Victory Garden: 7/18-8/9

Remember this house?

Pretty much the only thing I've 'done' to the exterior is to plant some seeds, water them and tend them and this is the result!
Still a lot of brown dirt - but did you notice we finally have a lawn that is starting to look lush and green? I've been getting at least 2 compliments each week at church in regards to my garden - I'm just thankful the lush, green and beautiful vegetable garden distracts others from the yucky brown bare side yard that has yet to have much planted in it!
This summer as we've seeded, re-seeded and yet again re-seeded our lawn (only to have to buy a lawn patching mix to fill in the last few holes AFTER we weed our lawn yet again), I've decided that I would rather put in the same time, effort and money in seeding a lawn into growing a vegetable/fruit garden because at least the end result is food I can eat as opposed to grass I have to water & mow at least weekly in addition to the regular fertilizing, weeding (putting down something to kill the weeds) and aerating that needs to be done to maintain the lawn!

The benefits to having a full lawn is less dirt being tracked onto my front porch and into my house. The main benefit to having a grass lawn is a cleaner place for my kids to play outside. 

Now that we're done with that little vent... onto the update of my garden and what I've learned over the last 3 weeks!

Remember how last time I told you about the PVC pipe trellis we made for our pole beans?
Yeah.... that didn't work out so well since I've gotten at least 4 runners on each pole bean plant and the weight of the vines and leaves alone has pulled down the trellis... imagine if we had left it like that and the beans were growing and maturing!!!

Tips bought some more electrical conduit, corners and rebar at Lowe's last week and we built up a new trellis for the pole beans:
Much sturdier!

Our spaghetti squash was getting out of hand, so I had Tips buy some more electrical conduit, corners and rebar for a trellis for the squash. 
 Luckily the rest of the trellis netting we had left over from our square foot garden trellis 3 years ago worked on the spaghetti squash trellis since the vines were already long enough to train onto the trellis netting.  

We've already eaten 4 zucchinis from our very own plant! I've actually cut off the bottom leaves that were touching the ground to prevent it from getting powdery mildew so I guess you'll be able to see that next time I blog about the garden. 

I misunderstood when my mom told me to prune my tomatoes from the beginning. I didn't realize I needed to prune them a couple of times a week!Apparently this is only a concern with indeterminate tomato plants as determinate tomato plants grow to a certain size and stay that way. Indeterminate tomatoes can get very unruly as seen above.

This is after I've pruned back the sucker stems growing towards the ground and/or touching the ground. I've spent an additional 2 hours pruning these plants - it's overwhelming to let them get this out of control!

But here is my first tomato I picked yesterday (this picture was taken on Saturday)! So delicious!!!
The long tomato on the left is the one in the picture above. The small one on the right is a ripe tomato I found yesterday as I was pruning.

The brown on the bottom of the tomato is NOT indicative of the tomato plant being diseased (phew). The brown means that the tomato plant is calcium deficient. I didn't know this at the get-go, but apparently Jim Kennard has talked on his radio show about applying the Pre-Plant fertilizer at the beginning of July to prevent this very problem. Saturday I went ahead an applied 1-ounce per running foot of the Pre-Plant fertilizer to my tomato plants in addition to the weekly feed.
Fertilizer Muriate Of PotashSpeaking of plants needing a supplemental dose of nutrients, I finally bought a bag of Potash at the nursery literally down the street from our house for $6.  I decided to pull the bushes apart from each other and off the dirt in the trench to make it easier to apply the Potash and the weekly feed (which I did on Saturday) and so that the beans on that bottom layer aren't getting soaked with water every day. I read in Elliott Coleman's book, The Four-Season Harvest, that bush beans were developed for commercial bean growers to make it easy to harvest with a machine. After I read that I decided that this is the last year I am going to grown bush beans so we aren't bending over or crouching everytime we have to harvest - especially after my mom related to me from one of Jim's shows that pole beans actually produce more beans per foot than bush beans do!

I did need to apply the potash to my pole beans as the edges were getting the fired edges.

We've already picked about 4 ice cream buckets of bush beans (each bucket is 1-gallon) and of course we have more to pick every couple of days. I canned 15 pints of beans and now I only have 5 empty pint bottles in my house. With the amount of beans we are growing I am going to start canning them in quart jars since we could eat through a quart of beans in 2 days and because I'm running out of options! Guess I need to eat up more of the food we already have canned - which is hard to do when we have so much growing fresh!

The corn is doing so well! That is usually what people at church remark on when they compliment us on our garden. Our exchange student from Germany loves corn so we've been eating it almost every other day for dinner or lunch. Sunday dinner consisted of corn, zucchini and beans - it was so satisfying to have more than half of my dinner from the garden! It would have been more if we had had salad as well but we didn't. 

Last year with our apartment garden I envisioned having so much lettuce that I could go out there and pick lettuce for a green smoothie everyday. With this romaine lettuce I have been able to do that even if I haven't actually done it everyday. I've only had one plant begin to bolt so I took it out on Saturday for a salad I made for a family luncheon. We're still eating from that salad in addition to the green smoothies I've been making every other day.
Seriously look at how beautiful this head of lettuce is!

  Freshly washed lettuce ready to be made into a smoothie.

In the Vita-mix first to be blended and then pureed down to lettuce pulp. 

 With the added banana and pineapple and ready to drink!

 Future green smoothies coming up. They should be ready by the time we finish the large heads. I do need to plant some more lettuce to fill in the gaps. I actually think I should donate some of my lettuce and green beans to the food bank this week.


 Peas and Peas..... A few of my vines have turned brittle and dry and that is why there are more pea plants in the picture above than the picture to the right. The fired edges are again a sign of potassium deficiency. After I applied the Potash in the row above and watered it, Tips said it looked like the Red Sea since the water was so red. I'm hoping to plant some more pea seeds this week in the pea plant rows. The only reason I've left the current pea plants in the ground is because they are still producing pea pods for Tips Jr. to eat AND because there is new growth developing near the bases of some of the plants - so I'll just keep fertilizing, watering and harvesting the peas and encourage some new plants to grow!

 This little strawberry plant in the bottom left-hand corner is the one that started to dry out so I dug it out and replanted it and then it completely dried out and I thought it was dead - until I saw the little bit of new growth coming through. Now it is getting bigger and I have no doubt it will be a full size strawberry plant by winter's arrival. Our exchange student has been surprised that we are still getting strawberries on it and I didn't quite know how to explain that we have strawberries because we have everbearing plants, which will produce all summer long, and not June bearing which only produce for about 2 months and then are done. But they are delicious and she has been enjoying the few we have been able to pick while she has been here. I just feel bad I won't be able to use strawberries from my garden to make her strawberry cake for her birthday this weekend. :(

 I finally have a few actual melons forming! The variety of cantaloupes (really they are muskmelons I learned a couple of years ago) I grew this year (from seed) are Lil' Loupes, they are single-serving size cantaloupes - so hopefully just the right size for Tips to take to work since he likes cantaloupe. I just hope he doesn't grow tired of having so much cantaloupe everyday!

Last but not least the sunflowers I had to start AGAIN since some insect ate the first seedlings I had planted. The two on the left are doing MUCH better than the other 4 to the right. I think the aphids got to those sunflowers and have stunted the growth so I applied some insecticidal soap on ALL the sunflower plants yesterday. We'll see if the other 4 plants grow some more like my tomato plant or if the damage was already done. 

 So that's the Tips Family garden update this week! I have some sort of a garden every summer for the last 6 summers we have been married but I am still learning so much every year! This has by far been the best year yet for the Tips Family garden.


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