Saturday, October 8, 2011

Beginning to put the garden to bed

I pulled up the San Marzano tomato plants this morning.  Once I got the main crop in during the summer, the plants grew a second flush, but they never did ripen - even in hot weather. There were lots of green tomatoes on them, full-sized ones in full sun for weeks, they just wouldn't get ripe.  Out they came.  I picked all the green tomatoes off, and composted the plants.  Compost has become nearly as important a 'crop' as anything else I grow. I found a few red  and ripening ones, a few past their prime to feed to the chickens, and maybe 20 pounds of green ones.  

I will probably make the green-tomato salsa I linked to a post or two back, because it can be canned.   I found about a dozen ripe, or nearly-so 'German Pink' tomatoes to enjoy now, and left the plants in the ground for a while longer. These did very well in their protected place last year.  It was only after a heavy frost that the foliage died and revealed even more tomatoes. 

This is just two plants!

After some research, I have found this is a 'vineing' variety.  Simple stakes are useless, and cages aren't much better.  They will just continue to grow taller until killed by frost.  I have thrown the vines over the fence (8 feet tall) and they have still grown another two or more feet on the other side.   The neighbor has been told anything growing on his side is his.  Lessons learned this year:  Get the seedlings started inside and in the ground much earlier so I can enjoy the tomatoes in the summer instead of fall! 

I pulled the hot pepper plants too, mostly because I'm tired of messing with them.  I got another couple of dozen jalapenos and almost that many green cayennes. Green or not, they are still hot, and will dry just fine in the dehydrator.  I got a warning tingle on my hands as I cut up the plants to put in the compost pile.  Apparently even the leaves and stems are hot too - no wonder the insects leave them alone!  I know I got well over 100 jalapenos off two plants and probably half that of cayennes off one plant.  I wish everything I grew was so prolific! 
My fall garden has been more failure than success, but I am not discouraged.   Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts in containers started off much better than the ones in the ground, but then were eaten to pieces by cabbage worms.  I didn't plant any companion plants with them, because I didn't think they would grow so late in the year.  The ones in the ground are catching up now, and have little-to-no insect damage, being planted with radishes!  I may get Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving after all.   Overall this year, I did see a positive difference in outcomes with companion planting.

I am in love with French Breakfast Radishes!  I planted 3 varieties of radish this fall and all are doing well in the ground (they didn't like pots) but the French are the fastest to mature.  I looked it up, and the French eat them raw, dipped in soft butter with salt.  I tried it, but the butter on a raw veg seemed superfluous, so I just eat them the American way, raw with salt only.  They are mild and have a great 'root vegetable' taste, unlike regular varieties, which seem more like a garnish or accent.  I want to plant lots early in the Spring, and in the ground, not pots. 
  • Turnips are still promising in the pots.  It remains to be seen if they continue to grow through frosts so I can get some baby turnips before a heavy freeze does them in.  I'm in it only for the roots.  The greens go to the chickens and rabbits, or the compost.    
  • Two varieties of kale planted from seed are coming up fine, but will probably have to be eaten in the baby stage. 
  • The Bok Choy grew to seedlings, then stopped.  Didn't die, just simply didn't grow any more.  I will try again in the Spring - to be harvested at 'baby size.' and steamed or sauteed with other vegetables. 
  • The eggplant have grown fine this fall and have very healthy foliage and blooms, but will not have enough time to set and ripen fruit before frost.  Go back to pots next year - they did fine there. Add companion flowers and herbs. 
 More lessons learned:  Concentrate on what I can grow that will produce the most in the least space or fewest plants.  As mentioned before, squash are out.  Even if I could overcome insects and disease, they are simply too big for my small space. Ditto on the pole beans.  Instead of saving space by growing UP, the plants were just huge, with few beans.  I'm going back to bush beans next year.    

My garden space is not suitable for 'floating row covers,' which are needed to garden well in seriously cold weather - to keep things going after frost and freezes to get full-sized plants and veggies.  The plants need to be grown in - uh - rows to use those. Mine are grown in clumps, more like the square-foot-gardening style. If I had started with rectangular raised beds, it might be different, but my garden stared out as a very big, deep English 'herbatious border' - stylish a the time - that evolved (degenerated?) into my small oval planting plot studded with shrubs and flowering plants, some large, some small.

Chicken update:
I'm going out on a limb and naming one of the Orpington chicks.   I have been calling her Gracie, after   

Grace Coolidge  

Gracie is a cute name that seems to fit the chick, but I confess I don't know much about the real Grace Coolidge, except that she loved animals of all kinds :-)   I chose that name not so much because of admiration for the lady, but because of this fabulous portrait.  It, along with one of  Edith Roosevelt  are among my favorite First Lady portraits.  (Yes Edith, TRs wife, although Eleanor's portrait is very innovative) 

And here she is - little Gracie herself - trying to get away while I try to take her picture.  She is very shy, and hides behind Abigail much of the time. I'm still working on winning her over. I got her on my lap the other night, and after a minute she decided she liked it, and started to trill.  She has no comb or wattles to speak of ......and I hope it stays that way.   

On the other hand, look what Dolley has grown in the last month!  

A very impressive set of comb and wattles (comb looks even bigger on the other side where her feathers are flatter)  Even her earlobes are bigger.  She had smaller wattles and comb before, but I could literally see them getting bigger every day.  This change roughly coincides with putting no-name chick in with her.  I don't know if it's a hormonal thing, or if she is really a he!!!   If that's the way it turns out, I'm going to be very upset!!!    These aren't the only indicators of gender.  She hasn't started to crow or try to mount any of the other chickens - but then she's not laying any eggs, about 8 months old!  That's not unheard of, according to what I read on Backyard Chicken Forum - especially this year, there's been a lot of that.  I don't use organic feed.....I wonder what GMO stuff they might be putting in there, and if it's having an effect on our livestock?   Sigh.......if Dolley 'turns into' a rooster, as long as there continues to be no crowing - she's staying.  I'm much too bonded now.

Here is little no-name below.  I'm still waffling nearly daily on this one - does have a pretty big comb, has wattles, but small, pale unless excited, not displaying obvious roo behavior, like crowing or mounting other birds.  It is much more outgoing than Gracie.  Not really brave though, in fact, if I try to pick it up, or it gets upset about something, it does it's best "henny penny / the-sky-is-falling" imitation.  It's hysterical - both the chick's attitude, and my amusement.  Abigail wants nothing to do with it anymore, poor thing, but it's getting bonded to Dolley.    

The chicks are 9 weeks old today, and are nearly the same size as the older chickens.  If you consider Dolley is mostly feathers, no-name probably is the same size. It's amazing how fast they grow.

Holly-bunny (who would not let me take her picture, because she is partially plucked and not looking her best) gave me a scare this week, when it seemed as though some of her legs were partially paralyzed!   After giving her a thorough going-over and watching her move, I think she has hurt her back somehow, but not seriously.  This is not uncommon in rabbits, due to the length of their spine and the extreme power of their back legs.  They can actually break their own back while playing, and die.  Holly is gradually getting better, and while not being her usual snotty-diva self, she has not relinquished her "Princess" title, and is relishing all the extra attention.   

 Those are the updates from Wren Cottage .....


  1. I think focusing on what we can grow well in our area/space is important. As for GMOs, I don't know if you are on all the email lists that I am that send out the latest information on these, but they are SCARY - and nearly EVERYwhere! I think the devil is trying to kill us all, and has just added GMOs to his arsenal.

  2. Amen! It's not only politics (we wrestle not against flesh and blood....)