As regular readers of this report will recall, we were way behind the eight-ball in growth earlier this season. It was cold. It was wet-wetterson. It was heaven for hail stones, more hail stones than I've ever seen before, from more hail storms than we've ever had before. No climate change, my ass!
And then -- the pumpkins decided to grow. And grow with a vengence. They fill Asta, the newest, smallest of the gardens (built specifically for them), reaching out across the yard, reaching up into the grassy portion of the yard, reaching across to the other gardens. (Nora is particularly hard hit by the Great Pumpkin Invasion.)
The above is a tomato plant that is suddenly sharing space with the pumpkin plant that is in a garden three feet away from it. This is a roommate situation that no one asked for, at least as far as I know. The Sweet 100s are holding up the tomato frond, which ...
... if you look carefully, is shoosting out the backside of the tomato neighborhood, between the cherries, the Romas and the Beefsteaks. (None of which you can tell apart anymore as I have planted everything too damned close again this year.)
Later in the day, while weeding (actually, while watching Becky and Mr. Bitterman weeding), I tripped and fell into the great green depths of Asta's pumpkin patch. This is what I could see from my vantage point.
This is what Furious George could see from his … he snapped the photo then ran off to ship it to The National Enquirer, hoping to grab the cover with the headline "Bones of Lame Local Celebrity Found in Pumpkin Patch." (It seems they love him there, ever since he sent in the story "Amelia Earhart Lands in Littleton After 80 Years Lost in Worm Hole.")
Our own little Margaret Bourke-White.
(Next Stop: "Fox and Friends.")
After finally seeing the fruits of my labors on Saturday -- scratch that -- OUR labors I've been instructed to say by Mr. Bitterman and Furious George, the produce is not only growing, but growing quickly. Good thing, too, as we've only got a few moments left in the "Short as Moody Stuffed in a Five Gallon Home Depot Bucket" Colorado Growing Season.
One of the medium Hatch Chiles completely snuck up on me. I was thrilled to see him, or her, or them, or ... hey, look over there!
A number of the larger tomato varieties have grown … well, larger. I actually think we're going to have enough for a few batches of homemade sauce this fall.
Yet another pumpkin has appeared. (Damn! Those things are suddenly everywhere!) I must admit, I did get a bit carried away in the final planting (after the fourth hailstorm) and now the vines are going everywhere, including, out of the yard and onto the bike path. (I got a nice new Trek carbon fiber bike out of it when I was pruning the vines. I have no idea where the rider went ...)
And, the pumpkins I noticed on Saturday have somehow already doubled in size.
Meanwhile, the Oaxacan Chile I was so jazzed about growing has continued to grow … Although:
I did find this little shit, a Japanese Beetle, on one of the leaves. I carefully pulled him off and tried to put him in a plastic bag, but in that moment between closing my hand and opening it, the little bastard had disappeared. He is the first JB I've had in the vegetable garden in years. (A few have popped up in the Butterfly Garden.)
Furious George decided it was time to go to war with the Beetles, so he dressed appropriately and strode up and down the yard, going into the house for regular bathroom, TV and beer breaks, never noticing that he had stepped in Dog ... uh ... well ... Excreta ... and was now tracking it through the kitchen. He said he'd clean it up once peace with the pests had been declared. He was figuring that would be by November, 2023.
So, while he was busy mopping the kitchen floor, I attacked the garden with some deucedly professional looking Veeblefetzer Brand "Don't Get This Shit in Your Eyes" Pest Spray. I'll spray it on this afternoon and likely discover by the 4pm News that it has just been declared a possible Carcinogen due to Intensely Radiological Contamination by some obscure government agency that had to withhold its report because funding was cut to the bone so Melania could get a new shoe closet in the WH.
Not that I'm bitter, mind you.
Yes. As the caption tells you, that is a photo.
One of the great frustrations of this growing season has been that everything has grown and yet nothing has produced -- until now. (Holy St. Jehoshaphat of West Covina! It's a punkin!)
I've been really worried about the bee situation, to the point of thinking of keeping bees -- imagine the comic possibilities there -- but the little devils have been up to good, rather than no good, and we have finally got some produce: pumpkins, cucumbers, oaxacan and Hatch chiles, an acorn squash or two, and tomatoes. We got baby tomatoes! The following picture ain't one of them.
One of the pumpkins out of ASTA decided to wander off into the pine tree. Digging around in there we found a fine little fellow just growing away. :30 left in the Colorado growing season and he decided to show up. Well, what the heck. I'll take him.
As for tomatoes -- the Sweet 100s are really taking off.
They're all over the place -- making NORA a very successful garden this season. (The elephant garlic is also doing well. For a Spring planting, I think I'm about ready to harvest, though I do believe I'll simply replant in the fall for next season.
More Sweet 100s. If these make it (through the oddball and destructive weather patterns), Becky should have lil tomatoes for school lunches through October. Below is my most exciting find. (Anyone who knows me realizes I get easily cranked.)
These are what I was really waiting for: the Oaxacan chiles have produced fruit. This year, like the garlic, will mainly be a year to gather seeds, but I'm really looking forward to using some of the fruit in various dishes this fall.
The chiles and the tomatoes -- from the front: Oaxacan, Hatch Mild, Hatch Medium, and the sweet 100s. (There are other tomato plants in there, but figuring out who is what can be a rather daunting challenge right now.)
By the way -- all the bare spots you see are early season hail damage.
As you can see, now that they've taken off, we've got some beautiful plantage going.
A novice (non-union) farmer decided to take up a rake and join with the simian frivolities in the yard yesterday. Sadly, her attempts to join in where thwarted by a 2nd Great Ape Rebellion of the season.
Furious George would hear none of my arguments for letting Devon do a bit of hoeing and weeding, neither of which Furious will ever do ...
While Mr. Bitterman simply screeched at Dev until she gave up the hoe and went back to drinking on the porch. Where she was quickly joined by Furious George and Mr. Bitterman.
Despite the convivial drinking, we have been grieved by the union steward (Furious), and shall appear before Judge J. Wellington Souse' on Wednesday. (That's Soo-say)
We will keep you up on details of what could be the Trial of the Century. (Until, of course, The Great Orange Circus Peanut gets indicted.)
After a desultory June, a ragged July, four bouts of hail and The Great Ape Rebellion, we are finally on track to grow vegetables -- the first fruits of the season should be in by November 3.
The peppers, some of the peppers, are doing well, both the Oaxacan and the Hatch varieties. As with everything in the garden now, however, we're finally getting growth and flowers, but no fruit.
I'm not sure what's going on, but the plants to the south are doing well (more sun?) while the ones in the center and northern portions of the garden are struggling for size, something I've done my entire life. (Important safety tip, kids: Don't mix up any one of those water soluble fertilizers -- 1) It won't make you any taller, and, 2) It will not taste like Tang.
I do have to say that the beans are going gangbusters, from the Coronas to the Christmas Limas. After the bunnies stopped eating the sprouts, things started taking off.
The Purple Petite Potatoes are also doing well. I've never grown potatoes from seed potatoes before and this was fun. Now, I just have to be careful to make sure none of them show themselves above ground as they could become toxic. That's what the label said, at least. Appears they are a member of the Nightshade family. As are Tomatoes and, yes, Nightshade.
Once again, the sweet potatoes are going gangbusters, which is wonderful. Originally, we thought we'd lose them to a late frost, but they survived and have taken over entire sections of the garden.
More Petite Purples … Nightshade, I tell you! Nightshade! Mwwwwwahahahahahaha! (Sorry. That wasn't me. That was Mr. Bitterman.)
Cabbage, Christmas Limas (in the back) and two cucumber plants, the larger of the two the producer of the single little cucumber we've grown so far this year -- the one mentioned in the title. (I mentioned it in the title in the hopes of boosting its confidence and it growing into something other than a gherkin.)
Honestly, not quite sure what this is ... Things got pretty frantic when it came to planting after the last hailstorm, so it didn't get marked. Whatever it is, it is doing well, has flowers and still no fruit. As long as it isn't goddamned zucchini, I'll be happy.
If you look closely in the above picture, you may be able to pick out three, count 'em, three tomatoes. They are the Sweet Hundreds variety. By this time last year, we were awash in them.
Once again, great growth on the tomatoes, even flowers, but very little fruit.
In Asta, the new garden, with the new soil, things are going very, very well. Acorn squash, pumpkins and three small Oaxacan chile plants are making themselves known, while the Corona beans are taking off after sacrificing two of their kind to the Rabbit God.
Once again in Asta. Note the edge of Bitterman's head in the corner of the shot. He's been all about photobombing me this season. He must have learned it from one of those evil Panoncillo children.
An evil Panoncillo Children ruining another joyous family moment. Well, I dunno. Justin was just standing there and nobody was drunk enough to be joyous, but there you are … ruined by another damned millennial. Just like they're ruining Dizzyland!
Another shot of Asta. Note the pumpkin and acorn squash tendrils running out into the yard. They've been snatching at Roscoe all day and Furious George actually had to dig Sadie out of the mass of leaves late yesterday. (We could hear her in there, we just couldn't see her.)
Roscoe celebrating his escape from the evil pumpkins.
Furious George pretending to receive congratulatory phone calls for saving Sadie from the Curse of the Killer Acorn Squash.
One last thing: Bitterman dressed as a bee in the hopes of encouraging pollination among the Sky Raisins (honeybees) of the Yard. Sadly, we seem to have more Jalapeno Sky Raisins (Yellow Jackets) than the good kinds this year.
It has been a very strange growing season this year. We got plenty of moisture, including hail, but we didn't get much in the way of heat until the end of June, while I figure some problems with depleted soil have not helped the growth situation at all.
The pea-sized hail we got did inspire me, however. This year, including the regular crops, I also put in a section of hail-sized peas. Because this IS Colorado, it will be a bumper crop, I'm sure.
Anyway, with our slow growth problems, I decided to hit the gardens hard with a regular dose of Miracle Gro LiquaFeed. I'm hoping it helps the peppers to decide to actually grow. We are way behind, especially in Nick, the upper garden.
A couple of the Oaxacan Chiles are going okay, but the Hatch are lagging. And we've got to get out there and weed again. The regular rainstorms have been outrageous in weed production.
The chiles (Hatch and Oaxacan) had some growth, but they're really lagging. I'm wondering what I fell short on during the off season? Maybe I just have to do more in terms of rotation and letting the ground lie fallow for a year.
This is our first year of working with cabbage. I'm not sure what we've got here. Mr. Bitterman is convinced we're growing something straight out of "Stranger Things 3."
I am, however, very happy about this -- we had some real frost damage on the sweet potatoes early in the season. I thought we were gonna lose 'em, but they came back magnificently, both pots. They have become one of the best tasting things we grow.
And, the Purple Petite Potatoes have done very well this spring. Grown from seed potatoes, it really did make me feel like a real live farmer.
Nora is growing slowly as well. We have beans, cabbage (Or Demigorgons, take your pick) growing, as well as either cucumbers or acorn squash. In the frantic days after the third hailstorm and the third replanting, I'm not sure what went where or why. Hell, it might even be zucchini again if those damned kids changed the label on the plants.
Nora is also home to this year's tomato crop and it is slow going. I've got to figure the soil is tired, so I'll have to come up with a plant to rebuild over the fall/winter. It doesn't help that we have a ten minute growing season around here.
On the other hand, Asta, the small garden, the new garden, is going gangbusters with beans, pumpkins, acorn squash (or is it cucumbers again -- same problem: last hail, no markers). Some Oaxacan sprouts I've got in the kitchen will go in there soon.
As you can see, I'm also growing Boston Terriers this season, hydroponically. They are a treat to have around, but they are noisy and can have gas that could clear a small English village.
And, then, of course, I had to accidentally spray myself in the face with Miracle Gro LiquaFeed while taking it off the hose. I got it out of my eyes, but I'm leaving it on my skin. I've shrunk to 5'4.5" from a high of 5'5.75". I figure this might be able to turn it around. If it works, I may spray it around other parts of my body, but I'm told that's against the Laws of God and Nature.
Incidentally, Furious George was honored with his Maine Master Gardener Certificate for his six weeks of training on a salt water farm just outside Brooklin, Maine. None of it will do him a damned bit of good here, but it hasn't stopped him from sitting on the porch with a beer and shouting orders to everyone.
Mr. Bitterman has about had it and says Furious will likely find himself six feet down in a salt water farm of his own design..
Ah, the joys of farm hands.
I feel like Michael Corleone in "Godfather 3."
I don't feel like I'm in a really bad movie, but every time I walk out to the garden, the weather pulls me right back in the house.
It's been cold. It's been raining. Ten miles away and it's snowing. It's been everything except summer around here, even when summer arrived.
The one thing I can say -- we are getting growth.
Asta is producing well. We've got flowers and growth on both the cucumbers and the pumpkins (replanted from seed, as the originals from the kitchen died off like red-shirts in an original Star Trek episode).
As you can see in the back, we also have a great crop of Rancho Gordo Corona beans going. We're not going to have enough to make a "batch 'o beans," but we will have enough to plant next year, all in anticipation of growing enough to make dinner. #RanchoGordo
Yes, I know -- the $3258.25 home grown dinner.
After some real worries about frost damage with the sweet potatoes, they've come back nicely. They remain one of my favorite crops each and every year. We have such a nice bumper crop come fall.
Also doing well are the purple petite potatoes that Becky wanted to grow. We planted seed potatoes, which I didn't have a lot of faith in, but they took off, so, I figure, like Mark Watney, I'm ready to go to Mars and plant potatoes.
I really don't know how I came to that conclusion, you've just got to understand that is how my mind works.
The tomato plants are set up in Nora, the lower garden. She's doing well this year, we're getting some good growth, but it's slow. I figure it may be the weather, too cool to really get things going, maybe even too wet. But they are catching on -- I just hope we don't have problems with end rot this year. (Calcium, I need more calcium! Captain, I'm giving her all we've got!)
Nora is also home to garlic, cucumbers and cabbage. And weeds. Lots and lots of weeds. You get lots and lots of weeds when you get lots and lots of rain. But this is why I hired Mr. Bitterman and Furious George all those many years ago, to do the weeding.
Sadly, it turns out Becky is doing most of the weeding while Furious George sits on the deck, sips his martini and shouts "You missed a spot!"
It has led to some amusing moments for Mr. Bitterman and myself, as Becky, Furious and Helen, the next door neighbor, who just likes to get involved and stir the pot, all chase each other around the yard in a rough approximation of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring."
You can see, along that right edge, more beans growing. Those are Rancho Gordo Christmas Limas. I swore I would never eat another lima after throwing them up at the dinner table (Age 6), but I have come to love the little guys and the Rancho Gordo Brand. #RanchoGordo
More beans. Christmas limas again. #RanchoGordo
Somewhere in here are the chiles -- Hatch medium, Hatch mild and Oaxacan chiles. Once Becky and Furious George and Helen the Neighbor stop playing in the backyard, they should start weeding this section of Nick, the upper garden. They are in there, somewhere, I can assure you.
Also, the butterfly garden is doing VERY well this season, thanks to our decision to add annuals to the mix as seed and not just perennials. We're getting some real variety and color. Becky and I, Furious and Bitterman should be spending a number of evenings down here drinking a variety of cocktails when the weather decides to cooperate.
We'd also like to take a moment here to welcome our latest addition to the backyard, Feather McGraw, Internationally Known Cat Burglar, even though he's a chicken, who is really a penguin (See "The Wrong Trousers," Wallace and Gromit/Aardman Animation).
This is how I've always imagined bank robbers and crooks, at least until recently ...
Now, the crooks are more likely to be lawyers and nerdy office guys with briefcases and laptops. As I think about it, maybe that's the way it has always been and I just wasn't paying attention.
This has been one of the screwiest Springs on record around here. (Records only going back about 8 years, to when the first garden went in.)
Since planting on Mother's Day Weekend, we've had rain, hail, snow, wind, plastic sheeting smushing all the seedlings, cramped roots, voles, transfer shock and who knows what else.
During Sunday's hail storm (our second of the season), I could do nothing but sit in the living room, staring at the wall and hoping for the best.
As for the plastic sheeting, while it seemed a good idea at the time, it did squash plants while not necessarily holding off the frost and freeze. I'll have to invest in some fabric -- or find a grain elevator that will sell me a bunch of burlap sacks. The plastic is tough to work with and leaves a carbon footprint a mile wide.
A number of seedlings weren't making it. The bush cucumbers went in beautifully, but got attacked by the voles and transfer shock. (I'm sure the frost/freeze events last week didn't help.) Monday, Memorial Day, we went out and spent $200 on new plants and flowers. Got the sweet potatoes, even though they're looking a bit rugged. Also noticed growth in the purple potato pots.
Also replanted -- pumpkin, since our from seed batch were looking so ragged and cabbage to replace some of the bush cucumbers. We've also got some garlic popping up!
What we've also got coming up are weeds, lots of weeds, to the point where the boys and I will have to … I'm sorry … my fellow gardening engineers … will have to weed out the entire tomato patch and replant. The weeds have taken over everything, to the point of looking like the algae bloom on Crooked Lake when I was a kid.
We have new tomato plants to replace everything.
I told you it was a fun spring. In fact, at our house, spring is now spelled with a $pring.
Weeds. You betcha, I can grow weeds. Weeds, not Weed, even if this is Colorado. Why do I have the feeling that this is going to be a continuing thread throughout the season? Mr. Bitterman, Furious and Myself hate weeding, but for some reason, Becky loves it. She says it calms her from the stress of living with me and two apes. (Actually, one ape, one monkey.) (Make that two apes, one monkey.)
After Sunday's hailstorm, Furious George ran out and set up the above gag. He thought it was hilarious, but I tried to remind him that many coyotes have been killed or injured under similar circumstances in numerous Warner Bros. cartoons. He was properly chastised, I can tell you.
Well, maybe not.
Well, according to 9 News and News 4 and Fox31 and Channel 7 and The Weather Channel, as well as some Master Gardener Lady in Minneapolis who advised me via the InterWebs, I have done it all wrong.
After a beautiful Mother's Day Weekend and a full week of beautiful temperatures, we took a nose dive into the Upper/Mid 30s this week and all the little weather folks went cattywampus over what to do with your newly installed gardens.
Cover them up, they shouted, snow's a comin,' winter is here and unless we get somebody named Daenerys to fly over with a heartburn afflicted dragon, your little sproutlings will die out like they were all named Lannister! (I don't know what any of that means, but Furious George and Mr. Bitterman took it all very seriously.)
Put a bucket over each seedling, they said. Put large burlap tarps over them, they shouted. Get some King sized cotton sheets and cover your gardens, they squealed. Well, first, I didn't have enough buckets to cover 29 seedlings of various shapes and sizes. I've never seen a burlap tarp in my life -- and -- since grain elevators in major metropolitan areas have largely disappeared, I don't know where I can find burlap sacks anymore. (Never mind -- I just found them both on Amazon. What CAN'T Jeff Bezos provide, that little Capitalist Devil?) As for King sized cotton sheets -- we just have Queen size and I wasn't about to go out and spend $80 on 1000 thread count Egyptian Cotton Sheets on a mere threat of frost.
Whatever you do, they said, don't cover your plants with plastic. But -- since that's all I had, that's what I did. The Master Gardener Lady from Minneapolis warned me that plastic sheets could ATTRACT the cold, but that doesn't seem to have been the case. At least, yet. Downtown got into the 30s, but the lowest we hit was 40, so it didn't seem to attract much of anything … other than bunnies. Tonight is supposed to be the coldest night of all. I'll check the temps tomorrow and pull everything off if I think I can get away with it.
The three gardens have been a challenge this season, with potential transfer shock, roots getting cramped in little Just Plant the Pots! pots, and, bunnies eating the heads off the sunflower shoots. There might also be a Too Much Fertilizer Problem in Nora, as this is her fourth season and I didn't want to see growth problems, so I may have gotten carried away. While the tomatoes and Acorn Squash seem to be doing well, the cucumbers at the north end appear to be dying (burning) out. I've got some spares in the greenhouse I can use to replant.
Here is one of the aforementioned bunnies. There are three of them hanging around the gardens, but as I said, other than the sunflower shoots, they appear to be leaving everything alone. Roscoe and Sadie are mad to catch one, going to the extreme of hunting in a pack like Velociraptors, but so far this season, they haven't caught one. Thank goodness, because you gotta know that nobody is cleaning it up other than Farmer Ted here.
Me, I'm Just Pondering Next Steps and the Question of Where I Left the Vodka.
Nick, the upper garden was laid out nicely (by me) with bush cucumbers in the distance, Hatch Medium Chiles to the right, Hatch Mild Chiles center and Oaxacan Chiles to the left.
Mr. Bitterman was responsible for planting Nora, the lower garden and did a fine job with cucumbers in the distance, garlic next in line, followed by acorn squash and tomato plants. He planted six, even though the plan was only for five. They're looking a bit scraggly at the moment, but we both agreed it was due to transplant shock.
Asta was planted by Furious George and I had to wonder if he had been drinking before he planted. Asta was only supposed to hold 3 pumpkin plants, but George discovered he still had three plants left when he was done with the pumpkins, so he put those in as well. "What were those," I asked.
I have no fucking idea," said my small and hairy assistant.
So, like the great Zucchini debacle of a few years back, I guess we'll wait and see what we get. This should be interesting. (Transplant shock again, even though they look like George drove over them with a Kubota Tractor.)
FURIOUS GEORGE FAKING A LOOK OF SHAME:
FURIOUS GEORGE REACTING WHEN I TELL HIM HE SHOULD BE ASHAMED:
Mr. Bitterman begins his summer long journey of worry -- as he ponders temperatures, water, hail patterns, insects and the goddamned bunny who was sleeping in Asta this afternoon with the freshly planted pumpkins and mystery veg. The rabbit hardly seemed bothered by the Liquid Fence. (Which, oddly enough, Furious George uses as cologne.)
This summer's gardening hat -- and main gardening accessory.
First planting, 2019 -- Basil on the Back Porch. The big one is a plant I bought at Home Deport, surrounding it are four scrawny seedlings given to Becky by some one at school. They were just going to throw them out, but I want to bring them back to life. I'm just like that.
One of them is so scrawny you can barely see him in the barrel. She'll get all my attention this season, as I'm determined to see her flourish.
On to the big gardens tomorrow!