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Vegetable Garden, July 2014, No. 1

The garden really started to produce in July. The peas (snow, snap, and shelling) produced very well. We were able harvest and freeze a dozen packages each of snow and snap peas. The shelling peas just got ahead of us. The zucchini and summer squash continue to produce. The excess of these have gone to the food bank. Green and yellow wax beans are coming on and will be canned soon. We harvested the first of the potatoes. I planted these plants very deep and filled in around the plants as they grew. Now that I have started the harvest, of course I have to dig a deep hole to get down those potatoes. Hmm, I have to think about this strategy a bit more. I am getting good looking potatoes but not in large quantity.

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The melons are doing well with enough fruit for our use, but the plants are not looking great. The corn is starting to tassel out, but I am not seeing any ears. This could be a lack of nitrogen, possibly water, or maybe it is just not time for the ears to form. I have increased the amount of water in case that is the issue. They are both growing in the newly created garden where the soil is less than ideal. Lime, nitrogen, and lots of compost should put it right for next year or maybe the year after that. It takes time and lots of work to get garden soil to where you would want it to be.

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I have beans and winter squash growing in the new garden are as well and they could not be doing better. Great looking plants and lots of fruit. They seem to be doing just fine in this soil.

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The main crop of tomatoes and peppers are just starting to get ripe. The tomato plants look great; just starting to top their 4 foot cages. They have a reasonable amount of green fruit and if the warm weather holds for another 30 to 60 days, we should have a good harvest. The pepper plants are another story. The plants look weak and although they are producing good looking fruit, the harvest will be less than what it could be. I am not certain what the problem is, but I hope that loads of compost, nitrogen, and some lime will sort this out for next year. These plants are in the well-established portion of the garden so I know the soil is in basically good shape. I plan to double dig the rows that will grow tomatoes and peppers next year as well as the rows that are growing them now.

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Double digging is a process of digging out the soil about 2 feet deep and breaking up the soil below that with a digging fork to get a root zone that is about 2 ½ feet deep. The soil from what was the top of the garden now ends up at the bottom of this dig. In the process of this dig I will be working in a lot of compost. The goal is to create a deep, well composted root zone. The down side of this effort is the soil structure is complete disturbed, upsetting the biological balance of the soil. It is better to get this done before fall rains get going. This will give the soil all winter to sort things out.

Something odd is going on with my broccoli, cauliflower, and romanesco. The plants are large and robust, but there are no florets. I was expecting to at least be seeing small heads beginning to form but there is nothing. This is very odd. I have never seen or heard of that happening before and have no idea what is going on. I will have to research this to come up with a theory/plan.

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Fall and winter vegetables.

I have started, onions, broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce. They are germinating very well and are off to a great start. The rows that grew peas, kohlrabi, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, and parsnips this year will grow tomatoes and peppers next year. As I clean up these rows, I will be double digging them and then planting the winter cabbage and broccoli on these rows. Even though the double digging will disrupt the bio-balance of these rows, I do not think that will cause these vegetables too much trouble.

Growing winter broccoli and cabbage in rows that will grow tomatoes and peppers the following year:
There have been a handful of field studies that show that if you grow these type of plants and dig the waste of these crops into the soil compounds in the plant will kill some of the bacteria that cause tomato problems. I have done this for years and am convinced it works, but I do not completely understand the science behind this or know if really works.

Apples, pears, and plums.

The Red Gravenstein apples and the Italian prune are just starting to get ripe with the Moyer prune not that far behind them.

Plan review: July

• Get winter vegetables started. (done)
• Reseed Parsnips (done)
• Harvest Garlic and shallots (done)
• Harvest and preserve the garden vegetables and fruits(on going)
• Organize to have the excess produce provided to the needy in Roseburg (done)
• Start to work on building a walking path around the property( no progress, I am going to drop this project until later in the fall)

Plan: August

• Harvest tomatoes, peppers, green beans, potatoes, melons, and sweet corn.
• Up pot winter vegetables
• Double dig at least one of next years tomato rows, maybe two if the zucchini and summer squash finish up in time.

Notes:

• Plant sweet corn in the area of the new garden where the potatoes are now growing. This area has been deeply dug and will be amended.
• Plant all legumes and squash in the new garden area. They seem to grow well in this soil and the legumes fix nitrogen.
• Finish out the new garden area with potatoes and melons.


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Puttin’ Up

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Bruce worked long and hard hours putting in the garden this last spring, so much so that he’s lost about 20 pounds.  The garden was already huge and he added on to it.  After all that labor we are beginning to see some results. Actually, we are hauling in the produce as fast as we can!

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We had a huge crop of asparagus in April.  We ate a lot of it, pickled some and  froze about 12 pounds.

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In June we had a nice crop of beautiful heads of lettuce and also some rhubarb.  I’m not a fan of rhubarb but we did find a great place to pick strawberries, so we made some strawberry-rhubarb jam, and that’s good!  The rhubarb is ready to be harvested again, so I think this time we’ll freeze it.  We may need to get another freezer!

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It looked like we would get a good crop of early plums and we did eat a few of them, but the raccoons got the rest when we went away on a short trip.  That was disappointing.  The blueberries plants we brought with us from California had a beautiful crop.  They ripen differently here; they get blue quickly, but take a long time to ripen and they’ll stay on the stems for a longer time.  We had to put netting on them because the birds love them, ripe or not.

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In early July we started getting some snow peas and then they just took off and we couldn’t pick them fast enough, but we were able to freeze a large portion of them.  Of course the zucchini and summer squash are doing well…they’ve been producing since June with no let up in sight.  Bruce and our daughter put up some zucchini dill and bread and butter pickles.  They are squeaky when first made, but soften up and become just as delicious as cucumber pickles.  I also made some zucchini bread but it takes a disappointingly small amount of zucchini to make the cakes.  The food pantry likes to get the giant ones.  The grate them and then freeze them and use them as hash browns–frying them up in a pan.  Sounds interesting but we haven’t tried it yet.

We’ve also had some kohlrabi, and fennel, which we pickled.

Next up–cucumbers!  LOTS of cucumbers!  Now we have many, many jars of pickles, with only two of us to eat them.

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A couple of mornings ago it was cool so Bruce and I went out and picked several pounds of green beans and yellow wax beans and we canned all of them.  We’ve never done that before so it was fun and interesting and also a good review of how to can low-acid vegetables and the use of the pressure canner.

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That’s about all we have in the garden so far.  The tomatoes are just starting to ripen and the few we had to eat were delicious.  The peppers are coming along and I cooked some up for dinner.  The melons are small but looking good and the winter squash look very pretty amongst the green leaves.

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Oh, also Bruce dug up a few pounds of potatoes and they look just like the ones you get in the store.  That’s a first time crop for Bruce and I’d say it’s a success!

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We don’t have any ripe fruit yet, but the grapes, apples, plums and pears all look good and we are impatiently waiting for them to ripen.

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We just couldn’t resist the peaches being sold at Brosi’s Sugartree Farm, one of the local fruit stands.  We started out with part of a 20 pound box and made two jams, Peach Brandy and Peach Basil, one batch of pickled peaches and the filling for one pie.  We kind of goofed up the jam recipes, but it was fun, so today we went out and got another 20 pound box.  I made one more pie filling today and tomorrow we’ll can the rest and perhaps freeze some of them.

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The pickled peaches are in a sugar/vinegar syrup with vanilla beans, whole allspice and cinnamon sticks.

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Pie filling ready for freezing in a pie dish, and peach slices ready for freezing.

Here’s a rare scene on the farm–the Gravens Garden farmer taking some well-deserved time off.

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Wildflower Secrets

We have very much enjoyed all the wildflowers growing here on the farm throughout the spring, and we’re continually amazed that new ones keep popping up, even in the fierce heat of summer.   They often grow in multitudes, so that we’ll have a yard full of tiny pink or yellow flowers.  Right now, there are large areas of white Queen Anne’s lace in the garden.  It’s very easy to just admire them for how beautiful they look in large numbers, but  many of them have hidden features that you can’t see until you get very close and give them some individual attention.  One example is St. John’s Wort.

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It is growing all over the farm, but mostly in  large clumps in the orchard.  It’s very pretty and adds some color to the brown grasses.  Bruce took a sprig of it in to the Master Gardener’s Plant Clinic to find out what it was.  After it was identified I looked it up and found out that it has some very interesting features that you wouldn’t notice at first glance, because, wow, look at the bright yellow color and the fireworks-like stamens.

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St. John’s Wort  (Hypericum perforatum) is also known as Klamathweed or Goatweed.  It is widely used to treat depression and is known to be anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antiseptic.  The flowers can be collected and infused in EVOO by leaving it sit in the sun for 4-6 weeks.  After the flowers are strained out, the oil will be red and should be stored in the refrigerator.  It is used as a healing salve.  St. John’s Wort is a nervine, which calms the nerve endings in an injury or trauma, so the oil will have a mild pain reliever quality.

So, that’s quite interesting, but even more interesting is how the plant looks.  I had to use a magnifying lens to see it, but the flower petals have serrated edges with small black dots on the serrations, which are black glands.

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In addition, the leaves have translucent (pellucid) glands, hence the Latin name perforatum.  When held up to the light it appears as if the leaf is perforated.  The glands on the leaves, stems and petals contain a light-sensitive compound called hypericin.

 

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I hadn’t given this flower much thought beyond that it was yellow and there was a lot of it in the garden, but I’m glad that I did take the time to look it up and find out that there was much more going on.  That’s the thing about the wildflowers–they are abundant and pretty in masses of color, but if you take the time to study the individuals, you will be rewarded with some fascinating discoveries.

To be fair though, this interesting plant is quite devastating in the west.  It is invasive and spreading rapidly.  It is especially dangerous to livestock.  If ingested it can cause photosensitization because of the compound hypericin, which can lead to skin ulceration, necrosis, and edema.

I suppose we should go out and rip it out of the ground since we do have our lovely cattle neighbors.

Click to access photosensitisation-in-stock.pdf

 

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
W.B. Yeats


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Friend or Foe

The wildflowers here are abundant and can be very beautiful, especially when they grow in large numbers.  We have recently been seeing a pretty white flower growing mostly in the orchard,

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but Bruce told me it is invasive and we should try to get rid of it.

Well, before we do that I needed to take lots of photos of it.  The flower is Queen Anne’s Lace, (Daucus carota), or wild carrot.  It is the parent plant of the cultivated carrot with a similar odor.  The head is composed of hundreds of small flowers and it often has a central pink, purple or brown section..  As it ages the outer edge elongates and curls downward.

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I thought it was great that I was able to photograph the flower in many stages of its life, until I read that maybe it isn’t Queen Anne’s Lace at all, but instead  Poison Hemlock.  Oh no.  Well, of course, I had no idea that this was a problem, and I had no idea how to tell the difference, and just exactly how poisonous is it?  Seems it was time to do some more research.  Here’s what I found:

It is highly important to identify Queen Anne’s Lace correctly, because the plant closely resembles the highly poisonous Hemlock plant. Hemlock contains a poison called Coniine, which blocks the ability of the nervous system to transmit information to the muscles. Like curare, Hemlock will cause a progressive paralysis, which affects the diaphragm and results in an inability to breathe (causing death). Socrates was poisoned by Hemlock.

Poison-hemlock is acutely toxic to people and animals, with symptoms appearing 20 minutes to three hours after ingestion.  All parts of the plant are poisonous and even the dead canes remain toxic for up to three years.  The amount of toxin varies and tends to be higher in sunny areas.  Eating the plant is the main danger, but it is also toxic to the skin and respiratory system.  When digging or mowing large amounts of poison-hemlock, it is best to wear gloves and a mask or take frequent breaks to avoid becoming ill.  One individual had a severe reaction after pulling plants on a hot day because the toxins were absorbed into her skin.  The typical symptoms for humans include dilation of the pupils, dizziness, and trembling followed by slowing of the heartbeat, paralysis of the central nervous system, muscle paralysis, and death due to respiratory failure.  For animals, symptoms include nervous trembling, salivation, lack of coordination, pupil dilation, rapid weak pulse, respiratory paralysis, coma, and sometimes death.  For both people and animals, quick treatment can reverse the harm and typically there aren’t noticeable aftereffects. If you suspect poisoning from this plant, call for help immediately because the toxins are fast-acting – for people, call poison-control at 1-800-222-1222 or for animals, call your veterinarian.

http://www.kingcounty.gov/environment/animalsAndPlants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/poison-hemlock.aspx

So…that’s not good.  But I still didn’t know if I had a benign plant or a poisonous one.  How are they identified?

As Queen Anne’s Lace is often used in classroom experiments (the flower heads will change color when the fresh cut stems are exposed to dyed water), it is vital to correctly identify this plant prior to harvesting. In addition, some people do harvest and eat the roots of wild carrot, or make a jelly from Queen Anne’s Lace.

One important identifier of wild carrot is the smell. Queen Anne’s Lace gives off a carrot-like smell when the leaves of the plant are crushed.

This is true, it does smell like carrot greens.

Hemlock, on the other hand, has a rank, musty smell similar to parsnips. When picking wild carrot, it is important to smell each plant before harvesting its flowers.

Wild carrot has green stems with little green hairs. The stems are entirely green, with no other discoloration.

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Hemlock has smooth stems, and the lower portion of the stem will be streaked with red or purple spots and lines.

Queen Anne’s Lace grows to a height of 1-3 feet, while Poison Hemlock grows to a height of 6-8 feet.

Queen Anne’s Lace earned its name from the appearance of the flower: it appears like a fine lace. In the middle of the flower, there is a purple “heart” (a small, dark red or purple flower in the center). This small, red flower is said to be the blood from Queen Anne, when she pricked her finger on a needle while making the lace. The actual purpose of the tiny, dark flower is to attract pollinating insects. Hemlock does not have a small, dark flower in the center.

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When Queen Anne’s Lace goes to seed, the umbrels fold up into a concave form (resembling a bird’s nest) and eventually fall off the stem to form a small tumbleweed.  Poison Hemlock does not fold up.  The seeds of the Queen Anne’s lace have spiny structures on the outside, while the Poison Hemlock seeds are smooth.

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http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Identify-Queen-Annes-Lace-Wild-Carrot

Some other interesting facts about Queen Anne’s Lace:

The leaves are eaten by the Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar

You can eat the roots of young plants and the seeds

The leaves can cause photodermatitis which is a chemical reaction that makes the skin hyper-sensitive to UV light

The flowers are used as a dye producing a creamy, off-white color

The plants have been used to boost tomato production when kept nearby and can provide a microclimate of cooler, moister air for lettuce when intercropped with it.  But the USDA has listed it as a noxious weed, meaning it is injurious to agricultural and/or horticultural crops, natural habitats and/or ecosystems and/or humans or livestock.

Wikipedia-Daucus carota

**To see a fantastic series of photos on the life cycle of  Queen Anne’s Lace, go to this page, by Brian Johnston;

http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/indexmag.html?http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/artapr05/bjwildcarrot.html

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