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Old 06-03-2019, 07:57 PM   #101
Critch
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Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Herndon, VA
I took a picture of my harvest to post, but it'll save time to just say it looks exactly like yours.

Exactly the same if you take away the broccoli, the squash, both the cucumbers and about half the green beans.
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Old 06-03-2019, 08:13 PM   #102
Ben E Lou
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Critch View Post
I took a picture of my harvest to post, but it'll save time to just say it looks exactly like yours.

Exactly the same if you take away the broccoli, the squash, both the cucumbers and about half the green beans.
heh.


I’ll comment more tomorrow when I’m at the computer and not my phone, but suffice it to say that I think the composting has made a massive difference, and there is pretty strong evidence to that end in the garden itself. Short version is that the area that definitely got the most compost is outperforming other parts of the garden by a wide margin.
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Old 06-05-2019, 05:20 AM   #103
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Old 06-05-2019, 05:38 AM   #104
Ben E Lou
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Originally Posted by Ben E Lou View Post
Short version is that the area that definitely got the most compost is outperforming other parts of the garden by a wide margin.
See pic above, paying particular attention to the climbing cukes on the trellises and to the height of the tomato plants. The area to the left is where the largest and oldest compost piles sat for the longest. Also, when it came time to spread it all over the garden, after a good bit of work I felt like I had "enough" compost spread out when I had a good 3-4 inches everywhere. The area to the left being where the larger piles were and being downhill, I was able to leave much of the compost in place or simply spread it in the immediate vicinity of the original piles, making it have a much thicker layer in that area. I removed the spinach a few days ago (far left of the pic, just to the left of the last tomato on the left) and transplanted a dozen or so basil plants. Out of curiosity, I dug one hole much deeper than was necessary, and it turns out that the dirt there is dark black heavily-if-not-all-compost for around a foot deep! I was using a small trowel, and every single stroke of it brought out at least one extra-large earthworm, often more. That area is clearly brimming with rich, organic matter, and the growth is reflecting it. Again, it's not like the area to the right has bad soil, either: we're talking 3-4 inches of compost this year, plus the improvements I did to it last year. But the cucumbers on the left (same varieties) are already topping the trellis, while the ones on the right are only around halfway up, and the tomato plants (little harder to tell in the pic) on the left are several inches higher than the 6-foot privacy fence already. The ones on the right ain't bad at 5ish feet, but the ones to the left are just blowing them away height-wise, bushy-ness, and (so far) tomato production.



Another endorsement of how much soil quality matters would be my kids' gardens vs. the main garden. The little gardens were a last-minute add, after I'd already spread my compost, but SWMBO insisted that we must make sure that their gardens did well. So since those gardens are small, I just bought enough high-quality organic soil and compost to fill them to around 8 inches deep. The most obvious comparison would be the broccoli, because we transplanted it into my youngest's garden and mine literally minutes apart. They were the same size and the seeds had been sown on the same day. When we harvested the LARGE head below from hers on 5/17, no heads had even *started* to form in my garden yet, meanwhile we harvested one, and all three other broccoli plants in hers had formed heads. The broccoli pictured a few posts ago on 6/3 was the first to come from my garden.
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Old 06-05-2019, 05:48 AM   #105
Ben E Lou
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Some pics from yesterday evening...


Good news: This super sweet 100 cherry tomato plant is going gangbusters. First harvest looks to be just a day or two away, and I haven't counted, but there are easily over 50 tomatoes on it right now--possibly over 100.


Bad news: I hate groundhogs, ‘cause groundhogs love my sunflowers plants.




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Old 06-08-2019, 08:38 AM   #106
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This morning’s harvest, our produce drawer (all the stuff other than avocados is home grown,) the four mason jars of homemade pickles that My wife is making, and the container of squash she’s putting into a casserole today. It’s beginning to dawn on me that perhaps I may have over-planted for a family of four...




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Old 06-12-2019, 08:26 AM   #107
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You have had a good haul so far.

I'm here in Oklahoma and the only thing I've gotten so far is some peppers. My tomatoes have started to come up but they aren't ripe yet.

You are doing a great job. Looking forward to seeing more of this. Do you have a list of everything that is planted?
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Old 06-12-2019, 03:05 PM   #108
Critch
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Originally Posted by jct32 View Post
I'm here in Oklahoma and the only thing I've gotten so far is some peppers. My tomatoes have started to come up but they aren't ripe yet.

In North Virginia and that's closer to where I am too. Little green tomatoes, cucumbers just starting. Got a good amount of green beans and my first zucchini yesterday but other than that it's all just starting. Peppers doing well though.

I've got two halves to my planting, on my deck I have containers and pots, down at ground level I have a raised bed. Really seeing the difference the soil makes, as Ben said above. For the containers I used the same soil as last year, but composted at the end of last year, covered them for the winter, then used triple-13 before planting this year and everything is looking pretty good.



In the raised bed I used some "soil for raised beds" that was supposedly pre-ferilized, and it's lagging well behind. It doesnt even deserve a photo. In preparation for groundhogs/chipmunks/rabbits etc I now have it fenced off, but the main pest was a local cat that seemed to think it looked like a big litter tray. Spend enough time scooping for my own fur-babies without a neighbors cat using my raised bed.

I've started using a smelly vegetable food to try and help with the slow start, couldnt place the smell to start with, vaguely sweet but a little sickening too. Read the ingredients and it's ground chicken feathers and chicken manure. Not sure if it's helping yet with growth.

I went for variety in my containers, something different in every container, all planted from seed:

1. Zucchini: last year my zucchini just about failed, not sure why but I only got male flowers for the first few months before finally getting two zucchini late in the summer before squash bugs took over. This year much better so far, three zucchini already and the plants look healthy, been watching out for squash bug eggs and nothing yet.

2. Beets: Wasnt expecting anything more than beet greens, root veggies havent worked in my containers before, I dont think the soil in the container is loose enough to allow growth, but looks like I'll get a couple of beets. And a ton of beet greens.

3. Green Beans: First year for me. Going well, already got about 4 bundles of beans out of it, but they will apparently stop producing when the temperature is over 80 so they might not last long.

4. Parsnips: They still have about 2 months before harvest (110 days total), but looking good. Strong plants. No idea what to do with parsnips if we get any.

5. Brussel Sprouts: successful so far, looks like I may get some home grown brussellies. Had to thin out the container, so have about 12 plants spread through the original container and pots. Have to check everyday for cabbage worms and eggs, they've done a number on some leaves. Brussel sprout leaves fell just like cabbage leaves.

6. Peas: Just about harvest time. They're beginner level container gardening, cant go wrong. Easy-peasy, literally.

7. Egg plants: Plants growing, thinned down to only 4 in a container. Not sure if they'll work, never tried this variety.

8. Cucumber: This was a big winner last year, averaged two per day from 4 plants. This year the plants are flowering, but no actual cucumbers yet. Should be soon though.

9. Peppers: We got a huge amount of jalapenos last year, we have a lifetime supply cut and frozen, so this year it's banana peppers and cherry peppers. Banana peppers have started to produce, cherry peppers are growing but still green. They both got hit by Tobacco Hornworms. Only one worm on one plant of each, but they're huge (about little-finger sized) and do a lot of damage if you dont get them and squish them:



I also have tomatoes growing both on my deck and in the raised garden, all bought, not planted from seed. They're not very tall or strong looking, but starting to produce little green tomatoes, so hopefully soon. Almost all cherry tomatoes, but one "Big Beefy" that I bought by mistake.

So all going ok, despite nowhere near Farmer Ben's bountiful harvest.
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Old 06-12-2019, 06:06 PM   #109
Ben E Lou
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Originally Posted by jct32 View Post
Do you have a list of everything that is planted?
I think I posted my planning spreadsheet a while back in the thread that showed locations. I didn't follow it 100%, but it was pretty darned close. (Just about 100% for the main crops. Just moved around some of the companion plants.) Anyway, here's a list of what's out there now, divided by types:


MAIN CROPS
  • bell peppers 16 plants (4 each of red, orange, yellow, and green)
  • blackberries--6 plants, first year perennial, not expected to produce much
  • blueberries--11 plants, first year perennial, , not expected to produce much
  • broccoli--(all main heads have been harvested, but I grew a type that produces side shoots, and several of those are starting to make heads.)
  • brussels sprouts
  • cantaloupe
  • carrots
  • cucumbers (both slicing and pickling varieties)
  • garlic (vast majority is already harvested, but left a little out there to deter pests)
  • green beans (bush)
  • herbs (basil, cilantro, dill, oregano)
  • kale
  • onions (both bulb and green)
  • squash
  • strawberries--around 30 plants, first year perennials, not expected to produce much
  • tomatoes (10 varieties, 12 plants)
  • watermelon
  • zucchini
COMPANION PLANTS
(i.e. stuff growing purely to help the main crops)
  • bee feed mix
  • beneficial insect mix
  • borage
  • butterfly/hummingbird mix
  • calendula
  • marigold
  • mint (in containers only..can be super invasive)
  • nasturtium
  • radishes (white icicle)
"JUST FOR FUN" FLOWERS
(either for cutting, aesthetics, or just because uber-tall sunflowers are kewl )
  • mammoth sunflowers (per packaging, could grow to 10-14 feet high..tallest current one is maybe 6.5 right now)
  • dwarf sunflowers
  • zinnias
  • petunias
  • california poppies
  • snapdragons
  • phlox
There are also 3 pumpkins plants (at least that's what I assume they are) growing out of the compost.


I think that's everything. Only the three perennials (blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries) were bought as plants. Everything else is from seeds.
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Old 06-12-2019, 06:13 PM   #110
Ben E Lou
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That's a fantastic pic of the hornworm, critch. Did you take it?
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Old 06-12-2019, 06:20 PM   #111
Ben E Lou
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A few pics from the last two days, along with comments...



I had some pretty serious leaf yellowing that looked like it might be early blight, so as per what I read, I did a ton of pruning of the lower sections of my tomato plants, and 100% pruning of yellowed leaves/stems. This is the lower 18ish inches of my cosmonaut volkov tomato.












Basil in the foreground, sweet chelsea tomatoes in the middle, starting to ripen. Crazy production. This is the area where I mentioned earlier about removing the spinach and seeing all the earthworms underneath.




Just noticed this morning that I have small green peppers.










I've seen at least half a dozen little watermelons forming. This is the largest at maybe 8 inches long x 3 inches across at its widest spot.








Side shoots are forming heads on the arcadia broccoli





.


Update on the crazy growth of the cucumbers, cantaloupes, and watermelon (and a more-than-7-foot tomato plant to the far left.) Using garden stakes to hold this was going to result in a crash, so I purchased some t-posts and installed them shortly after taking this pic. The whole thing seems much more sturdy now. I had no idea how much stronger they are, and they're roughly the same price as the Polyurethane garden posts I bought instead. You live, you learn.




Big-picture view of it all from my back deck. Veggies to the left, flowers in the middle, blueberries to the right.




The sunsugars also needed serious pruning due to a lot of yellowing leaves with brown spots that looked like early blight, but the plant certainly isn't lacking for fruit. Should be beginning to harvest from it by the weekend, it would appear.




The flower area is starting to show some color, and the sunflower border is coming in nicely, save for the one at the front left that took severe groundhog damage.
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Old 06-12-2019, 06:43 PM   #112
Ben E Lou
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Current daily harvest status: for the last week or so, I've been bringing in 2-4 squash and 4-6 cucumbers pretty much every day, a zucchini roughly every other day, a bunch of beans every 3-4 days, and sporadic cherry tomatoes. Whenever we want green onions, we harvest those as well. Other than avocados and bulb onions, I haven't eaten a store-bought vegetable in over 2 weeks. My wife has *11* jars of pickles brining in the fridge and four squash casseroles queued up in the freezer. I sent a text out to six neighbors earlier today saying that they can stop by any time to get cukes. Same text about squash will probably be going out by the weekend. It looks like the cherry tomatoes are about to go gangbusters in the next week-ish, and the big ones maybe a week after that. My wife is reading up on tomato canning. Yeah, things are going well. (And I *MAY* have run the groundhog off. We'll see.)
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:03 PM   #113
Critch
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Originally Posted by Ben E Lou View Post
That's a fantastic pic of the hornworm, critch. Did you take it?

Yes, that's the hornworm that was on one of my banana pepper plants. Apparently you can pick them off, but I'm not touching that horror. Pinged it off with a trowel then had to hunt it down to finish it off.

One of the other garden pests turned up on my deck today and introduced himself, Hopkins the neighbor's cat. He got a pat and promised not to crap in my tomatoes anymore.
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Old 06-16-2019, 09:30 AM   #114
Ben E Lou
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More in the “good soil matters” arena: this is the current status of the cherry tomato plant in the 10-year-old’s garden. Looks like an ad for a seed company, not something you ever see in your actual garden. Just wow.

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Old 06-17-2019, 12:37 AM   #115
Critch
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In the quest for good soil, I've bought myself a tumbling composter.

My raised garden experiment isnt looking good, so hopefully I can compost and mulch it at the end of the year and have it ready to go for next year.
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Old 06-25-2019, 05:53 AM   #116
Ben E Lou
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Life has been too busy to post much, partially because of the garden: harvesting like gangbusters lately. Highlights...
  • For the past week-ish, we've been harvesting double digits cucumbers every day. My wife made a dozen jars of pickles, and we've also given away a a few dozen cucumbers to friends.
  • Turns out the squash casserole recipe my wife is using does well cooking from frozen, so she has made six of them for future use. Big family July 4th celebration coming up, so I'd imagine she'll use 2 or 3 then.
  • Harvested a couple dozen cherry tomatoes each of the last three days. We're about to be in giveaway mode with those.
  • We've gotten around 5 or 6 slicing tomatoes so far, and they're about to hit their stride, it appears. Amazing taste.
  • Something (I think a rabbit) keeps eating my bush bean plants, but not the beans themselves. Definitely not insects--too much damage in short periods of time. The leaves are about to be stripped clean. I may just give up on those.
  • Green bell peppers are ready, and the red/orange/yellow ones shouldn't be far behind.
  • Zucchini isn't going gangbusters, but it has been solid and steady.
  • Insane amount of basil, but I knew/expected that. My wife freezes large quantities of homemade pesto.
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:52 AM   #117
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This morning’s harvest:

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Old 07-23-2019, 02:36 PM   #118
Critch
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As a little update on my growing:

1. Zucchini: Started well, got a few good zucchini but the plants just stopped and started looking bad. I'm not sure the constantly damp soil in the containers is good for zucchini so I'll try something different next year.

2. Beets: Wasnt expecting much, didnt get much. A whole container and 16 beet plants produced one reasonably sized/shaped beet.

3. Green Beans: Green beans produced pretty well, but at the end of the day they're just green beans, a fairly boring non-tasty harvest.

4. Parsnips: Waiting til the end of the month to pick them, but not expecting much. Plants look big and strong, but picked one and the parsnip was small. So probably a one-and-done experiment this year.

5. Brussel Sprouts: Looked great, grew well and then got hit by green cabbage worms. Just about fought them off and plants starting to look strong when the cross-striped cabbage worms turned up. Gave up on Brussel Sprouts for this year, the leaves were all stripped away, but I'll try again next year with all the plants under netting.

6. Peas: Easy, and you cant beat snap peas straight from the garden. Not a huge amount, but still a win.

7. Egg plants: Still growing and looking strong and flowering, but no actual egg plants yet.

8. Cucumber: Doing ok, we went for a slicing cucumber this year and last year's pickling was probably a better choice for snacking and regular picking.

9. Peppers: A good amount of yellow banana peppers for pickling, and a few snacking peppers. Peppers in pots on my deck just seem to do well, despite the occasional Hornworm. One of them took out half a plant and two whole peppers in two days, it was a huge thing when i found it.

10. Tomatoes - wide variety, not doing great but starting to load up with green cherry tomatoes. Most of them are in my raised garden and I think fertilizer problems and not enough direct light has held them back. I bought one big tomato variety by mistake, and it looks like it may be the star of the show if the green tomatoes actually turn.

Thats the original list, I've cleared out some (Peas, Brussel Sprouts, Green Beans) and planted some late seeds in their place. I know have a few varieties of lettuce, swiss chard, kale and spinach growing in their place.

So far not a great summer's haul, luckily we still have supermarkets near by because we'd be starving if we were going self-sufficient on my garden.
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Old 08-01-2019, 12:43 PM   #119
Critch
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Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Herndon, VA
In a "Nature Is Seriously Nasty" update, here's the latest of my garden's Hornworms:



The little white things are the cocoons from parasitic wasps. Eggs laid under the hornworm's skin, they eat their way out and build their cocoons before hatching out as new hornworm-hunting wasps. You're meant to leave the hornworms alone to go through this cycle as the wasps are beneficial, so we've had two like this on a tomato plant for 4 or 5 days.

Last night they both vanished, I'm assuming the whole gross thing became a bird's dinner. All that was left was a single spot of dark green hornworm gloop.

Last edited by Critch : 08-01-2019 at 05:26 PM.
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