Buckwheat in Bloom!

Buckwheat on side of house

Earlier I said that maybe I went a little overboard with the buckwheat this year, but now I don’t think so. I’ve always liked baby’s breath, and to me the bigger clusters of white blooms on buckwheat are just as enjoyable. And, as part of edible landscaping, these make a nice contribution to our favorite pancakes. So, without further ado, here are some shots of our buckwheat in bloom in pockets around the front, side, and back yard. P.S. We’re also up to 175 pounds of produce!

Buckwheat in front of cantaloupe patch and beans

Buckwheat among front perennials   Buckwheat by the asparagus

Buckwheat around corner from rock gardenAnd, some volunteer buckwheat in the watermelon patch.

Volunteer buckwheat in watermelon patch

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50 Ways to Leave Your Garden and Return (a Paul Simon parody)

  1. Slip out the gate, Nate
  2. Paint the north wall, ya’ll
  3. Take a needed rest, Wes
  4. Kick up your feet…

The yard hasn’t exactly been the relaxing hobby this year, hence the song. Aster Yellows took down some coneflowers. The Japanese beetle population now requires a near daily collection with soapy water. Squash borers have taken out 3 vines and counting (moths here since May and saw one this week). We had some bit and run incidents with several melons, a fungus attacking lemon cuke vines, grubs causing the lawn to peel in areas, and crabgrass attempting a coup. The sweet doily weeds are better behaved and casually place themselves under the perennials along the front walk as if preparing for tea, but crabgrass has been a bull in a china shop.

So, yes. I have slipped out the gate, painted the north wall (before and after the heat wave), taken needed rests, and kicked up my feet. But, it’s not all bad. We’re up to 50 pounds of produce grown as of today. So, for every way to leave the garden, there’s another ripening reason to return.

Below is the tally of what has been harvested so far. And a note on Mutti- she continues to improve, but healing has been a long process. Below the graph is a picture of the north wall I painted yesterday on my day off. It was finally less humid and cool enough to put on the second coat.

graph of 50 pounds of produce grown as of July 28, 2012

North wall showing second coat of paint

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Kermit sings the blues about the yellows

IAster Yellows on coneflower picked our first Pattypans and Asian Eggplants today. The larger cantaloupe are sitting up on cleaned tuna cans, busy knitting their netting patterns. The onions have swooned. The beets are blushing. The beans are kind of flagging in the heat, but are determined to get up the twine. The garden is hopping, literally. I saw my first frog since we’ve lived here. But, then I saw something green on our coneflowers that would have even Kermit singing the blues, or in this case, the yellows.

Unfortunately, I spotted Aster Yellows on our coneflowers. And looking over the fence, I also saw it on our neighbors coneflowers. Not good. After emailing photos into the U of MN Extension Service to confirm,  I sadly removed our affected plants. But, our neighbor has only trimmed back the visibly affected parts of hers. I plan to hand off a little helpful reading material to her when I see her next, for the good of her own remaining plants, ours, and our neighbors. I learned one needs to remove the whole plant or it can still infect other plants via leafhoppers. If you see this in your yard, please have the courtesy to do the same, if not for the good of your own plants, for the good of others. It overwinters in plant tissue also, so there can be accumulative presence of the disease for the next year if no action is taken. Also, there is no cure.

The picture above is of our own diseased coneflower plant. I just hope the leafhopper life-cycle for this growing season won’t affect our garden further as I see the list of potential plants it can infect is about 90% of what we’re growing in perennials and annuals (including our vegetables and herbs). Gardening, never a dull moment.

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Tally for June 30, 2012

We’re up to 18 pounds grown so far. This graph will be updated periodically and posted on our Suburban Ton page for those who think it’s fun to track it along with us. Before Mutti had health issues this spring, we had decided to try to surpass last year’s total. I guess we’ll see if that happens as we weren’t able to take advantage of the warmer spring to its fullest. Most of what we’ve been harvesting so far are perennial crops and the garlic put in last fall. Overall, we have around 40 different items that could be harvested this time around including types of herbs, fruit, veggies and grain. I have to say that sowing the buckwheat got a little crazy this year. I generally sow it after the garlic are done, but I didn’t stop with planting it where the garlic had been. No, I planted it out in the front yard among the perennial beds, and in pockets around the side and back yard. I guess we’re mad for Mancan. New items we’re trying this year are lemon cucumber, Hutterite beans, Crimson Sweet watermelon, Asian eggplant, Napa cabbage, and Bok Choy.

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What’s New in June

Pink bush roseson June 8th we reached our first pound for the season. It has been a mix of strawberries (regular and alpine), green onions, garlic scapes, variety lettuce, and catnip. And we’ve enjoyed seeing a few roses along the way.

I got a little caught up on the larger gardening projects over the Memorial Day weekend, but was not aware that our front step container salad bowl was the latest acquisition for the lagomorph banking system. The bunnies in the neighborhood have been making withdrawals, and leaving deposits. I took it in stride, but decided to close the “drive-thru” entrance and park the bowl on the back deck instead. New greens, purples, and reds (we’re diversified) were still coming up and so I’m just letting the deposits gain interest in the soil for a while.

We’re trying a few new things this year.

  • I took the suggestion of Charlotte, a commenter of the blog, to staple chicken wire to a pallet trellis to give the cukes more traction. I remember last year the cukes hanging freely inside the trellis through the slats, but this still may work better if they use more of the trellis area.

chicken fencing stapled on pallet trellis

  • We’re also trying the burlap bag method for growing potatoes, after seeing a post by City Girl, associated with PRI Cold Climate (Permaculture Research Institute) here in Minnesota. She reused burlap coffee bean bags to grow her potatoes, so we got our own free Dunn Bro coffee bean bags last season to try it out. We also have some planted the conventional way in ground, but I am sure these will be easier to get at!

potatoes growing in two burlap coffee bean bags

  • I also bought some floating row cover for the first time to see how that does in preventing vine borers from infesting the squash. Though, once they’re blooming I think I’ll need another strategy. We also got a yellow bowl to put out with water to see if that really will cue us to the presence of the moths.

floating row cover over squash by trellis

  • To keep the Gold Finches from pecking our beet greens, I’m trying netting over the top of a raised bed, tucking the edges under the cap blocks. The bed is not full of soil to the top, so there is enough room for the plants to grow under the net.

Bird netting over raised bed to protect beets

  • And…should the Japanese Beetles make their anticipated appearance, we will be flicking them into a bowl of dish soap exclusively. We didn’t know smashing them released a scent that attracts their friends. I may also experiment with putting strong scented herbs near their favorite hang-outs to see if that makes any difference.

Mutti is making progress in healing and getting around more, for which we’re both thankful! One of these days she’ll be picking pea pods again- hopefully soon.

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PT at the Homestead

Mutti and Ellie the cat napPT is for physical therapy. We finally learned in the last month that Mutti’s symptoms were from a fractured pelvis. Her orthopedic doctor was clearly out of touch with how much pain she was in during the office visit, so instead of her trying to keep doing stairs and going about her business as he recommended, we instead opted for main level rest and home PT.

In the past month, I’ve repurposed an unused spare shower curtain to cover foam as a thigh pillow for a hard plastic commode, have done absolutely nothing with the extra pallets we were going to put to use this year, have singlehandedly killed off our initial tomato seedlings due to what appeared to be an airborne fungus not caught in time AND reseeded a new flat the same weekend, sanitized the entire poly greenhouse interior and shelving, reroped the greenhouse roof after frayed points in the existing rope allowed it to become an unwieldly kite in March-like gusts, looked after our other plants from seed, and tried to just keep the salad bowl and planters on the steps watered. There’s been enough other additional activity with calling to cancel and arrange new doctor appointments and PT, meeting with siblings to discuss Plan As and Bs, and everything that goes into nursing a painful pelvis back to health.

We’re still in that process, so the gardening activity is taking a backseat to Mutti’s “backseat.” This weekend I do hope to make some headway with some weeding, soil amending, and repotting the new tomato seedlings that are off to such a late start. I’m also in the process of hardening off our other plants. It’s kind of like Mutti’s PT, as she gradually increases physical activity as she’s able. Indoor peppers can’t take full sun sitting on raised beds right out of the gate. There’s a time to stay in the shade and get used to the breezes as they come.

With Mutti’s permission, the above picture is a nap shot with Ellie and Mutti. We anticipate that Ellie will be giving some crop reports this growing season though they may not be as regular as last year. She reports, from bedside, that we harvested 3 ounces from the  salad bowl to start off counting our pounds. As time and circumstances allow, we’ll update our Suburban Ton page at the top of the blog again – to see how close we come this year even with the slow start!

The salad bowl

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This year’s seedlings

We’re busting at the seams with seedlings, so I put up the greenhouse tent impromptu this evening hoping to move many of them out tomorrow. We discussed whether we’d be weighing everything we pick like we did last year, and we resolved that we’d try doing it again just to see how much we grow. We may not reach a ton, but it’s fun to see how close we get! And we’re trying more varieties of things this year than last. Though, with Mutti having some physical challenges that she didn’t have previously, we’ll have to see how it goes in the future if I can bear most of the weight or not.

This year’s seedlings include:

Four types of tomatoes (two determinate and two indeterminate)

Three types of peppers (regular, Anaheim, and jalapeno)

Four types of winter squash and two types of summer squash

Two types of melon (watermelon and cantaloupe)

Eggplant, Wong Bok cabbage, broccoli, Love Lies Bleeding Amaranth, basil, and huckleberry. Rosemary and Sweet Annie didn’t germinate unfortunately.

We did more pepper seedlings because after we took in about 5 large pepper plants last fall to try to overwinter them, they were struck with a massive aphid infestation. I showered them off several times to no avail. They had to go. Among them was “Old Duffer” a two-year old pepper plant that we’d overwintered the previous year.  

In addition to our direct seeded veggies and grains, we plan to add Hutterite Beans and Painted Lady Runner Beans to our regular crop of Kentucky Wonder. We’ll see how they all do with the return of the dreaded Japanese Beetles, but we won’t think of that now. I just hope the Nematode application last year will have helped some.

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