organic gardening, actual experiences

a fun season so far...
with the soil being fairly heavy here the drought has been a challenge at times, but we've kept up with watering well enough that we are getting crops harvested (compared to some neighbors in sandy light soil who are not getting much at all). only a few experimental plantings might not produce and that is ok. failures encourage more learning.
with the rains and humidity returning fungal damage is increasing, but i'm hoping it will not be a major problem. continuing to monitoring the situation...
green manure:
the first crop was green manure (harvested greens from alfalfa, trefoil, clovers, etc) and weed trimmings that i've kept feeding the worm bins. i've already returned about 300lbs of refurbished soil (and thousands of worms) to four gardens. soon i will get a chance to see the results in one of the first two gardens when i turn under the bolted lettuces and replant. about 400lbs ready to go back yet -- waiting for a cooler spell.
the spiral garden is the source for most of the green manure. the spiral is a pattern of alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil so there is a smaller bright yellow flowering plant (the trefoil) and the taller darker flowering purple plant (alfalfa). can't really see the purple from a distance as the flowers are smaller, but it is very sweet to smell and the bees love it. they like the trefoil too.
a bit ago i trimmed the spiral garden back to simulate it being grazed. a few piles went around the rhubarb, a bin was stuffed full for worm farm food and the rest was scattered on the surface and then watered in to encourage the worms out there to feast. the alfalfa is already recovered to a foot high. the clay is improved a bit after this first full year. i've left about 90% of the first year growth on the soil instead of harvesting it all and leaving not much behind. i'm expecting next year it will grow even thicker as it's got an extra nitrogen charge now compared to what it had before. we shall see. it's been interesting to watch up close.
rhubarb:
the second crop of the season was rhubarb. all that i had i gave away. much of it was stung because i got to pulling it late. whatever that was damaged that i could not use i buried along with the leaves. about 50lbs harvested and given away. the second cutting was much nicer as i got it before the stingers could recover -- with the drought it was only about 20lbs.
this rhubarb patch is being removed (i've already started a different patch to harvest from for next year) and divided up to give away this fall. i'll let it grow out the rest of the season.
strawberries:
the next crop was strawberries. my first harvest season with the patch that was established last year.
most of them i ate off the vine while picking others to give away or make jam. probably 40lbs total. no major bug or fungus troubles. keeping the fruit picked and cleaning up any parts that the chippies left behind kept the little black beetles from getting going. i saw one the whole first harvest. as the summer has gone on i've got some leaf curlers using the leaves for making cocoon spaces. this doesn't seem to harm the plant much so i'll keep an eye on things there but leave them alone. the whole patch needs a little thinning out and i'm going to be potting up more runners and transplants for expanding production into the bean patch for next year. i'd like to be able to put up enough fruit spread to keep me supplied for a season or two just in case there is a bad year.
peas:
the peas came in ok, but they were mixed in with spinach and lettuces and didn't have trellises to climb. we ate several meals of pea pods and peas from these small patches and i've harvested about a pound of dried peas. the heat and drought turned down production somewhat, the clay and shade from the surrounding plants kept them from giving up completely. there are pea plants still going even now, but i'll be replanting again as soon as i can hoping for some fresh pods before the fall does the plants in. i'm not sure how well they will do with the squash plants but it's worth a try for a few hundred seeds that have been grown for free. if anything they will provide some cover and more nitrogen.
beans:
the green and wax beans that are on the inside perimiter of the strawberry patch were initially eaten by grasshoppers. they outgrew the damage and produced something of a first harvest. in spite of the predation, the drought and the heat. this was only one of three patches of wax and green beans, the others were not being eaten so i left them alone to see what would happen. they are now overshadowed by the soybeans planted in the middle on a hill so i'm not expecting much more from them, but i'll leave them alone to be a dry seed crop for next year.
the rest of the green and wax bean patches produced enough beans to put up eleven quarts of three bean salad that we like so much. still plenty of blooms and beans coming along. we'll see how it goes...
the other fifteen bean patches are mostly doing ok. all are experimental to me in different ways so it is very interesting to see how they are all growing. the lentils don't seem to be doing much. another patch of kidney beans looks like it almost gave up, but shows some signs if reviving. it looked good last week. then we went away for a bit. oops.
i like the pinto bean green beans for munching upon. should harvest some and steam them to see how they turn out that ways too. the vines are going all over the place. they make me laugh, like don't turn my back or i'll have to be rescued by Ma.
the lima beans are getting plenty of pods.
light predation by japanese beetles on the soybeans and some grasshopper damage in other patches. no other major pests seen yet. the birds are doing a good job of controlling the grasshoppers in the new bean patches (where the birdbaths are nearby). it having been so dry for most of the beginning of the season i've not seen much fungal damage either. the ladybug population seems to be active and that means i've not had any aphid troubles this season at all.
tomatoes:
thunder now. more rain. better get out and get the cherry tomatoes picked for dinner. be right back. first picking a few days ago was about a quart, the second picking a few minutes ago is a pint. plenty more on the vine. sweet 100s. fully red they are garden candy. i pick a mix of fully ripe to orange ones as i like some with a bite.
regular tomatoes coming along nicely. not ready yet.
only five tomato worms so far. not much damage, we are catching them early enough.
onions:
during the dry spell we had raccoons decide that the onions were planted in yummy eats and dug some of them up. not much actual damage to the bulbs as they were going for the potting soil that the onions were started in. it probably had some kind of fertilizer that made it smell like food to them. in the process they also trampled some others so we've dug those up and have eaten them too. it isn't likely going to be a banner onion year, but we've planted enough so that even if they are small they will still come through. some seed heads are done flowering, but not quite ripe yet to harvest the seeds. i hope the goldfinches don't like onion seeds.
grapes:
not sure what kind of a crop i'll get this year. i thought with the work i did last season in combination with the dry spring and summer this year that it would break the cycle of fungal attacks on this plant. no luck, no joy. decided to replace the vine with one more suitable and will redo the trellis as the current arbor is wrong for the space too. on the list of projects for next year.
buckwheat:
doing well. it was as tall as i was until the heavy rains and winds knocked it over. still plenty of white flowers and seeds being formed. this should increase my stock of seed from a few ounces to a few pounds once harvested. then i can use it as a cover crop in other locations as needed where i want an annual instead of the deeper rooted perennials.
beets:
seem to be ok. probably should start pulling some soon.
radishes:
grew them for my brother. we don't really eat them. he never got most of them so they are putting up nice white flower stalks now. next year we plant something else we do eat (more peas please!). no need to grow things we don't use. good cover crop though as it grows quickly and has nice wide leaves.
songbird
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An entertaining breakfast read. When I have seed that I REALLY want to keep I find putting a paper bag over the seed head and using a wire tie keeps the predators away and then when they are dried out a good shake saves the seed in to the bag making them easier to collect.
Mike
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Bloke Down The Pub wrote:

thanks Mike. they are almost ripe enough. i think i could cut the stalks and hang them to get the seeds. my fears of goldfinches are probably exaggerated as they are having much fun in the chickory these days.
songbird
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Thanks for the good read, and modeling a good post for everyone.

Thanks for the reminder. I had a trellis set aside for bitter melons, but ol' Rascally Raccoon dug 3 of 4 up. Peas would be a quick replacement. Rascally Raccoon seems to like areas that have been mulched. As a result, most of my garden is under chicken wire. On the up-side, ol Rascally Raccoon is also looking for grubs, which isn't a bad thing.

Rascally Raccoon doesn't seem to like walking on chicken wire.

Are the grapes domestic, French hybrid, or European? I don't know much about domestic grapes, but they evolved with mildew, and I would have thought that they would have some resistance to odium.

We have passed the point where we look forward to having zucchini, and are now we are starting to resist the idea.
--
- Billy
Both the House and Senate budget plan would cut Social Security and Medicare,
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Billy wrote:

you're welcome.
i forgot the volunteer squash plants. they are trying to take over two small gardens. they were doing really well until we started getting more rain and humidity. the first plant that started has nothing going on it yet even though it has flowered profusely. another plant which started later has squash on it. i was worried that there wouldn't be the right kind of pollination for them but it looks like it worked out ok.
...

the 7ft fence tends to keep the raccoons out of the garden where this planting would go. yes, they love a good fat worm too. the raccoons, skunks and possums stir the wood chip mulch here on a regular basis. i wouldn't mind any of them if they'd leave the birds alone. not going to chicken wire all the mulch we have here, way too much of it.
do you have voles there? them are some vicious eaters of pretty much anything.
...

hey, good idea for next season, will have to remember. i think we've already decided to put the onions inside the fenced garden next year and that will likely keep more of them in the ground longer too.

a domestic concord variety. not much resistance to black rot -- we have too much moisture and the heavy soil makes things worse. there are others of the variety that do have resistance, but this vine wasn't selected for that. for the first sixish years of life it was run over by a truck and left in a heap to grow. the main trunk is a split and twisted mess and it's a ways from where i really wanted the vine to be so it's also bent and twisted even more to get it to the arbor i put up years ago. now i'd like to take that all out and start over with a resistant variety, have a nice trunk without suckers, splits and twists, etc.
mildew isn't the trouble. it's a form of black rot. gets in the flowers early and then shows up later in the berries as they fall off the vine. i could fight it harder with chemical controls, but i'd rather just start over at this point.
...

haha, if someone gives them to us we'll eat them but i don't grow them. that space is too valueable and we'd rather have more tomatoes, beets, peas, beans, ... as it is we are turning more and more of the fenced garden into veggie production and moving the perennials out and around. seems silly to have a plant in the fenced garden that doesn't get eaten much or one that we have many of elsewheres.
i do want to keep little island gardens of perennials here or there though to keep a good population of beneficial critters handy and some flowers for color and points of interest. gotta keep the bees and birdies happy.
songbird
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No voles, but we got moles, however they don't bother the garden. They seem to position themselves under the bird feeder. The birds kick out empty sunflower shells, and some of the seed, which makes the ground below very rich, which I presume attracts worms, and other edible fauna. Unfortunately, it is next to our walkway, and the burrowing causes the stepping stones to tilt at some angle other than flat.

I use the large garden staples to hold the chicken wire in place.

Yeah, if it dosn't keep the grapes from getting fertilized, it causes them to rot from the inside out. Best answer is powdered sulfur, and dry weather during flowering.

Herbs are good. Sage flowers early, and throughout the summer. It is more convenient for me to take a kitchen knife and cut off what thyme, oregano, tarragon, or parsley that I may need than to pay the outrageous prices that they want in the stores. You already have clover, another good one. We grow echinacea, geraniums, roses (yeah, I know), sunflowers, and hyssop. Our foxgloves are volunteers.

--
- Billy
Both the House and Senate budget plan would cut Social Security and Medicare,
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Our foxgloves are volunteers.
I hope you know not to handle these especially if you have a heart condition. The plants contain digitalis and can cause serious issues.
Steve

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Billy wrote:

can't believe i forgot the green peppers. we just picked the first major harvest this morning. five four gallon buckets full. we are making stuffed green peppers today for six different families and will give away a bushel of oddly shaped ones that people can use for chili or salsa. not bad for a 6x6ft space. the plants were a little over a foot tall. we'll get a second harvest before the frosts finish them off.

yeah, they like anywhere they can get worms and grubs.
i trap a few moles each year that wander in from the surrounding farm fields. if i didn't have a bulb collection i'd leave them alone, but the mole tunnels act like a highway for voles to get at the bulbs.
moles are interesting creatures to study. they have very incredibly soft fur.
...

...
we had dry weather just before and after flowering, but a series of wet days during. we just had a good rain last night (three inches) to soak things down.
our first regular tomatoes were picked today. just a few that were red enough to pick. just a few had BER this season (the first time we've had any of that, but with the heat and the condition of the soil i'm not terribly surprised). the one i picked and ate for brunch was two fists in size, even if it had rot in the middle. i cut that out and still had a wonderfully ripe whole sized tomato left. often in the first harvest we have tomatoes that are big enough where it only takes a few per quart when we put them up.

we have plenty to select from here. it would take hours to list. i'm pretty sure we're above 200 species (ignoring color or variety differences). include those and it's well above 600. plenty of herbs, not very many annuals.
songbird
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