Going to Have to Chop Down the Apple Tree

The part hanging down used to be above head level.  Now it is almost touching the ground.

The part hanging down used to be above head level. Now it is almost touching the ground.

I got home today to a nasty surprise: the apple tree had been crippled by a recent storm. So much of the tree is destroyed, in fact, that I will be cutting it down entirely after I harvest the few apples that are not the part that broke off.  The silver lining to this is that there is another apple tree growing right at the base of this one that should take off next year because this one will not be taking up as many nutrients or sunlight.

There is a somewhat pressing problem now.  There are a bunch or small, unripe apples on the tree that are going to die.  I would prefer to do something useful with them rather than just throw them on the ground and hope that some seeds matured enough to sprout.  I know that pectin can be extracted from slightly unripe apples, but I have never done it before and don’t know how much under ripe an apple can be and still work.

Thinned the Radishes

The radishes I "thinned" out.

The radishes I “thinned” out.

Today, I noticed the radishes are crowding each other again, so I took this as an opportunity to thin them out.  However, at this point, it more resembles harvesting than thining: when thinning out the radishes, I picked the larger of the radishes to remove.  This left me with a pile of radishes that are fit for eating and cooking with.  Still working out what to do with them; any suggestions are very welcome. The sprouts for the next round of radishes have sprouted already, so I don’t see the stream of radishes stopping anytime soon.  Hopefully the carrots catch up and I have more carrots than I know what to do with to deal with.

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A Few New Things This Year

This is my third season growing a garden, and my desire to grow more in the garden include growing more varieties of plants.  This year, I’ve expanded the area dedicated to some plant, and have added several new ones.

Seed pods on the turnips

Seed pods on the turnips

I mentioned in my last post that I overwintered turnips, and I am letting them go to seed.  In the past few days, the flowers have started disappearing and the seed pods have arrived.  The plants are producing what looks like a large amount of seed, to the point that I should not need to buy turnip seeds again.  I’ve also noticed that the turnips seem to be a nest of bugs: I’ve counted no less than 11 lady bugs on the plants, for which I am very grateful.  Less desirable are the multitude of what looks like could be Harlequin Bugs.  I still need to check the bugs against the pictures I have found of these bugs before I will trust that I have the correct identification.  I hope it does not turn out to be a big problem.  As long as I get seed from these plants, I will be okay with the rest of the plant dying.  More of a concern is that I have cabbage planted elsewhere in the garden that might be affected by these bugs.  For now, they appear to be content to hang out in the branches of the turnip tops.

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Garden Going Strong

The garden has a lot growing in it right now.

The garden has a lot growing in it right now.

The garden has really started to pick up recently.  All the plants are starting to fill out nicely and in some areas are so dense that weeding is no longer needed.  This is especially true under the radishes and the pinto beans.  I’ve made better use of the garden space this year than I did last, but I still think I could easily squeeze in double what I have now if I were to plant more densely and start succession planting.  This is quite evident where the peas were.  I’ve harvested all the peas I will eat and am saving the remainder as seed.  However, if I had planted beans in the rows by the peas about two weeks ago I would have small pinto bean plants already up.  The main reason that didn’t happen is that was about the same time I caught something that the remnants of are still plaguing me.  Also, while the lettuce I planted by the perennial flowers is doing quite nicely, there is still ground that could have been planted.

Peas and buckwheat seeds.

Peas and buckwheat seeds.  Both were very easy to save.  Just let them dry out on the plant and for the peas, to shell the pods.

One of the things I want to do with my garden is to become mostly self-sufficient with seed.  This obviously requires that I become familiar with saving seeds from all my plants.  Last year, I saved seed from the pinto beans, the onion, some mint and a pumpkin.  This year, I have added buckwheat and peas to the list and I am planning on adding radish, sunflower, lettuce and okra to the list.  I’m still waiting on the sunflowers to bloom and the lettuce to bolt.  In the mean time, I’ll be battling the caterpillars that started appearing on the sunflowers a couple of days ago.  My main plan of attack is to knock them off the leaves into a gallon-sized freezer bag and freeze them to death and also preserve them for David to use in his aquaponics system.  Since my tomato plants never made it in the ground and David’s are doing amazing, I might be able to get a tomato or two in exchange.

First Garlic Harvest

Garlic bulbs layed out in the garage to dry.

Garlic bulbs laid out in the garage to dry.

Today, I decided that the garlic was ready to check for harvest.  A few of the lower leaves on the garlic have already turned brown, which is the first sign the bulbs are getting close to being ready to harvest. After using a garden fork to break up the soil around one of the garlic plants, I found the bulb was small but fully formed.  So I went ahead and harvested the rest of the plants.  In total, I got fifteen plants out of the original three bulbs I bought from the farmers market last year.  I plan on using most of the garlic in this harvest to plant out more garlic later this year.  I expect to get about forty to fifty plants from this.  I will only be planting the larger cloves and the smaller cloves will be used for cooking.

Cherry Harvest, New Beehive

The cherries are ready to harvest.

The cherries are ready to harvest.

It is finally time to harvest the cherries. The cherries started to change color early this week and most of them were ready to be picked by the middle of the week, but the storms that moved through Oklahoma this last week has kept me from doing anything until Saturday.

This year has been so different compared to last year.  Just about everything seems to be taking a month longer.

Once more, I have three hives on my property.

Once more, I have three hives on my property.

About two weeks ago, I found a swarm in my back yard, but  I was not able to catch it.  However, I now have three hives on my property again.  I ordered a queen to replace the queen in one hive to get less aggressive genetics, but before I was able to, they swarmed and I was unable to find the old queen.  To prevent the queen from going to waste, we set up a third hive and put the new queen in there.  We borrowed worker bees from another hive and a frame of brood to make sure the hive survives until the new queen can get to laying.

Okra, radishes, and lettuce.

Okra, radishes, and lettuce.

The garden has been making good progress over the past few weeks.  The radishes in particular have been doing quite well and have managed to completely shade out the ground, which I like because it helps cut down on the weeds in that section of the garden.  I would really like for that to be happening in more places in the garden, but so far I’ve only managed to do that here.  The okra I planted has sprouted.  My wife makes an excellent gumbo, which contains okra, so I’m looking forward to having some with okra I grew.

Peas, beans, and herbs.

Peas, beans, and herbs.

The peas I planted this year are doing much better than my attempt last year.  This year most of the plants that sprouted have flowered and have been setting pods.  I accidentally pulled up one plant with pods while weeding today, so I ate the peas in the pods and shared them with my wife.  It was the first time she has ever had peas straight out of the pod she rather liked them.  Given that she normally avoids peas, this is saying a lot.  There is nothing quite like peas straight out of the pod.  If you have never had a chance to have them, grow some peas next year or find somebody who is growing them this year.  You won’t regret the taste.

The garden is looking very green, but I can probably pack even more plants in here.

The garden is looking very green, but I can probably pack even more plants in here.

I finally have caught up with weeding the garden from when I when on my business trip early in May.  Now I just have to maintain the bed, which is a lot easier.  I don’t enjoy having to play catch up, but at least the wet weather has made the process considerably easier.

I picked up some new seeds today and planted them in the garden: green beans to fill in the places in the rows of peas where the seeds didn’t sprout and basil, oregano, and parsley.  These join the chives, thyme and mint I already have growing in the garden.  I will eventually have a wide variety of herbs in the garden.

Back from Business Trip, Bee Swarm and Progress in the Garden

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The second bee swarm this year.

I got back from another business trip to the east coast Wednesday and have been trying to get caught up around the house since then.  On Thursday evening, I discovered a swarm of bees clinging to a dead juniper tree.  This is actually the second swarm this year.  I found the first on the ground under the apple tree while it was nearly freezing outside, and I suspect that swarm died from exposure.  For this hive, I put out a hive body to try to entice the bees to move there without me having to do much work.  All yesterday, there were bees over at the hive body checking things out.  This afternoon I found the bees have left the tree and I suspect they have moved into the hive body, but I don’t want to disturb the hive for a few days.  There is some minor traffic at the hive’s entrance, but not enough to be definitive.

The garden is starting to grow well.

The garden is starting to grow well.  The irises are blooming in just about every possible color.

While I was gone, the garden has started to take off. The lettuce and radishes I planted before I left have sprouted and are starting to grow.  unfortunately, so have the weeds.  I have spent most of the time since I have returned home pulling weeds from the garden.  The most annoying is certainly Bermuda grass.  It is very prolific and also difficult to remove.  I have more than half the garden still to weed.

Since returning home, I have planted Jericho lettuce, some potatoes that were no longer edible on the counter, mammoth sunflowers, and okra.  I also put flower seeds in the front beds along with chives as a border.  I want the front beds to be a bit more colorful than the green and brown, but mostly brown, color they were last year.