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.

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.

Tomato growing-Beet Leafhoppers and Curly Top Virus (CTV)

I have written about this problem a few times on this site and it might be worth a visit to one of my previous posts if you are interested in learning about CTV:

Identifiying Tomato Curley Top Virus

In addition there is more info on this problem through New Mexico State University (NMSU) here.

The reason I put row cover over my plants is to have a physical protection to keep the Beet Leafhopper off of them. I remove the row covers when the monsoons come in July as they seem to either leave or become suppressed and then I usually don’t have any problems with leafhoppers and CTV. No insecticides seem to work. If it seems that I harp on this problem, I do! I just want you all to be successful with tomato growing here.

First tomatoes!

First tomatoes in 2020-Black Cherry Tomatoes (shown) and Egg Yolk tomatoes (sorry I ate them!)

Well I got my first few cherry tomatoes harvested. I planted all 36 tomato plants really early on May 3rd-snuck them in with such a warm spring. I peeked inside my Egg Yolk cherry tomato plant underneath the row cover (yes it’s still on but hopefully coming off soon) and my Black Cherry tomato plant. I got 2 Egg Yolk tomatoes and 5 Black Cherry tomatoes. Mind you, not a lot but it’s a start! The flavor was divine and now I remember why I wait to eat tomatoes after the season is over. Haven’t had a tomato since last October–well worth the wait!

Lots of blossoms on all the other tomato plants but we will get some blossom drop on some of them with this heat. No matter, they will produce more blossoms that will set fruit again. I’ll see how many have set fruit after I remove the row covers. Speaking of row covers…

Looking more promising regarding the monsoons. Starting this Thursday the temps will drop back in the 80s and thunderstorms are predicted from Thursday on from 20-40%. Hang in there, I am almost ready to remove the row covers-but waiting for the monsoon pattern to really set up to get rid of the leafhopper. Maybe next week. You’ll be the first to know!

I killed my potatoes…

I’m sorry to say I killed my potato crop this year. I started with some fingerling potatoes seeds (and I have grown them in previous years with no problem). I planted them in a trough that was 12 inches deep and covered them with 3 inches of soil. Then I put my drip system on top of them. They grew nicely and after about 6 inches tall, I buried them with more soil. So far so good. Then when they got another 6 inches taller, I buried them again. Still no problems-they grew up through the dirt. Each time I moved the drip line up with them so it was always on the top not buried underneath.

I guess that was my problem as I left on a flyfishing trip and when I came home they never grew up through the soil-they just disappeared. I’m sure they died because of lack of water down by the roots. In hindsight, I figured maybe I should of left the drip system buried where the water would have reached the roots-I think it was too far away from the roots. This heat hasn’t helped either.

So that’s it, I killed the potatoes. If anyone has any advice, I’m open to it. Just leave your advice in the comments.

PS: I’ve decided I’m going to use that bed for fall crops-beets and carrots.

Heat wave here!

So I am very frustrated that the weather apps and weather people are saying we are going to be hot, hot, HOT for about the next 10 days here in Santa Fe and NM which means the monsoons are not quite here yet even though the clouds are building and a few drops are falling.

What does this mean for us veggie growers who are waiting for the temps to cool down and the monsoons to come? Two problems:

ONE: leafhopper is still here (won’t leave till the mosoons comes) so keep the tomatoes covered. I know it is torture at this point but you’ve waited this long so stick with it.

TWO: tomato plants get blossom drop when the temps are 92°F and hotter. So if your plant has already set some blossoms into fruit, they will be fine BUT if there are new blossoms during this time period, they will probably drop off. When the temperatures cool below 92°, they will produce blossoms and self-pollinate and set new tomatoes and the cycle starts again.

Hang tight-Patience will reward you!

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.I just started these lettuce seeds on July 1 in pony packs to transplant later.

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.

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.

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!