickles which were done using a waterbath method. On the right are the cornichins which I do as a refrigerator pickle to keep their crispness.

Today’s harvest-August 5

 

Everything is starting to explode in the garden. Harvest time is here for many fruits and vegetables. Here is today’s harvest. From upper left clockwise: Friulana summer squash, AtomicRed carrots, Boothsby Blonde cucumbers, Emerite french filet green bean, Jimmy Nardello peppers, one Shishito pepper, and a variety of tomatoes.

Lots of fruit is ready to harvest. From top to bottom: Triple Crown thornless blackberries are just starting to come on, the very first Polana raspberries (we only got a few but the main harvest will be in the fall and the bushes are loaded) and on the bottom are the first few Himrod seedless table eating grapes-they have a wonderful flavor.

Giant Beet!

Lookee what I found under a bunch of leaves! A Chioggia beet that weighed 9.6 lbs! I bet if there had been a State Fair this year, it would have taken 1st place for biggest beet! Notice the beet tops look like my hair!

 

Here you see me opening it up.

 

and then I sliced it into ‘beet steaks’.

 

We grilled them on the BBQ!  I thought it would have been woody and tough but it was not. I was going to drizzle balsamic vinegar on them but they didn’t need it. It was so delicious and sweet and soft. Of course I would never grow them this big on purpose but rather grow them much smaller. I was just glad it turned out well.

 

 

July 18-Unveiling the girls!

I’m a little behind in my posting. Here we are unveiling the girls on July 18th which is very exciting for me as I can finally see them without the row cover on them.

I remove the row cover after the beet leafhopper leaves. I think four of the tomato row covers blew off and then the tomato plant got bit by a leafhopper which gave them curly top virus (CTV), a fatal virus. I will pull those plants once I make sure they do have CTV. It is a vector disease which means it’s is passed from insect to a plant and is not contagious between plants. The leafhopper disappears after the monsoons come.

A vignette of the entry way in my veggie garden

 

I decided to do some short vignettes of my veggie garden throughout the season. This vignette done in mid-July shows the area around the entry way. You’ll see flowers, leeks, beans, dill, fennel, cabbages, squash, rhubarb and grapes growing close to my entrance with my grape arbor. Flowers are an important part of my veggie garden attracting beneficial insects and pollinators besides adding beauty. Other short videos to follow. Please excuse my fingers in the video!

Monsoons are here!

Monsoons are finally here! Check out this weather forecast below-this is what I was waiting for!

I will be taking the row covers OFF! my tomato plants this weekend.

With the cooler temperatures and rain predicted everyday for the next 10 days, it appears that the monsoon pattern has set up. Best news in quite a while! People might wonder why I get so excited over rain patterns out here in New Mexico but if we didn’t get the monsoon pattern in the summer, it would be miserably hot as we all just experienced with the 100°F days we experienced. Not unbearable heat like in Arizona but still hot for us and being a native Phoenician, I remember how hot it can get. I even tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk in Phoenix when I was a kid (it didn’t fry but evaporated instead.)

Can’t wait to see the tomato girls without having to peek inside the row covers. Hmm, I wonder if I have more tomatoes ready to eat under those row covers…