A Break in the Heat for the Start of the Apple Harvest

The heat in Oklahoma appears to have broken.  I’m glad this has happen as all the plants in my garden have stopped fruiting.  No beans.  No tomatoes.  Now that we are back down into the high 90s, the tomatoes are starting to flower again.  We even got a quarter inch of rain yesterday.

Half a bucket of apples. Like just about everything else that came with the house, don’t know variety. McIntosh, perhaps?

Also, this week, the apples are ripening, which means harvest time and a scramble to preserve as much as I can for when the harvest is over.  I’ve been a bit confused as to when the apples are ready, mainly because this is the first time I’ve dealt with apples that I’ve picked off a tree and partly because I don’t know what they are supposed to look like when they are ready to pick.  I am already starting to preserve some of the apples by drying them into apple chips.  I also intend to try making apple sauce and apple butter.  I’m also saving the peals and cores to attempt extracting pectin so that I don’t have to buy pre-packaged pectin when making jellies.

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First Harvested Tomatoes

Nice, ripe tomatoes.

Over the past week, I’ve started harvesting the tomatoes.  So far, I’ve gathered eleven tomatoes.  One of the first things I noticed about them, especially after reading an NPR article on heirloom tomatoes, is the “green shoulders” the tomatoes have.  This is apparently something that pretty much all heirloom tomatoes have and is one of the reasons that heirloom tomatoes taste different from the tomatoes available in the supermarket.

Pinto bean plant with pods a day or two from being ready to harvest.

The other harvest I have going on right now is pinto beans.  I have been getting a nice steady harvest since the first pods I pulled off the plants.  The number has steadily increased over the past two weeks.  Now I am getting about thirty pods a day.  I have easily recovered the seed beans I planted this year and I don’t  see the harvest stopping for several months.  The first row of beans directly planted in the ground is starting to flower and in a few weeks will have their first bean pods starting to grow.  It is about a month after the first pod appears to when the pods can be harvested.

A double row of bean sprouts. In a week or two, this is going to be a nice, thick row of bean plants.

Last week, I planted another set of bean plants directly in the ground.  This time, I am trying a double row of beans to see how that works.  I hope it works well, as using a double row should allow me to plant the beans more densely in the garden plot, meaning more beans in the same amount of space.  I was planning on just using beans as a green manure, but now that it seems likely that I will be able to get beans off these plants, I will take all the beans I can get.  I’m interested in seeing how many I can get before frost kills the plants.

The Tomatoes Ripen

Three of the tomatoes are turning red. This is one of them.

I’ve been awaiting this moment all year: I have my first tomatoes ripening.  I’m not quite sure when this variety of tomato is best picked, so I am trying a few different times to get a feel for the timing.  The remaining tomato plants have more tomatoes that I am willing to count right now, and several of them will probably start ripening soon.  I suspect that I will have a nice continuous tomato harvest from now until the frost kills the plants.  Once I start processing the tomatoes, I am going to attempt to save seed for use next year.  I’ve seen a few tutorials on how to save tomato seeds, but like everything else I’ve learned, there is a fairly big difference between watching somebody doing what you want and actually doing it.

The peaches have started turning color.

It has been a while since I posted anything on the peaches, mainly because nothing interesting has been happening with the peaches. They have just slowly, but steadily, grown in size. Now, they have finally started changing color. This signals that they are getting close to being ready to harvest. I am guessing that harvest will be between two weeks and a month and a half. I really don’t know how long they take and when exactly they are ripe.  As soon as they are ready, though, they will all be harvested, pitted and canned for use later.

The garden is pretty much full now.

My mother came over today and brough seventy strawberry plants, numerous irises, day lilies, and assorted other flowers. Because I don’t really have anywhere else to put them at the moment, they went into the garden plot. Many of them will be remaining in the garden for as long as I can keep them alive and I will be dividing them for the plants that will go into the front flower beds. Those beds need some work to get ready and I won’t be doing that until next spring at the earliest.  The space in the garden plot that was remaining after the flowers went in, I planted out with more pinto beans. This is for fertilizing the ground thru nitrogen-fixing bacteria, experimenting with planting methods and if I am lucky, some more beans.

The pumpkin continues to grow larger.

If I want to grow more food next year, I will end up needing to expand the garden plot.  I have already expanded the plot by about a foot on one side already, and it is a lot of work with a garden hoe.  The two biggest problems with doing this is hard, dry Oklahoma soil and grass.  The first limits how much time I have to work the soil and the second makes it a lot more difficult.  Especially when it tries to take back the area already cleared. I know that machinery would make it take a lot less time, but I enjoy the exercise I get doing it by hand, especially since I end up sitting at work so often.

Checking In On Things

Burns look and feel a lot better than yesterday.  I ended up going to an urgent care clinic to have things checked on.  I’m a computer programmer when I am not working in the garden, so making sure my hands are working properly is fairly important my livelihood.

The newly dubbed “White Hive”. This is the second and stronger swarm I caught this year.

Before I was burned myself yesterday, I did an inspection of all four hives.  The green hive continues to fill out the super on it and the blue hive continues to ignore its super.  I can’t really blame the blue hive as it swarmed this year. The second of the two swarms, in one white hive body and two supers, has filled the majority of the deep and the top supper with honey, with only a few cells capped in any of it.  I would not be surprised to get a super of honey from this hive.  The other swarm is still  in two supers.  I have a bit of time before that hive needs to be expanded.

Pinto bean pods on the largest bean plant.

Today, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my pinto beans have bean pods growing on them.  The larger of the plants started flowering a week or two ago.  I will need to start putting poles next to the larger plants as they are getting rather large and are starting to topple over.  Altogether, I have about fifteen pods so far on four plants.

The tomatoes are still green, but growing larger every day.

The tomatoes are starting to come faster.  At last count, there are thirteen tomatoes growing.  There are more than fifty small yellow tomato flowers on the plants right now.  Before much longer, I won’t be counting tomatoes because there will be too many.  I’m going to be up to my ears in tomatoes, with a grand total of twenty-seven plants in various stages of development.  Only about a third of those have flowers on them so far.

Very small pecans. I won’t have any pecans ready until sometime this fall.

My wife and my mother noticed that the pecan trees are starting to produce nuts.  Judging from the sizes of the four pecan trees I have on the property, I am going to have a lot of pecans this fall.  I rather like pecans and I’ve lived in a house that had a pecan tree before.  The tree was much larger than any of the pecan trees on my property, but there was only one tree and that one produced enough pecans to fill half a deep chest freezer.  I am probably going to end up giving lots to my family and I may be able to sell some at the farmers market in town.  I don’t know yet what needs to be done for that.

Lots of green grapes.

The grape vines are making some nice bunches of grapes.  I’m not sure how to preserve these yet.  If they were concord grapes, I would be making a lot of the grapes into jelly and canning it.  I will probably try making some raisins from them to see how they are.  I’ve never been a big fan of raisins, so I’m a bit hesitant to make the whole harvest into raisins.  I would also like to try making grape juice from it.

First Strawberry, Tomatoes plus a Storm

Today, I noticed that the strongest of my strawberry plants has its first fruit.  This is the most successful of the plant starts I got from my grandparents, via my mother.  They are offering me lots more strawberry starts as well as lots of irises.  My grandparents raise and sell irises and I think they have  several dozen varieties.  Anyways, this plant has one strawberry already turned red and at least three more fruits on developing.  The plant has also sent out two runners and I will likely be getting at least three new plants from it.  After they have developed a bit, I will transplant them to a better spot.

Green tomatoes. And here I was thinking it was going to be another month before I saw any…

After I noticed the strawberries, I noticed that several of my tomato plants have put on fruit. All told, there are currently seven green tomatoes growing and several more flowers that appear to have been pollinated and will be setting fruit soon.  As a side note, tomatoes are botanically fruit, but are considered vegetables by chefs, cooks, and the IRS.

The anvil of a storm that is moving in from the west side of Oklahoma.

It looks like there is a storm on the way here. Not that this is any out of the ordinary here. I am hoping for rain so I can stop using well water to irrigate the garden.  The rain barrels in the greenhouse and the one next to the house are extremely low, to the point that I cannot draw any more water from them.  The garden hose doesn’t quite reach everywhere in the  garden, even at a hundred feet long and even if it did, it is very cumbersome to use in the narrow rows in the garden.  For the most part, I’ve been using a pitcher to water the plants.  It more walking than a hose would be, but lets me use a rain barrel to water the plants and only the plants.

Its Looking Like a Real Garden

The part of my garden that hasn’t been overrun with grass.

After returning from my business trip, I have picked up pretty much where I left off where my garden is concerned.  But what has really struck me is that my garden plot is starting to actually look more like a vegetable garden and less like a section of ground with the grass scrapped off.  Several of the tomatoes have started to flower.

There is still a ton of work to do.  My last batch of bean starts was rather lackluster, with only about ten of the seventy-two pots I started surviving. I am fairly sure the heat and uneven watering is responsible.  The best of the surviving plants went in the ground today.  I need to start a few new trays of beans and I hope I have a better yield this time.

The part of the garden plot overrun with grass.

Part of the massive amount of work I still have to do is reclaim about half the garden plot from grass.  I haven’t had a garden hoe until today, and so I have been slowly falling behind on the weeding.  I should be able to reclaim some of the lost ground as long as I can keep from getting blisters on my hands from overworking.

Thankfully, there was a light rain for most of today.  It has been a while since the last rain and I was starting to get very low on the water in my trash cans turned rain barrels.  I’m still rather low, but not as much as before.  I hope this gives another boost to the wildflowers for the bees.

Progress on the Veggies

Since the first tomato sprouted this year, I’ve had several more plants sprout: tomatoes and other varieties.  Here’s some pictures:

Quite a few of the tomato seeds have sprouted

First up, here are the tomato sprouts.  There are currently a total of 21 plants growing.  I planted two seeds to a pot in an attempt to make sure that I got at least one tomato plant per pot.  In a week or two, I will be thinning out the plants so that only the strongest plant remains in each pot.

Also coming soon is hardening off the plants for outdoor planting.  I intend to do this after I’ve thinned things out and it warms up a bit more outside.  I’m willing to take a few chances with early planting, but I want the veggies to have a chance of surviving.  I doubt that they could survive outside of the greenhouse right now.

Cabbage sprouts are doing well.

Next up are the cabbages.  These were planted after the tomatoes were, so I am not surprised that not as many have sprouted. I’ve never grown plants from seed before so I’m learning what plants look like at an early stage.  For a while, I was not sure which plants in the pots were the cabbages and which were very large weeds.  A quick check on the internet resolved that issue and now only the cabbage sprouts and weeds that are still too small for me to grab remain in the pots.

I seem to be having a problem where the pots closest to the wall are not sprouting.  I suspect it is because the soil temperature is not a warm as those further inside the greenhouse and cool off quicker at night.

Here be giant zucchini sprouts.

Now, the largest sprouts I have are the zucchini.  These things a monsters compared to the other sprouts I have.  So far, only two plants have sprouted. Not much more to say about these.

I suspect that for several of the varieties that I am starting from seed, I am going to need to do a least a second batch of seeds, if not  third and fourth batches.  Part of this will be because not all seeds sprout, but the rest will likely be because of my skill, or the lack thereof.

Some Alaskan peas are sprouting

Last, but not least, the Alaskan peas I started this last week are sprouting. Nice to see another plant sprouting.

Unfortunately, not all of the plants I have started have sprouted.  I planted seeds for bell pepper within a few days of when I started the tomatoes, but I haven’t had a single bell pepper sprout.  Or if I have, the sprout resembled the weeds I am getting closely enough that I accidentally removed it.

Also missing are the yellow onions.  However, the seeds I am trying for those were left over from last year’s planting by my home’s previous owner, so the seeds themselves are a bit suspect.