Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Flowers and vegetables (oh and weeds too) are all growing fast and blooming, which means insects of all kinds are out in numbers. Last year I considered them all "pests". I'm not so sure this year. Seems like they are really only pests when they are out to get you and destroy all your plants. I've been reading about (and starting to see firsthand) how many of these pests and predators influence each other and my plants. Many "organic" gardeners spray insecticides just as freely as any commercial non-organic farm, they just have a different label on their bottle. Others will use preventative devices like picking off or rubbing out eggs or physical barriers like spun polyester or plastic plant collars. Some gardeners plant sacrificial crops to lure the pests away from their favorites. Then there's predatory insects - like ladybird beetles and beneficial nematodes, who can be purchased and released to help control pests. Another simple solution is to grow twice as much as is really wanted - some for you, some for the bugs, and some to share.

I guess I'm doing a little of each, like most organic gardeners probably do - the eventual goal is complete health of not only my vegetables, but also the soil and all the living things that are affected by what I do in my garden.

Unidentified eggs deep in cabbage leaves. Washed them out.

Imported cabbage worm on lettuce seedling. Picked off.

Cabbage looper larvae from a Joi choy hybrid. Squished.

The infamous corn flea beetle on the tomatoes. Numbers aren't bad enough to do any real damage, with plants at 3' already. These guys can mow down entire stands of young transplants overnight when there are enough of them. I'll keep an eye on the damage and worse case (plants start suffering) use neem oil.

This honeybee OD'ed on pollen.

I didn't have my camera, but I also observed many aphids on my hops. I also saw 5 or 6 lady bugs on each hop plant, feasting away. Also present were red or black ants, who "farm" the aphids by protecting them and keeping them on the plant, where the aphid colonies increase and secrete hondey-dew (aphid crap!), which the ants feed on. Usually I would nuke the aphids with pyrethrin spray, but this also kills ladybugs, so this year I'm gonna let them be and see what happens.

Also lots of spiders out, which eat the good and the bad insects, so don't help or hurt. They are, however, a good indicator that my garden is in good health and that insects of all kinds are thriving there.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Weather was nice this last weekend, so I got out and did a little work at the garden plots.

Finally got my carrots in. I have a few varieties I want to try, so I'll be sowing a row or patch of each every few weeks. I am hoping I have timed it so they will have time to size up before it gets too cold (but not so much that they split open) and I can use them through the winter. Bed preparation is critical in order to allow the carrots to germinate well, grow quickly, and size up before cooler weather slows them. To facilitate rapid growth the carrot bed was deeply dug to 12", heavily amended with light, sandier soil and some well-rotted compost, and fluffed up to a loose and light texture before sowing seed.

I also sowed a thick patch of bunching onions (green onions or scallions), which I'll also use this fall and through the winter.

- Sowed 8 row feet Red Samurai Carrot (Daucus carota var. sativus)
- Sowed 4 sq feet Evergreen White Bunching Onion (scallions)

The garden is coming along nicely. I finally staked up the tomatoes. It would have been much easier to put in the bamboo stakes when I transplanted the tomatoes, but somehow I failed to think of it. Despite the cold weather, they have done quite well inside their tunnel cloche and have doubled in size since transplanting.

The tunnel has survived 40 mpg gusts and a few very windy days common to spring in Bellingham with no signs of weakening.

Stupice tomato was the first to flower and naturally has the largest developing fruit at about 1" diameter. I pinched off about half of the flowers on this truss just after they started to form fruit and will probably do the same on every plant this year. Less fruit per truss means more nutrition per tomato (less water content), larger fruit, faster ripening, and better tasting tomatoes!

Lots of peas starting to pod up. As soon as they begin to ripen, regular harvesting of mature pods will encourage a longer production time of new flowers and pods. If the pod matures and holds on the vine, the plant thinks it has done its' reproductive job and will stop producing new flowers and fruit.

Spiders are out and hatching everywhere.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Vegetable Review

Vegetable: Spinach (Spinacea oleracea)

Variety: Bloomsdale Savoy, Oriental Giant

Seed Co: Territorial Seed Co.


Bloomsdale: Dark green savoyed leaf, a spring and fall spinach

Oriental Giant: fast, large leaved, bolt resistant for a quick maturing variety

Bloomsdale spinach at harvest

Sown: 02/24, 03/09, 04/27

Germination: sowed 4" wide bands, 1st sowing at end of Feb was poor, 2 week later sowing was average, Oriental giant at end of April was good

First Harvest: 05/15

Days to maturity:
Bloomsdale Stated: 50 Actual: 51
Oriental Stated: 40 Actual: none

Held in field: 7-10 days

Problems: I really had trouble with spinach this year. I sowed before a few weeks of unseasonably warm and sunny weather in late February, so germination was good. Cold, wet weather (including snow) later on pretty much wiped out the first sowing. A second sowing 2 weeks later came up and grew much better so I was able to harvest a few plants. The last sowing of Oriental giant at the end of April germinated well, but grew very slowly and did not produce leaves of edible size. All remaining spinach bolted last week.

Bolting! Bloomsdale on left and tiny Oriental "giant" on right.

Results: Spinach is known for being more difficult to grow well than other greens. Next time I will try to sow at more appropriate times to ensure better performance. Choosing the right variety at the right time is crucial: a quick maturing variety like Oriental Giant could be sown in spring a bit later than longer varieties if I must wait for good weather. Later on, a heat tolerant and bolt resistant variety like Correnta could be sown to help prolong harvest into hotter June weather. I may have not provided enough nitrogen either. Spinach is a heavy feeder. The organic fertilizers I use need to be broken down in the soil before nutrients are available for plants. In the cold, wet soil in February, biological activity is minimal, so those nutrients are not being released. Perhaps liquid fertilizer solution will work better. I'll try a fall crop this summer and try again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Interesting weather fact

Just heard something interesting on NPR.

Since March 21st (spring around here), we have had only 23 days where the temperature has been above 60 degrees. This has been the coldest spring/summer in this area since 1917! Ugh.

Vegetable Review

Vegetable: Radish

Variety: Easter Egg II blend (F-1)

Seed Co: Renee's Garden

Description: .75" to 1.5" diameter bulbs in red, white, purple, and pink. Green tops to 6".

Sown: April 5

Germination: very good

1st harvest: May 16

Days to maturity: Stated: 28 Actual: less than 41

Held in field: about 2 weeks

Problems: None. Began splitting at 50 days, as can be expected. No flea beetle or root maggot damage

Results: very easy to grow, germinated very well, thinned to 1" initially, then to 2" as leaves touched. Radishes were crisp and mild flavored, great fresh on salads and sandwiches or stir fried. Last of the crop was pulled June 8 (64 days) and all but a few were split wide open.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A few more seeds

Broke out the seed heat mat one more time for the last seeds to start indoors. Sowed lots of basil. Basil is probably my favorite of all the herbs. We use it often in our cooking. There are tons of varieties available these days - probably too many. There are red and purple leaved, variegated leaf, big leaved and small leaved, lemon, lime, cinnamon, and licorice flavored, columnar and globe habit, ornamental flowering, even non-flowering tender "perennial" varieties. It's a little ridiculous. Northwest Washington weather is not the greatest for growing basil, so it is best grown as a tropical veggie, along with peppers and eggplant. The more uniquely colored and ornamental varieties are more finicky and a bit tougher to grow well here, so we stick with the basic Italian sweet basil and a few varieties of Thai basil.

- four 2" pots Siam Queen
- four 2" pots Thai Magic
- two 2" pots Red Holy Basil (Thai)
- six 2" pots Sweet Italian

I sowed about 6 seeds per pot, which will be thinned down to 3 or 4 after germination. Basil grows fine in a small clump, so each pot will go out in the garden that way.

Still too cold for tropicals. For the last few weeks we have been 1o degrees cooler during the day and 5 degrees cooler during the night than the usual average temperatures this time of year. I hope summer comes soon.

Monday, June 2, 2008

New Garden-Mobile

Well I can feel a bit better about driving across town to get to my garden twice a week, now that I'll be getting 75-85 mpg! I guess I'm still depending on petroleum, but I'm doing it 3 times more efficiently than before, so it's a start. At least I've banned it from my fertilizers...

It's a 2008 Genuine Stella.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

So it's still spring...

Weather for this week remains cool and rainy. Highs in the upper 50's, nights in upper 40's. That means the peppers will have to wait one more week before even thinking about staying outside at night. Furthermore, cool soil temperatures will negatively affect germination percentage and speed, and general health and hardiness of any direct sown seeds that manage to germinate. It's a well known fact that seeds planted in the proper conditions up to 2 weeks after seed sown in improper conditions will easily catch up and surpass the early sowing. Cucumbers, squash, zucchini, melons, and other hot weather veggies I want to try will just have to wait a few more weeks.

Harvested two nice buttercrunch lettuce heads today, as well as some salad mix, a few leeks and radishes, and a whole rapini.

Snaps and snow peas are flowering.

Strawberries are filling out.

NW native nodding onion (Allium cernuum) ready to flower. Edible chive-like leaves.