Monday, June 21, 2010

Slime Mold

When I went to the garden today, I found a very unpleasant-looking surprise. It looked as though something vomited in my squash bed. Strange thing is, I found the same thing last year.

This disgusting stuff was almost completely covering one poor little watermelon seedling (look closely in the center of the above photo). When I poked the stuff with a stick, it was soft & gooey and mustard-yellow in the center. Just gross.

I took these pictures planning to post a "what the heck" question but I decided to see if I could figure it out myself. Amazingly when I Googled "garden Colorado yellow slimy" I actually got useful results! After clicking a result titled "Yellow Goo in your Garden" from CSU's Extension office, I had a name to search. Slime Mold.

The next article from CSU (The Slime Molds) describes the mold as resembling dog vomit. I knew I had the right answer then! Actually, after reading the article, I'm almost wishing I hadn't poked it apart as much as I did (before I hosed it down pretty well to free the poor melon). It really is sort of interesting. I did have to laugh at the end of the article where it says "Like nature's other organisms, slime molds should be looked at for their beauty and enjoyed as one enjoys a mass planting of dianthus or snapdragons". I'm not so sure I'd go that far...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sprouts in my Squash

What happens when you keep spaghetti squash in the house for
8 months?

It starts to sprout!!

I ate it anyway!!
It was my last one...boy I hope they grow well again!!

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Umbrella Trellis

Ever wonder what to do with a broken patio umbrella?? How about a bean trellis?

While out walking the dogs one afternoon a while back, I came across an apparently unwanted patio umbrella that just looked like it needed a second chance at life, so I brought it home. I took the fabric cover off and removed the crank handle. It's been on my porch for a while waiting for me to figure out how to do the rest of what I wanted to do. I wanted to use it to grow pole beans in one of the "rings" so I needed to reign in the size a little bit. I tried bending/pulling the ends in and holding them in place with a strip of plumbing strap but I couldn't get that whole scenario to work out for me. I was telling a friend about it the other day and he asked why I didn't just cut it. Today, I thought, hmmm, why DON'T I just cut it?? So I did.

It would have been much quicker if I had some bolt cutters but I don't (and neither does the neighbor). I cut the first one with a hacksaw but that was going to take forever. I decided to be bold and pull out the reciprocating saw. I cut about halfway through with the saw (and I still have all my fingers and toes) then I snapped the ends off.

I had some shelf caps (that cover the cut ends of white wire closet shelving) that I glued onto the ends so I didn't end up hurting myself. Since the locking mechanism that keeps the umbrella up didn't work anymore, I put a screw into an existing hole to keep the top in place. It works well since I wanted a smaller diameter trellis anyway.

I took my new UFO-looking trellis to the garden. I dug down until the ground got hard and set the lower pole. It's wedged in there with some leftover concrete block and brick pieces. I added the upper portion and tied it to the nearby t-post to keep it in place. I then ran string from the ends to the ground holding them in place with some makeshift pins I made by bending some of the "call-before-you-dig" flags I had hanging around. I planted some beans and now I hope they'll actually grow well this year and get to the top!

It's a good thing the neighbors like me :-)
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Monday, June 14, 2010

Hail Danger

Ok, so I took these pictures a few days ago (6/11) and it's taken me this long to ACTUALLY get them posted here but I guess better late than never? It's still pretty accurate anyway.

We had a little shift in the weather this weekend. We went from hot and dry to cold and damp with the cold being ushered in by some wicked thunderstorms. Before the front arrived, I tried to cover the garden as best I could, just in case. I've got my usual sheer curtains and it doesn't show in the photo but I've also added some old window screening to some of the smaller spots. I'll need to take that back off soon as I think it shades the plants more than the sheers do. I also quickly re-assembled the tomato trellis-structure. Over the top I have a double layer of chicken wire, slightly offset. Once the tomatoes get taller, I won't be able to use my hoops. I hope if big hail comes along the wire might save the plants. Of course, it can still come in the sides- I have some more sheer fabric I can wrap around the whole bed.

Sometimes I wonder if all this covering is pointless since if big nasty hail comes along, it will shred that fabric tout de suite, but I do think it's worth a try at least. I do think it helps the plants avoid the battering from the more likely pea-sized hail.

We were fortunate again in this last round of storms, we got some much-needed rain and we only saw very small hail. Some other areas of Colorado were much less fortunate. There was talk of golf and tennis ball sized hail in other areas.

The Red Pontiacs in the potato bin are showing good growth lately. I did add some more mulch the other day but I don't think the bin is going to end up very tall this year. The potatoes are showing flower buds this week and I suspect once flowering begins, top growth will likely end. I did get them into the ground somewhat late this year.

I'm not having much summer squash success so far. First, I started the seeds indoors WAY too early. When I planted them out, the zucchini didn't make it (I suspect high wind brought their demise). I planted seeds which should have sprouted by now I think but there's no sign of them. I'm pre-sprouting a few more just to check the seed which is new this year- I just opened the package to direct sow more. The originals were 2008 seed. The cucumbers seem stagnant too and seeds are slow to sprout there as well. I replanted those the other day.

This poor squash is the saddest story of them all. While watering the non-sprouting seeds the other day I noticed one of my pretty pattypans looked wilted. I hadn't watered them for a couple days and thought perhaps that one was dry. I gave it a drink & left the garden. The next day, it looked sadder still. When I looked closely at the stem, it was a bad scene.

Yep, those little white strings are all that's left of it's stem. I'm not sure of the culprit but when I pulled back the mulch I saw several of my little roly-poly pillbug "friends". I am hesitant to blame them since by the time I looked closely, the plant was dying but I've read stories from those who think they do eat live plants too. Something has also been snacking on the bean cotyledons. I haven't spied that culprit yet.

On a happier note, the lettuce are finally growing big enough to harvest some leaves. I harvested the mustard greens after my last post as the plants were sending up flower buds. I flicked off 5 or 6 caterpillars and found a couple more when I was washing them, but I'm quite sure I got them all off. After I took this photo, I snipped off all the leaves that were big enough to eat. I normally would have let them grow a little bit bigger but I decided to harvest them, just in case the hail really did come this time. At least this way, I got to eat some!

After a cool few days (highs in the 50's), we should be closer to 80 tomorrow (technically, that's today, it's a little late tonight). Hopefully I'll get the perennials & herbs on my front porch planted this week. I hoped to do it today but another thunderstorm rolled through shortly after I went outside. While I'm sure my mild fear of lightening comes from an early childhood incident , I've heard enough stories of local people being struck by lightening in the past couple years, I don't stay outside much when the thunder starts. Like the weatherman says - "When thunder roars -get indoors"!!

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Transplanting Tomatoes & Peppers

Today was a beautiful day! Earlier in the week, the forecast temperature for today was 93 degrees which I was somewhat dreading. My house does not have central air and it's early in the summer for that kind of heat, I'm just not used to it. Thankfully, the forecast changed. Today was in the mid-80s and a little cloudy most of the day with just a little wind. It was hot in the garden when the sun came out and I did end up with a bit of a sunburn, but I finally got some more planting done.

I transplanted the peppers into their designated area (I call this ring #3- though it's really more of a rectangle, it's named for the way it was built). I added the jugs of colored water and a couple dark rocks to absorb heat and there's plastic 3/4 of the way around the outside to add some warmth and cut the wind. I tied some row cover fabric over the top as well- sort of a pepper-incubator if you will. I add the extra heat steps because our nighttime temps dip pretty low all summer long- in part because of the altitude (we're at 7000'). I am just now planting them out because I think I put them out too early last year and the peppers were stunted until late in the season. I'm hoping I get some peppers before October this year. In this ring I have planted two Banana peppers, two Pimiento peppers and two Carmen peppers. I also have a third Carmen that I planted in a pot. I'm especially looking forward to the Carmen peppers, they sound like they'll be really good. The Carmens are the big plants in the foreground.

I also planted the tomatoes. Some of the little guys are still so very small. Hopefully they'll grow now that they're outdoors. The photo shows about half of a 4x10' bed. In that half, I've got 12 tomato plants. I suspect some won't make it or will remain small this year. The big ones you might actually be able to see in the picture are Galinas Gold Cherry (2) and Thessaloniki (2). I've also got a Jubilee Yellow, a Kelloggs Breakfast, two Black Cherry, three Rutgers and one Roma. Since it doesn't look like hubby is likely to be around this summer either, I'm not terribly concerned about tomato production. I'm not a big tomato eater (though I do sort of like the flavor of the gold and black cherries). At this point, I'm starting to think of growing tomatoes as sort of a challenge. Except for the cherries, we have not had great success yet.

When watering yesterday, I noticed there were a lot of ants on my larger Catnip plant. When I flipped over the leaves I found masses of aphids. I hosed them off last night but as you can see, I didn't get them all.

The lettuce & salad greens are growing pretty well now. The cabbage worms have discovered the Savanna Mustard though. I'll have to remember to look carefully when I pick them - I'll pass on the extra protein if I can at all help it. It's not a major infestation at this point, hopefully hand-picking will keep them at bay.

The poor started-too-early spaghetti squash transplants are still looking pretty sickly though there's actually a female bloom starting on one of them!. I planted some seeds just in case and I noticed one direct-sown sprout today. I wish I could remember how many seeds I planted though, the pumpkins don't look like they're going to make it and I hope I tucked in a few seeds.

I lost all the zucchini transplants (I think the wind beat them up too much) but the pattypan squash transplants are looking quite healthy.

I also planted two more varieties of beans today, Top Notch (yellow bush) and Burpee's Tenderpod (green bush). The Tendergreen Improved (bush green) and Cherokee Wax (bush yellow) I planted earlier are starting to sprout now. I'm still waiting on the Zi 28-2 Long beans and the Rattlesnake beans to sprout. They should be popping up soon.

Now, we just need a little rain... (just a little with no hail please) :-)