Monday, June 28, 2010

Calling all arachnologists

I was greeted in the garage early this morning by a spider larger than any I had ever seen outside of a tarantula exhibit at the zoo.

I photographed this big dude twice and noticed when the flash went off the second time that something protruded from its back side (top photo) that looked like a threatening stinger. It may have just been "spider juice" for web-making purposes. I didn't get close enough to inspect it carefully.

My research on the Internet tells me it probably was a wolf spider, a type of a garden spider. They can grow to 4 inches from tip to tip of the legs. That's exactly the measurement I got from this one (a rough measurement to be sure.) Wolf spiders usually hunt at night and stay away from humans. They bite but the toxin is not particularly harmful to humans.

I don't like to kill creatures of any kind, but I was getting ready to rummage around the garage and wasn't looking forward to having this dude drop down on me. I dispatched it.

I hope its brothers and sisters got the message.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gertrude Stein, where are you when I need you?

The oft-misquoted Gertrude Stein wrote: "Rose is a rose is a rose."

I counter that when you're transplanting a rose in the 98-degree heat, Rose is not a rose is not a rose. It's a strength sapping monster.

It all began when my daughter and son-in-law informed me that they were having a new patio built and their beautiful Knockout rose was going to be yanked out and taken to the dump.

I jumped on it like a duck on a June bug. Three hours later the rose has been transplanted in our front yard and I'm 10 pounds lighter due to dehydration.

My gardening book says you should not transplant anything when the temperature is over 75 degrees. I only missed it by 23 degrees. That's how I usually roll.

I had help digging out the rose bush, but still it took a good 30 minutes with three of us working at it. When I got home I had to dig a 4-foot in diameter hole about 2-feet deep. With the drought on top of my red clay soil, I should have used a jackhammer instead of a shovel.

In the cool of the evening (that's a joke) we will prune the rose severely so the roots won't have so many leaves to feed while they are settling in. I'll let you know if it lives.

Monday, June 21, 2010

First tomato of season (trust me)

I harvested the first Better Boy tomato today, June 21. It was fully ripened on the vine. I was going to take a photo, but before I could get my camera Betty already had it in a salad.

This is the 12th straight day with temperatures over 90. We only had 11 all of last summer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

For whom the bells toll

I have only four bell pepper plants, but they seem to be producing a good number of the sweet bells. I thought the bugs were getting to them a few weeks ago, but the insects must have moved on. The plants look healthy now.

The other peppers are banana peppers. I don't know what to do with them, but they are nice to look at.

First official raspberry harvest

Last year when I was deciding what kind of fruit trees and berries to plant, my mentor at the farm & garden store declared that "anybody can grow brambles."

I countered that he had not met an "anybody" like me, a would-be gardener with no patience and the touch of a lumberjack.

It turns out that Gabe was right. Even I can grow raspberries. This is the first full growth season, and I should get at least this many more from my eight raspberry canes.

My blackberries should be almost as healthy. They should be ready around July 4th. I have the thornless type of blackberries, which is quite a change from my raspberries. I spent about 15 minutes gathering these berries and another 15 minutes picking the tiny sharp thorns out of my hands.

Such is the life of a bramble grower.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cucumber explosion

This is what happens when it rains for a couple of days and you don't harvest your cucumbers. I had to throw away about a half-dozen that were approaching football size.

We can't eat enough salads for all of our cucumbers, so we like to eat them on sandwiches for lunch. We spread a bed of cream cheese on a pita-type bread and pile on a bunch of sliced cucumbers. Makes a very nice meal.

Just got off the turnip truck

The cooler weather and rain have encouraged my crop of purple-top turnips to come on strong. I should have turnips for at least another three or four weeks.

I think turnips are best harvested when they are about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. I won't bother harvesting any greens until I sow another crop in the fall.

All I need now is a skillet of cornbread.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Reader request

A faithful reader (son in Minnesota) requested photos of the garden, probably to make sure I didn't buy the produce at Kroger that was pictured in an earlier post. So, here it is.

Photo at left is inside the fenced garden. Foreground is cantaloupe, then zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Photo below, from left to right, are sunflowers, onions, radishes and turnips.

The photos were taken today right after a nice rain of about 45 minutes. It was needed badly.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Life is a (small) bowl of cherries

Our surviving Early Richmond cherry tree gave us enough cherries in the second year for a couple of quarts of cherry ice cream. The cherries are small, but tart.

Top photo shows a closeup of the fruit. The tree, shown in the bottom photo, stands about five-feet tall.

I had to replace a twin cherry tree that didn't make it through the first year. I'm hoping it will come around for it's sophomore season.

The apple and pear trees just up the hill from the cherry trees are not fairing as well. Even though I put garlic spikes on the limbs, deer still like to chew off the ends of the branches. Also, some gnawing animal is attacking the bark at ground level.

If the fruit trees make it until the fall, I think I will transplant them to an open spot closer to the vegetable garden. It may be open enough there that the deer won't be so bold. I don't think I'm going to be building anymore 8-foot deer fencing.

A passing grade for this year's garden

Although a river of clay runs through it (see earlier post), our vegetable garden is furnishing us with a modicum of produce this year.

We will have plenty of radish, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet peppers, yellow squash, turnip greens and sunflowers. The sweet corn is about 4-feet high and there might even be a watermelon or two in the offing.

We are hurting for water at the moment, so I've been doing a little drip irrigation early in the mornings.

I think my 8-foot fence has solved the deer problem, but if the drought persists the coons and squirrels will start eating the tomatoes for hydration. Also, as soon as the sweet corn tassels, coons will gather from all over the county. A family of coons can take out a row of sweet corn in a single night.

The only real solution to the clay is to dig it all out this year with the tractor and replace it with new top soil. I'm thinking of a new book: The $300 Tomato.