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August 25th, 2008

Whee !!!

bio_lesliedWe’re having a bumper crop of tomatoes in the desert again this summer, here at the Sweet Tomato Test Garden. I mean to say I have been picking, picking, picking . . . all summer.

But, this summer I stopped fiddling with trying to improve my growing method, fiddling with it hasn’t shown me any improvement in either the size of the harvest, or the size of the tomatoes. But, I did test some new organic fertilizer on some of the plants . . . no changes there, neither good or bad changes.

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The red picture on the wall is an article about tomatoes that was in a California gardening magazine, it includes a photo of me with my tomatoes.  My friend, Gustavo Mattiello, saw it and framed it as a gift earlier this year.  Love the tomato red color in the story . . . love the gesture, love the friend.  But, the real subjects of this photo are the tomatoes I brought in from the garden one day about mid-July.

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We’re still picking them at the end of August.  This is a picture of a camera-shy neighbor who stopped by to pick some for dinner.  Since I don’t cage or stake tomatoes they can be hard to find in the heap of leaves and I appreciate another pair of eyes helping to find them.  The tomato clusters are heavy and sometimes a branch will snap while trying to uncover them, or worse, I’ll step on a plant.

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I’ll have to go out and pick some more again today or the birds will get them.  The tomatoes in this cluster will weigh from 12 to 14 ounces each and if you were my neighbor I would give you some. This has been another good tomato growing summer in the hot Mojave Desert and I’ll still have tomatoes to pick through fall.  I’m such a lucky girl.

August 25th, 2008

Midsummer Blues

Note to self:  Spread cucumber plantings out from April – June in 2009.
    My garden notebook has copious comments about past successes and failures. As I add my scribblings to the current year I also peruse the last 18 months for reminders of the past year.
    Recommendations from last year included more and larger melons plantings spread throughout the summer. I actually did that this year and as the early melons are dwindling, later transplanted varieties are sizing up a crop right now and an even later set promises to keep production up until the weather turns wet or cold.
    Not so with cucumbers. Half a dozen types of cukes transplanted and direct sown over a period of a few weeks led to some early slicers, then more slicers, followed by Armenian, lemon and Japanese varieties all peaking at once. At first I couldn’t keep up with training the vines on trellises. Next I couldn’t keep up with picking and selling. Then came a dwindling of production in roughly the same order they began.
    Soon there may be no cucumbers at all with plenty of summer still ahead.  Can I interest you in an eggplant, instead?
- Bill   

August 20th, 2008

The Garden War Party

bio_lesliedThe surprise attack on Sunday, Aug. 17th, by a small war party of gardeners, ended quickly with War Chief, “The Tomato Lady,” stating with pride, “We left no survivors and took no prisoners.”  The battle ended within an hour after it began with the squishing of the last squash bug and a the plucking of the last egg infested leaf.

Whoops and hollers were heard during the battle as the war party of gardeners filled their paper bags with egg infested leaves and stained their fingers with bug juice.  After the little bags of bodies and eggs were collected, they were ceremoniously placed on the bar-b-que and several warriors gave a descriptive account of their heroic actions during the battle.  Then the bar-b-que grill was lit, the lid was closed and all said a prayer of damnation.  Justice was swift.

After the ceremony the war party enjoyed a nice meal of rib eye steaks, firewater and camaraderie.  Any reason to bring friends together for bar-b-que on a warm summer evening is a good reason . . . even murder.

To protect the identity of the other warriors, enjoying their camaraderie, no pictures are included.

August 20th, 2008

Winter Garden

Here in Central CA we’re cooling off a bit from a few days back into the 100s. Harvest activities take most of my time right now with most of the veggies finally in full swing. Squash bugs are invading the summer squash and also the winter squash and pumpkins. Alfalfa butterflies have moved in en masse after the alfalfa around the garden was cut.

To add insult to injury, now is the time for preparing for the winter garden. Eight plug flats – mostly cabbage and broccoli – went in the shade of a walnut tree today. Beets, turnips and radishes are sprouting in direct seeded beds. Better these had all been done two weeks ago, but typical for me.

Fall peas are usually futile for me, but I can’t resist trying. They were direct seeded this week to replace the early cucumbers.

Sweet corn harvest is done and the stalks have been turned in making the empty beds look pretty compared to the wild weediness surrounding them. The rest of the garden has reached its usual shabby-looking late summer state with weeds in all the growing beds and plants in various stages of decline.

Fall approaches even in the midst of summer. Time to get the winter garden growing!
-Bill

August 7th, 2008

Melons, Schmellons and More Schmellon Melons

bio_lesliedHi All, Leslie in Las Vegas here.

Boy, have I got melons, and they ’schmell’ soooo good.  Melons and bowls of melon balls are making their way across the street to the neighbors and various folks we know and I am a very popular girl again this summer.  The spring planted melons growing up the fencing are starting to ‘poop-out.’  But the melons planted a few weeks later to grow over the ground are looking magnificent.  Their vines are mixing nicely with New Gold Lantana and White Sweet Alyssum and making a lush and pretty ground cover display.

This has been a great year for the veggies, and the eggplants, peppers and tomatoes are still producing heavily.  The squash got wiped out by squash bugs so I removed all but 2 plants.  One has not been affected by the bugs and the other that I cut back nearly to the soil line is struggling to grow again . . . I am waiting to see what happens.

My daylilies have all finished their first bloom.  I probably won’t see another bloom from any of them for another month. I have been removing their dead outer leaves and poking a cup of organic vegetable fertilizer in the soil next to them.  I do this at night when it’s cooler . . . when it cools down to around 90F.  They will bloom again, probably in September and later.

This is a picture of a daylily seedling I hybridized, it bloomed for the first time a couple weeks ago. I think this one is a keeper so, now I’ll plant it in the garden and let it grow out.

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I’ve also taken dozens of cuttings of this Dallas Red lantana and I’m rooting them to place in other areas of the garden.  It grows similar to New Gold lantana and each plant will cover about 20 to 30 feet of soil surface to act as a living mulch.  I love the bright red.  Behind this Dallas Red lantana are Tropicana canna, rosemary and white sweet alyssum.  A frilly, fancy petaled yellow daylily, I recently transplanted on the lower right of the red lantana, is just starting to to grow again.

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It’s been a particularly hot summer and I don’t remember more than a couple of days where the temperature has dropped below 105 in months.  Desert folk are used to temperatures in the ‘teens’, as they are called by the locals.  They say, “Whew! It’s in the ‘teens’ again today.”   There’s no need to mention the one hundred.

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Here’s a picture of my gardening workshop taken on July 19th.  Bill and I set up 4 shade canopies where people could get some relief from the sun, but it was still in the “teens” (whew!), when we finished at 10 a.m.  I fixed a ton of lemonade . . . and it was very popular during the workshop.  Lots of people went home with veggies from my garden and new hope to grow these in their own desert gardens.  That’s me standing under the umbrella with a pool of sweat puddling at my feet.

Las Vegas is really a nice place to garden in spite of the sizzling heat.  I think we have fewer insect and disease issues to deal with that occur in a more humid climate.






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