Fruits, flowers and bugs, oh my!

The plants are growing! Each day, David and I walk around our little backyard garden, inspecting for intruders, new flowers and growth.  We were happy that we had a few days off from watering, but are back to watering each evening and dreaming about soaker hoses and drip irrigation for during the summer.  That, and building bamboo supports for the plants, are high up on David’s project list for this summer.

Here’s a look at the back yard garden, formerly known as the morning glory jungle, now:

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The aisles and edges need more mulch (as well as the front yard flower beds), which David picked up yesterday and I’ll be spreading today. We’ve used the firepit once, and plan to use it again soon!  The squash and melons are slowly getting planted in the front right bed.  I may end up directly seeding the Malali watermelon, as the two seeds that I planted in the nursery have yet to germinate.

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Here’s the temporary nursery at the end of our driveway.  The cage on the right has our praying mantis cocoon, which we check daily. The warm driveway and full sun has been working well for the plants. We have been anxiously checking the perennial flowers that we started from seed.  This week the Munstead Lavender, Chamomile, and Verbena have finally started to get bigger!  The purple tomatillos, eggplants and tomatoes are nearly ready for planting- we’d like them to get a little bigger before they go into the beds.  The squash on the front right, buttercup, was planted right after I took this picture!

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I hacked backed this flower and posted a picture of it in my first tour blog. It’s great to see the plant recovering nicely and shooting out lots of new leaves.

The plants all around the garden are growing bigger and bigger, and slowly climbing the fence.

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The sweet peas are climbing quickly, but have yet to produce flowers. I’ve been training the strays to go up the fence as well, and to fill in the back corner.

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On the other side of the fence, the asparagus beans and scarlet runner beans are slowly getting closer to being climbers. I know that once they get a little bit bigger, they’re going to take off! We’re already drooling thinking about our fresh green beans and canned dilly beans.

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The bush beans are growing rapidly and starting to look like flowers are coming!  I planted tricolor beans, and am excited to see the purple stem on this purple bean plant.

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The Safari zucchini, pattypan and crookneck squashes are all full of buds!  David and I love eating squash blossoms and are hoping to start having male flowers that we can pick and stuff with goat cheese.  Well, I want to pick and stuff them with goat cheese and he wants to let the plants keep their flowers and buy the blossoms at the farmer’s market. Either way, we’re keeping an eye on these buds and hoping to see them blossoming soon!

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The tomatillos are getting taller and taller and are now full of flowers!  We haven’t put cages, or any sort of support on these guys yet, and it’s probably time soon.  This year we planted two tomatillo plants (and have two more purple ones in the nursery).  In the past, we have both had just one tomatillo plant and very little success with fruit.  I recently read that the plants need to be in pairs, as cross pollination is necessary.  We’re hoping that we get plenty of tomatillos this year, and have enough to make jars of salsa verde for the year.

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Our four cucumbers are all growing well.  I as a little worried they’d be eaten by slugs, like last year, but they seem to have cleared that hurdle. This one, in the back yard, looks like it’s waiting for something to climb up.  We were planning on having them trail on the ground, but it may be worth trellising it.  Check out that tendril!

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In the front yard, the peppers are full of flowers!  We ended up with an extra pepper plant that we didn’t mean to buy, so we will be finding creative ways to use cayenne peppers.  The thing is, I don’t like spicy food.  I’ve always loved growing hot peppers because the plants are so beautiful when they are full of colorful peppers.  I’ve never really enjoyed eating them.  Perhaps our friends like hot peppers and will take some off our hands once these little suckers get going.

Speaking of suckers… I’ve been pulling suckers from the tomato plants and shaping them as they fill their cages. And this week I discovered…

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BABY TOMATOES!!

The Indigo Rose is already showing her purple. And she’s tall, lanky and has a glorious purple trunk! She also has lots more flowers coming.

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We also have baby San Marzano’s!  David and I have been finding ways to use up the last of the sauce we stored in our freezer this past year.  After we use the last bag, we still have about 5 jars.  I have a feeling we’ll easily replenish our stock.  We also plan to dry, and roast them, and I’ve been looking into canning whole tomatoes also. Can’t wait until they come in and I’m on summer vacation (without graduate school or a wedding to plan like last summer).

The tomato plants are healthy, and host to many insects.

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This crane fly (I think) was found resting on a tomato leaf.

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I spotted a few of these little bugs on our flowers.  Anyone know what they are?  I grabbed my bug book, and know that they are true bugs. I hope that they are minute pirate bugs, as those are beneficial but I’m not sure about that being a correct ID. I really do need a better Insect ID book, as Peterson’s and my college textbook aren’t helping too much.  Suggestions for what these critters are, and for books, are welcome!

All of the tomatoes are doing really well, except for this one:

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The Riesentraube has been battling insects and possibly disease.  I am a little embarrassed for the plant to show it to you, looking like this, but I feel that I must be honest about how the plants are doing. We’re keeping an eye on it and hope that it recovers, but we’re not sure what we can do to help.

It has neighbors that are getting munched also.
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Most of the basil is looking great, and a few are even preparing to flower.  Our first batch of pesto will likely be prepared next weekend. This plant is the one that has made the most “friends” and hopefully having it next to the tomato is helping protect the tomato.

On the other side of the raised bed, the radish tops are also getting eaten. We have three different types of radish growing, and I’ve also been bringing some home from school.  I’m learning to like radishes, which David thinly slices into my salad.  He’s happy to eat the rest of them.

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These fast growing white icicle radishes are a hybrid from Johnny’s.  I just ordered more white radishes from Baker Creek and can’t wait to plant them!

Hope you enjoy your harvest!

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