Friday, August 24, 2007

Now it's personal; Waging war on the groundhog!

I was feeling sorry for the groundhog because of the drought and heatwave that we are suffering with. There is very little water or food available in the wild. I had almost even forgiven him for eating all of our bean leaves, all of the cucumber leaves, some tomatoes and zucchini and all of the zucchini leaves. But now he has gone too far. He has crossed the line! He has begun eating my beautiful pumpkin plants!

Come on Mr. Woodchuck, at least let a man grow some big pumpkins for his children to enjoy at Halloween. I haven't even gotten around to putting a post on about the pumpkins.

I purposely started them late so they wouldn't get too big too soon. They are at the end of the garden and I am letting them grow out onto old carpet and tarps.

Things were growing along great and we had a dozen or so baby pumpkins.

Many of them had grown much bigger that that photo, but now Mr. Groundhog has eaten them and some of the leaves! It's time to declare war. My Have-a-heart trap was loaned to my in laws and I am getting it back tomorrow night. At the rate the groundhog is going though, that's too long to wait.

Sometimes a gardener has got to do what a gardener has got to do. I must sit out in the garden all night and all day tomorrow and make sure the groundhog doesn't eat anything else!

Of course I can't really do that, so my daughters and I whipped up a quick likeness of me, set it next to the pumpkins with a 24-hour-a-day talk radio station loudly playing. My wife added soap to the scarecrow to add more "human smell". I hope it works.

Tomorrow night we will set the Have-a-heart trap and hopefully on Sunday Mr. Groundhog and I will take a nice long drive to his new home.

Get ready Mr. Hog, soon it will be moving day!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More Garden Destruction; The Culprit?

More and more of my beloved veggies have disappeared! The beans, sweet potatoes and cucumbers have lost ALL of their leaves. Tomatoes and zucchinis have been munched, along with all of the watermelons and cantaloupe. The only thing that hasn't been eaten is the squash from my last post!

I correctly blamed the melon destruction on the raccoons, but now I know that THIS is who ate the rest!

In this picture, he is eating clover but I can safely say that a groundhog's favorite food is anything from the vegetable garden! From the looks of the one we saw in our garden, they can get pretty fat on veggies!

This weekend we were making more salsa and needed a few more tomatoes to finish the batch. So my daughter and I walked up to the garden to pick some where we saw the fattest groundhog of all time finishing off the last of the bean leaves.

"Hey! What are you doing? Get out of here!" I yelled at him. He seemed to understand me perfectly and ran as fast as his little legs could take his big fat body in to the woods.

I don't usually talk to (or yell at) animals like this. Groundhogs are easy to talk to I guess. Now I understand the post that Kenny from Veggie Gardening Tips wrote about his groundhog. It is titled Conversations with a Woodchuck, and is one of the funniest bit of writing I've seen in a while.

Kenny caught his culprit. I hope I can do the same!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What kind of squash is this?

One of the things that I listed on my 2007 Garden To Do List was to grow some vegetables that I haven't grown before. One such veggie was sweet potatoes which got destroyed by the critters. Another new addition was supposed to be spaghetti squash. I had planned on starting the seeds indoors under lights but unfortunately I never got around to doing it. Moving to plan B, I bought a container of spaghetti squash at the garden center which had two plants in it. They have been the biggest and healthiest plants in the garden and I thought all was well. We began finding recipes for cooking it and was excited to see if it actually looked like spaghetti. Once the fruits started to develop, I noticed that something was terribly wrong. These aren't spaghetti squash plants! I can't even figure out what kind of squash this is.

I also don't know when they should be picked. Here is one that I picked small shown next to the spaghetti squash tag that came in the pot. It is obviously NOT going to change into the squash pictured.

I thought maybe it was a Patty Pan squash, so I bought one at the Farmers' Market to compare to.

Similar, but not as flat and wrong color. These pictures were taken a month ago and I have left more squashes on the vine to see if they change color. They have stayed green and just grown larger.

This is just another reason why it is better to start your own seeds instead of trusting plants from a garden center.

So please, if any of you recognize this squash, I would love to know what its name is and what to do with it. Even if you just have a guess I would love to hear from you.

Thanks in advance!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Super Hot Days Make for Beautiful Skies!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No More Melon Worries and Lots of Salsa!

I no longer have to worry about my cantaloupe being eaten by the animals, but not because I've put up a fence or done anything to stop them. I don't have to worry about them because there are NONE LEFT! Last night the raccoons ate ALL OF THEM!

I know it was raccoons this time by they way the melons were eaten. The flesh of the melons were scooped out. I could see their claw prints on the insides. One of them just had a small hole in the outside, but the entire inside was scooped out.

I bet that took some time to eat. It was left about 20 yards away from where it was grown. I can just imagine that there were several raccoons that did this and one raccoon managed to "pick" this one off the vine and drug it to the middle of the yard so he could have it all to himself while the others devoured them right on the vine. They didn't seem to care if the melons weren't even close to being ripe. They ruined EVERY one, even the smaller ones.

Why did the raccoons do this? Last year we got to enjoy our sweet Ambrosia melons. I think the raccoons left the cantaloupe alone last year because they were too busy eating my corn. I had planned to put up a fence around the corn this year but since I didn't find the time to do so, I didn't plant any corn.

Now it is obvious that a tall fence or an electric fence is in order to be built around the entire garden! More on that later.

As for now, we are focusing on what we do have from the garden. Last night we made 17 and a half pints of garden fresh salsa!

We had enough tomatoes for that many jars because we replaced the tomatoes that were lost from the forest animal party buy buying some extra tomatoes at the farmer's market. I guess now we will have to buy cantaloupe there too!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Learn From My Mistakes - Don't Let This Happen to Your Garden!

We live out in the country, which is really great. With a country setting comes lots of animals; hungry animals. We see many raccoons, foxes, opossums, and deer. This winter we went walking in the woods behind the garden and was amazed at all of the animal tracks we saw in the snow.

It looked like all the different animals got together and had a party.

So even though I know that there are so many animals surrounding my garden, I foolishly wrote this in a post just four days ago:

"For the most part I have been lucky over the years to not have much of a problem with pests in the garden. I have an occasional loss to a deer or some other animal and I have a few minor bouts with insects. None of the pests really make much of a difference in the overall outcome of the harvest."

What was I thinking? Writing that was my first mistake. My second mistake was spending all day Friday cleaning up the garden. I weeded and used the weed-eater on all of the tall grass around all of the raised beds. I watered everything thoroughly. The whole vegetable garden looked better than it has all season. My third mistake was deciding not to pick all of those almost ripe heirloom tomatoes. "I can get them in a day or two", I said to myself. "Besides, I want to get some pictures of them still on the vine since they look so good now", I added to put the final nail in the proverbial coffin.

I'm sure by now you know where this is going. I didn't visit the garden Sunday morning and then we were gone all day. Last night just before dark, I walked up to the garden to admire my work.


To my horror and amazement, the entire vegetable garden had been attacked! The animals that got together for the party in the snow must have had another party. This time it was an all-you-can-eat buffet! All of those almost-ripe heirlooms, - gone. All of the leaves on the sweet potatoes - gone. Many of the cantaloupe - done for. Half of the bean plants - almost bare. Many of the cucumber leaves - eaten as well.

This was the single worst attack my garden had ever seen. Here are some painful pictures of the carnage:

They took a bite out of six cantaloupe and completely ate the ripest two. Everywhere I looked there were half eaten tomatoes lying on the ground.

Many of the green bean plants lost most of their leaves:

And the most painful of all is what they did to my sweet potatoes. This was the first year I have tried growing them. I only planted one 4'x4' bed.

This is what the sweet potato bed looked like last week:

And this is what it looks like now:

I don't know much about sweet potatoes, but I would guess that this spells doom for this year's crop.

So what does one do when your garden is so severely attacked? My 10 year old daughter was with me when we discovered all of this and she was pretty upset. So we did the only thing we could do to boost our spirits. We began talking about next year's tall fence and harvested everything we could find that wasn't eaten. The animals left plenty for us:

Not a bad harvest from such a ravaged garden. We can still count our blessings and know that some animals are well fed.

Tonight - we make salsa!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Happy Rose of Sharon for Green Thumb Sunday!

We have had a Rose of Sharon bush in the front yard for about 7 years or so but I've never noticed how great it is. It has been in bloom for about a month now and it doesnt seem to care about the lack of rain we've had.

It is on a hill and is growing near where the downspout lets out, so maybe it gets more water that the rest of my plants when it DOES rain. Whatever the reason - it is a happy plant. Perfect for Green Thumb Sunday!

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

More Black Krims, and More Watering!

We have really been enjoying the Black Krim tomatoes. It may be my new favorite tomato. The Brandywines are coming on strong. I think they are determined to remind me why they are the current favorite. Here is a good picture to show the Blak Krim's unique look:

Here is a bowl of Black Krim slices next to a bowl of a sliced up Early Girl. Notice the drastic difference in color.

The vegetable garden is looking good again because we have been watering it day and night:

Unfortunately, now that the garden plants are greener and healthier than the surrounding plants, the deer are visiting!

I guess that's what gardening is - solving one problem after another. Why do we do it to ourselves? Oh yeah, its to get to see the beauty and eat the bounty!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

More Drought and Heat Wave!

With no rain and temperatures above 100 degrees all week, it is surprising that the perennial and annual flowers are still doing well.

It is NOT surprising however, that the vegetable garden looks pretty stressed. I just can't keep it watered enough. When the plants were young, I successfully used drip jugs next to each plant but I can't use them anymore now that the summer season veggies are so big.

How are other gardeners doing in the watering department? Do you water daily, use soaker hoses, drip irrigation or some other method? Maybe you don't have the drought problem at all. I know our friends in England has had the opposite problem of late.

Anyway, what follows are some painful pictures of the stress that most of my plants are in. These will not win me any "gardener of the year" awards, that for sure.

A new problem that I am having that I don't remember from years past is that tomato branches are splitting or buckling under their own weight. I assume this is due to lack of water inside the branch. Here's one I noticed as I was watering:

Here's my daughter surveying the stress in the vegetable garden:

Not everything is doing poorly. I don't mean for this to be a depressing post so I will end it on a good note. After all of the watering was done last night (I watered again this morning), I ate a late supper consisting of a Brandywine BLT and some fresh Bread & Butter pickles!

After I ate, my daughters and I made some more pickles with cucumbers we had just picked. Here is a picture of the sliced Brandywine, along with those cucumbers:

And since I've already put too many pictures on this post and since I have begun to ramble, I will post one last proud picture of my first heirloom Brandwine tomato!

Gina from My Skinny Garden wrote a great post about tomatoes being the most photographed of all vegetables. She pondered if we have reached our quota on tomato posts. She is right that we garden bloggers are crazy about our tomato photos. They are like pictures of our children and grand children. So just like you do with kid pictures, look at the blogger's tomato pictures and politely say "Oh wow, how nice."

I just hope it rains soon so I have more tomato photos to show!

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