Tomato Plants-when to take row cover off

Many of you are asking when can you take your row covers off your tomato plants. NOT YET-be patient

Leave row covers on tomatoes for now-I know we are all anxious to take them off. I leave mine on till the monsoons come and they are NOT here yet—occasional rain is not considered the monsoons and will not drive the leafhopper away. The leafhopper likes dry, hot, windy conditions (which we have now) so I’m sure it’s still around. The leafhopper kills tomato plants by biting your plant, giving it Curly Top Virus (CTV) which is fatal to your tomato plants. The row covers are a physical barrier so the bug can’t get to your plant. So for now, (sigh) I will leave them on even though I’m dying to remove them like you. Historically, the monsoons come somewhere around the 2nd week of July but it could come later too. Hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer.

I will post as soon as I take mine off so you all know…

Warm season lettuce-Batavian or Summercrisp lettuces

I like salads, especially in the summer but most lettuces bolted here in my garden in the summer. Last year I grew some lettuces that grew well in the summer. Most lettuces are cool season crops that bolt with the heat but Batavian (also known as Summercrisp) lettuces did surprisingly well here. I grew them in partial shade and not in the direct sun. Not only was I happy they did not bolt and nor get bitter, but they have a crisp sweet taste to them and lasted all summer. There are many more Batavian lettuces online but these are what I tried. Many of these warm season lettuces are on multiple seed company sites but below is where I got the seeds. Here are some varieties I grew:

Cardinale-recently saved from extinction. A wine red Batavian crisp-leaf, especially suited to cutting for salad mix because of its juicy crunch, heft, shelf life and well-proportioned leaves. Forms open rosettes for easy picking until full maturity, then folds itself into a beautiful red crisphead. seeds: wildgardenseed

 

Manoa-A special mini head from University of Hawaii, grown widely in the Islands for its resistance to heat and tip-burn. ‘Manoa’ is actually a tropical-stress selected version of the century-old ‘Green Mignonette,’ itself recognized as a standout heat resistant lettuce. Medium deep green, semi-savoyed leaves form small, compact plants that may be baby cut with an open head, or allowed to mature into a blanched round heart. seeds: wildgardenseed

 

Anuenue-Another A sweet green header from Hawaii. ‘Anuenue’ (rainbow) works as a thick green cut-leaf for salad, or as an easy, heat tolerant, non-bitter, full-heading lettuce. Undemanding, mellow heads, bred for sun, heat, and humidity. seeds: wildgardenseeds

 

Jester-Crisp as ice, glossy, juicy as an apple, perfectly proportioned for a plate or a sandwich, flashy red speckles on semi-savoyed leaves with crazy-crisped margins like a Jester’s attire. Slow bolting in any season, this crispleaf type can be harvested at the open head stage, or later as a semi-tight pink-hearted blanched head. seeds: wildgardenseeds

 

Merlot Batavian-It is an open-headed, Batavian-type with upright, waxy, savoyed leaves. Merlot is perfect for baby leaf cut and come again harvesting or for growth to crisp, full-sized, burgundy heads. Its  juicy flavor and crisp texture will light up the most discriminating of palettes. seeds: John Scheepers

 

Nevada-Excellent summer variety forms large, open heads of thick, vibrant green leaves. Glossy and beautifully ruffled leaves with a satisfying combination of crunchy texture and buttery smoothness. Summer crisp characteristics. seeds: highmowingseeds

 

 

Skyphos-Most adaptable butterhead. Beautiful, large, dark red heads with nicely contrasting green centers. Excellent flavor and texture. seeds: johnnyseeds

 

 

 

Muir-Muir is an extremely heat tolerant variety and was the slowest to bolt in our summer trials. Technically a Batavian type, the light green, extra-wavy leaves form dense heads at a small size and can be harvested as a mini or left to bulk up into large, heavy, full-size heads. The leaves are crisp and have excellent flavor. seeds: johnnyseeds

 

Magenta-A red Summer Crisp with good flavor. Shiny, slightly puckered, red-tinged leaves form a whorled, conical head with a crispy green heart. Ideal for spring and summer plantings. Tolerant to bolting, tipburn, and bottom rot. seeds: johnnyseeds

Garlic scapes!

Garlic scapes are the curly stem of a garlic

The garlic that I planted last October is now producing scapes. What are scapes? First you need to know that there are two types of garlic-hardneck or softneck. Softneck varieties are the kind that are sold in the grocery stores because it has a longer shelf life than hardneck varieties. Softneck varieties can be braided. But hardneck varieties are suppose to be more flavorful. Hardneck garlic varieties tend to do best in colder climates as they are winter hardy.

So let’s talk about what are scapes. Hardneck garlic varieties produce a tender flower and stalk called a scape which is long, dark green and curly. Removing the scape makes the garlic concentrate it’s energy into producing bigger heads. Cut the scape off where it starts on the garlic. Garlic scapes are harvested in the late spring and the bulbs are harvested later in mid-summer (if you planted garlic in the fall).

garlic-scapes-courtesy of Chatelaine

Garlic scapes taste like a blend of scallions and garlic although less fiery than garlic bulbs. Keep garlic scapes in the crisper—they can last up to two weeks when fresh. You can also chop them up like scallions and freeze them in plastic bags, which will preserve them for much longer. They’re great in stir fry. They can be diced and used in any way you might use scallions.

Our honeybees swarmed!

Bee swarm on juniper branch

We are beekeepers and love our bees, their pollination of our plants and in some years the honey they provide. Plus we want to support them by not using chemical pesticides or fungicides.

This spring our bees were starting to outgrow their digs and were planning to swarm. How do I know? They made queen cups and started laying eggs in them and producing queen larvae. Once they decide to make a new queen, it is hard to turn their thinking around. So when we saw a queen cup with a developing larva and royal jelly in it and another queen cup with a new egg in it, we knew they would swarm and split their hive unless we split the hive before they did.

Swarming is good thing for a bee hive. It means it is doing well and has too many inhabitants and some need to move on. So we found the existing queen and transferred her and some brood and honey and pollen bars to an empty hive we had. Great! They seem to be doing well. So now we have two hives. But there were still queen cups in the original hive with about 10 developing larvae in them. We thought the other bees would take down the queen cups.

We thought that would be the end of it but no, there’s more to the story. Last weekend, I was out in the part of the garden closest to the first hive and noticed they were getting very noisy and started leaving and circling around in a great mass of bees and I knew they were going to swarm. I assume that one queen hatched and saw all the other queen cups with larvae in them and decided to leave with about half the hive before the others hatched. A hive can only have one queen and when a new queen hatches, it will go along and kill off any other queens that are ready to emerge with it except this one was quite further along in it’s development while the other larvae were not very developed yet.

The swarm ended up on a tree branch about 30 feet away and had formed a long ball of bees about 30 inches long by 12 inches wide where many thousands of bees had gathered. I’m guessing about 30 thousand! From there the swarm sends out scouts to find a new home in which to move to. The swarm waits to hear the reports from the scouts before moving again which can take from 3 hours to 3 days depending what the scouts find. Of course we suited up but when the hive swarmed, they are the most docile as they are out of their element so to speak. We ran over to another empty hive we had previously set up and put some more bars of brood and nectar in it from the original hive.

Then we went back to the swarm and I cut the branch down while Elodie held a big tupperware container underneath them and they fell  about six inches with the branch into the box. We then carried the box over to the new hive and put them inside. Hopefully they are happy and have a good queen to get them going. The original hive now has a lot fewer bees in it so hopefully this is the end of swarming. It is exciting we caught them before they left the property but also it is a little newvewracking too! Now we have three hives!

Lettuce bolting

When daytime temperatures get warmer, it will only be a matter of time before cool season lettuce that we planted in early spring bolts. Bolting is when lettuce starts to get a center stalk and eventually it will make flowers and become bitter. What makes lettuce bolt? Both summer heat and more sunlight in our longer sunnier days contribute to bolting. If you find your too late and it is already bitter, either compost it or give it to chickens. They don’t seem to mind the bitterness.

I read a tip where you can make bitter lettuce sweet again so I decided to try it as my winter lettuce is pretty much finished and bitter. The tip said to mix up 4 TLB salt with 1 liter of water till dissolved in a bowl and then soak your lettuce in it for ten minutes. Then rinse and it should be sweet. I did try it and the lettuce got totally wilted. Not edible. After I rinsed it, I soaked it in fresh water hoping to revive it and the lettuce was still salty and wilted. Still not edible. I didn’t even want to give the wilted lettuce to my chickens or compost it for fear of too much salt still in it. Oh well, so much for that tip!

If you still have lettuces that haven’t been picked, get out there soon before they bolt! To get the best from your lettuce, water your plants the evening before you plan to pick it. Then pick lettuces first thing the next morning before it gets too hot. After I wash it and spin out the water, I put lettuce in a ziplock baggie with a wet piece of paper towel folded (squeeze out excess moisture). Lettuce should last a good amount of time when doing this in the refrigerator.

There are other lettuces we can grow here in the shade in the summer. I will write a post soon about growing these warm season lettuces for the summer that are heat resistant and don’t bolt. They are called Batavian or Crisp lettuces. More on that later.

 

Wait to plant peppers till June 1

These Jimmy Nardello peppers were gifted to me by my good friend, Bob Z. They were out of them at the nursery and it was too late to start them by seeds in April. Giant pumpkins in the background are waiting too.

Peppers like heat-more heat then even tomatoes. When transplanting anything outside, we must consider both air temperature and soil temperature. Our soil temperature right now is not warm enough yet to plant our pepper transplants out in the garden even though the air temperature is warmer now. Tomatoes went outside in the garden for me last week inside wall of waters but my peppers are still inside the house under lights waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. The soil temperature is in the 60’s which is still too cool to transplant peppers.

If you plant peppers while the soil is still too cool, they tend to stall out meaning they stop growing altogether and don’t restart growing even when the soil gets warmer. You’ll have to re-buy them. Trust me, I know from experience. I’ve even tried growing them in wall of waters (WOWs) and the air temp stays warmer inside the WOW but the soil temp can still be cool. Peppers would love the soil temp to be 70°F when transplanting outside. So it is best to wait. How long? I plant all peppers the first week of June when I know the soil temp is much warmer.

Growing giant pumpkins again this year!

Closeup of giant pumpkin-Isn’t she beautiful?!

This year I’m going to attempt growing giant pumpkins again. Back in 2011 I grew a New Mexico state record of 448 lb pumpkin. That’s not big as far as giant pumpkins goes but it was big enough back then to set a New Mexico state record. Since then the record has been shattered with a pumpkin grown in Albuquerque over 900 lbs.

My best giant pumpkin for 2012-‘ORANGE CRUSH’-385 lbs

I don’t think I can grow a bigger pumpkin than that one up here in Santa Fe at 7000 feet high with such a short season, but I’m going to go for a personal best. I have tried since 2011 to grow these behemoths again but to no success.

This was back in 2008-my first year of growing giant pumpkins

I once asked a giant pumpkin grower friend of mine from Colorado how he got 2 Colorado giant pumpkin state records and he said it took him 20 years to get it twice. If it was easy he said, you could get it every time but it is not easy to grow giant pumpkins.

My best pumpkin for 2011-set a NM State Record at 448 lbs

They require a lot of time, work and water to get them big. You must baby them. You must coddle them. I think this will be a good year to try giant pumpkins again as I’m spending more time at home.

Here are the pumpkin plants I just germinated for 2020. The seeds came from a 2009 lb pumpkin! Let’s see what happens this year! I hope this year will produce a big beautiful pumpkin!

Tomatoes are in-May 3rd-woo hoo!

Today we put 31 tomatoes in the garden. Enjoy the time lapse!

This is the earliest I have ever been able to put them outside. We always put them in Wall-of-Waters (green cylinders) to protect them from the chilly nites or if we have a late freeze.  Now I’m dirt tired-time for a cocktail!

Nurseries allowed to reopen!

Grow on

In addition to being able to go back to the nurseries which is fantastic, please don’t forget to support the tiny growers and farmers mentioned in the previous post as well-there is room for all! Here is what was released. Looks like the petition worked! This will help all the nurseries.

‘Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office said it has reversed course on its closure of plant nurseries and will allow them to provide curbside and delivery to customers. Following the last round of emergency orders, nurseries lost their essential service status, leaving many of them concerned about their live plant stock. Thousands signed a petition asking the governor to allow nurseries some capacity to operate, a request she said she was considering during last week’s public briefing. “They must take all necessary social distancing precautions and must continue to abide by the mass gathering rule,” Lujan Grisham’s press secretary Nora Meyers Sackett told SFR via email yesterday.

Agua Fria Nursery owner Bob Pennington tells SFR he plans to offer both delivery and curbside. “We can hire back some employees, we can pay some bills, we won’t go totally down the tube,” he said.’

Credit: The Santa Fe Reporter

IN ADDITION: I think all nurseries are open now but suggest you call them individually to see what their protocol is regarding shopping. The people from Paynes emailed me and asked if I would give this info:

https://www.loc8nearme.com/new-mexico/santa-fe/paynes-nurseries-north/5667926/

Plants suffer in 21°F weather/changes for the better by Friday April 17

Well, almost all my tulips bite the dust with the cold weather but these pictured above lifted up their heads and survived. At least I got about two weeks of glorious color to brighten my days before this latest cold snap and they will come back every year.

Looks like the weather will get above freezing from Friday nite April 17th when it is suppose to be 38°F to Saturday April 25th. But this is not carved in stone. As the saying goes here, if you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.

Everybody needs to become a weather bug to see what is happening as the weather can change day by day and sometimes even hour by hour. I call this the ‘shoulder season’ where one day it is warm and sunny and the next day/nite cold and freezing and always windy here in spring. These are our springs-ever changing but of course then June will come and we will get too hot! It is way to soon to plant any warm season crops yet. To be safe, wait till May 15 and later.  Last year we got snow on May 27 and the year before I was able to put out my tomato plants on May 7 in Wall of Waters. If the late spring weather really warms up or if you are a gambler, you may be able to plant warm season crops earlier but not without some protection. Otherwise you may be replanting…

If you are looking to start cool weather crops by seeds or starts in your garden, be sure to cover your plants with row cover. Winter weight row cover is best but 2 layers of mid-weight will work as well if you don’t have the heavier weight. I even keep the areas where I plant seeds covered and you can water through row cover till they are acclimated. That way as they germinate, they will get some protection. The row cover is also really good to protect baby starts from our ferocious spring winds which can wipe them out as well as our cold nights. I do flip row cover off the plants on nice days, then back on at nite. You can get this online. I have had friends put sheets over their plants and even one who wrapped a tree in a sleeping bag! Both froze-after all you need a body to keep things warm in a sleeping bag! I never said it would easy growing here in our area BUT you can do so with a few protections.

Beets planted by starts survived

I planted a week ago by seeds-carrots and arugula-they are not up yet. At the same time, I planted beet starts. They are suffering from those 21°F nites out in the garden but are alive. Shallots bulbs, kale and fava beans are all very cold hardy and doing well. Peas got eaten by some thing 4 legged. All were put out one week before this cold snap and all are alive because of row cover on them. All lettuces and spinach were in either my greenhouse or a coldframe and did fine, but they too were covered with 2 layers of row cover.

It seems like from Friday, April 17th the nites will get above freezing for at least a week. This would be a good time to start cool season crops outside whether by seed or starts. So watch the weather and don’t forget to hand water them!

More sources for veggie starts

Trying to research resources as to where we can buy veggie starts besides the Big Box stores. Read on.

The Vagabond Farmers, are farming Lauren’s farm this year (Lauren as many of you remember of Las Farminitas, was the tomato grower who sold tomato starts at the Master Gardeners Garden Fair for many years). The Vagabond Farmers told me they will have many veggie starts in May. Email them as to how you will get them.   TVFgardenstarts

Just click on the pdf above and email them directly for veggie starts. Email address is on their flyer above. Sounds like they have lots to offer.

Another source to check out for veggie start is of course the farmers at our local Santa Fe Farmers Market. I hear parking is now very easy.

Ampersand (amanda@ampersandproject.org) will have their plant sale in Madrid the 19th April. If enough persons are interested Amanda Bramble will deliver in Santa Fe. Her starts are fabulous and she will be selling compost.

These are three more possible sources for veggie starts. If anyone has any other info or sources, please comment below and I will add them. Good Luck!

PS: Some individuals have written and mentioned they may have too many tomatoes started.  And some have written other sources as possibilities but gave no info as to what day, time and what someone may be selling. Be sure to read the comments section of this post as you may be able to find more sources and you will have to research it out for yourselves. Good Luck!

UPDATE ON LOCAL NURSERIES-April 14th

UPDATE ON LOCAL NURSERIES-April 14th

The Governor’s office has mandated all nurseries are suppose to be closed until April 30, thereafter subject to review.

Agua Fria Nursery: Closed. I just talked to Bob, the owner of Agua Fria Nursery who called State Ag and Governor’s office yesterday (Monday April 13) and asked if nursery curbside orders/pickups would be allowed. Both entities said curbside orders and pickups are illegal and all nurseries are suppose to be closed to the public.

Paynes (both): Closed-They were made to close down their curbside orders

Plants of the Southwest: Closed.

Newmans: Message says as of Monday, April 13: curbside orders and pickups only. No message today as to what they are doing and if they are now closed.

For those of you who need veggie starts, you can go to Lowes and Home Depot as they are allowed to stay open for their supplies and happen to have garden centers.

But there is another solution. See my next post.

Weather FREEZE Alert!

The next few nights are going be below freezing here in Santa Fe area. Tonite (Sunday) is not too bad only 30°F but still below freezing and Monday and Tuesday will be in the low 20’s at nite so protect your veggie plants with row cover (preferably with winter weight or 2 layers of medium weight) for those tender transplants you may already have out. Prepare now and protect those plants! Hate to see them wiped out especially since all nurseries are now closed due to governor mandate.

And of course this cold snap comes right as our fruit trees are flowering-ah poop!

Tip Toe Through the Tulips

In these trying times, we need to appreciate nature and gardens. Being in my garden helps ground me, always has, but this year in particular I need to feel the earth under my feet. It is one of the few things that keeps me sane right now.

Last fall I went bonkers ordering so many tulips online and I thought what have I done? So much work planting them all (65 in all I believe). Well, now they are blooming and I am so loving their beauty plus they will come back every year.

To keep my cat from digging in the dirt around the tulips, Elodie suggested I put rocks around them. Works like a charm. No more tramping on them, digging around them and breaking them.
Not all gardening is food for the belly. Some of it is food for our souls. Something we all need right now.